December 31, 2013
The banner was updated: Â Widespread Panic â€“ 20 consecutive sold out shows.Â No one quite really knows what defines â€œsold out,â€ but the banner hangs in the rafters of Philips Arena nonetheless. And, as 2013 turned into 2014, this New Years Eve added that 20th notch with a bang.
In typical fashion, the band played three sets, the first of which was acoustic*. The asterisk is necessary, since it really signifies that John Bell performed seated with an acoustic guitar. The first set opened with a very special treat, a trio of Â Neil Young covers from the album Time Fades Away. The band opened with “Journey Through the Past;” even those not familiar with the song could not mistake it as a Neil Young cover, as JB has a beautiful way of covering his songs. Next up was “Donâ€™t Be Denied,” always a treat and always a crowd favorite.
When they moved into “Time Fades Away,” it left a lot of people wondering if it would be a full set of Neil. However, those hopes were short lived with the arrival of “And It Stoned Me.”
The second set brought increasing energy opening with a fun “Holden Oversoul > Who Do You Belong To,” and “You Got Yours” will forever be special, if not for the Mikey aspect alone.
As the New Year approached, Steve Lopez counted it down, fireworks exploded, confetti dropped, champagne was toasted, and “Auld Lang Syne” played over the PA. The energy escalated from there with Kool and the Gangâ€™s version of “Celebration,” with the crowd singing along.
The band came back in, and the third set started with something that fans have talked about for years. The opening notes from the Megablaster horns were unmistakable, and from the opening lyrics of “Burning Down the House,” the crowd was in full rage mode. The excitement was so high that most seemed to not care that the song’s execution was far from perfect. The vocal range of that song is hard to pull off anyway, but the tempo was a bit too fast and there was not a lot of coherence amongst the band and added horns. However, that was not really the point â€“ they finally played “Burning Down the House!”
The next cover of “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)” was played much better and was a very nice segue to keep the energy high while sticking to the party theme of the New Year. The rest of the set played out with “classic new” and “classic classic” Widespread Panic, with a well placed and well played cover of “Spill the Wine.”
They ended the show with “Ain’t Life Grand,” the song that was the standard first song of the New Year for many years’ past, and as the house lights came on, most did believe that life was grand.
Set I: Journey Through The Past^, Don’t Be Denied, Time Fades Away^, And It Stoned Me, Expiration Day, Pickin’ Up The Pieces*, Blue Indian, Climb To Safety
Set II: Holden Oversoul, Who Do You Belong To?, You Got Yours, Papa’s Home, Old Neighborhood**, Angels On High**, Devil In Disguise**, Tail Dragger**
Set III: Burning Down The House**^, Come On**^, Bust It Big**, Jack ~> Chilly Water ~> Surprise Valley, Pilgrims, Surprise Valley***, Spill The Wine****, You Should Be Glad**, Love Tractor
Encore: Stop Breakin’ Down Blues, Ain’t Life Grand
* w/ Randall Bramblett on sax
** w/ the Megablasters on horns
*** w/ the Megablasters on horns & Paul D’augustino on keys
**** w/ the Megablasters on horns & Paul D’augustino on keys & Madison Smith, Eric Bice, John Switzer on percussion
^ First time played
Click the thumbnails to view more photos, courtesy photographer Michael Saba
Widespread Panic returned to familiar stomping grounds in New Orleans to kick off a 3 night run of shows. The first of which being on Halloween, a holiday that is celebrated by not only children, but fans and the band as well. Past Halloween performances have become well known for their cover songs and the band’s outlandish costumes, some of which have entered the halls of legend. Though expectations were high, the 2013 Halloween show had the crowd buzzing with anticipation and eager to see what tricks and treats the band had in store for them.
Taking the stage in elaborate costumes,such as Spock (Star Trek), Phil Robertson (Duck Dynasty), Kenny Powers (East Bound and Down), Zombie (The Walking Dead), Grocery Boy, and King Tut, Widespread nodded to the uproarious cheers of the concert goers and began the evening’s festivities. Even from the first notes of “Drinking Muddy Water”, a first time played Yardbirds tune, it was evident that they had their act together and came to get down. Throughout the first set, the momentum never wavered. Songs like “Coconuts”, ” Impossible” and “Bowlegged Woman” stirred the energetic crowd into a frenzy. The show contained multiple highlights, but in the first set there was clearly a tribute for the late great J.J. Cale. The band played, “Devil in Disguise” and the epic crowd pleaser “Cocaine” in homage of the recently departed legend with a vigor that only indicated that there was plenty more on the horizon.
Following the set break, the band wasted no time as keyboardist JoJo Herman was resurrected from a coffin dressed as “Liberace” as they busted into War’s “Spill the Wine”. The entire crowd was tricked as a crew member took on his prior appearance of Kenny Powers in his place at the keyboards. It was soon after that the band’s love for New Orleans began to ooze into the set list with a number of Crescent City classics. Muddy Water’s “I Got My Mojo Working” truly brought a Cajun feel to evening that was further added to with a massive version of the Widespread original, “Fishwater” and Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me.” It was a mind altering power packed series of performances that gave the night a truly special flavor. Panic even took it so far as to cover, “Ace of Spades,” by Motorhead , not once but twice. The raucous metal song left the crowd mildly bruised and perhaps for a moment, partially deaf. Just before the encore, eluding to the Ace of Spades cover song, singer and vocalist John Bell uttered “That was an encore, these are just additional songs”. The crowd was in high spirits and in full dress as the show ended with three huge tunes, “All Time Low > Suprise Valley > Cream Puff War.” Stunned fans filed out as if a freight train had just blasted through their minds, shattering their minds and leaving them wanting more!
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Jimmy Herring Band Martyrs Chicago, IL August 31, 2012
With new album, Subject to Change Without Notice, a mere ten days old, Jimmy Herring and company hit up Chicago’s Martyrs (sold-out in advance) for a night of splendidly fluid improvisation — primarily constructed around Herring’s sound that one day will be given the reverence it deserves.Highlighted by “A Day in the Life, ” Herring’s skills were on full display, his notes seamlessly swelling and contracting, taking the Beatles classic to a deeply emotional place.
Mattâ€™s Funk, Aberdeen, Duke And Cookie, Emerald Garden, Scapegoat Blues, Miss Poopie, 12 Keys, Since Iâ€™ve Been Loving You, Rainbow, Heads Up,Â A Day in the Life > Bilgewater Blues
Encore: Within You Without You, Sophie, Georgia on My Mind
The Band: Jimmy Herring â€“ Guitar | Jeff Sipe (Apt Q-258) â€“ Drums | Neal Fountain â€“ Bass | Matt Slocum â€“ Keys
To download an audience recording of this show, click HERE.
Ten years sounds like a long time, but when reflecting upon sadness or loss it seems shorter, almost like yesterday. We can all agree that life is precious, delicate, mysterious and full of challenges and regrets. When a loved one passed away, the instinct is to stop, think and take stock of where one”s own life is heading and moreover, what exactly needs to be done with an all too uncertain amount of remaining time.
After awhile, and as the grief process takes its course, sadness begins to slip away and one day, without notice, itâ€™s back to business as usual… until reminded.
In the case of Michael â€œMikeyâ€ Houser (January 6, 1962-August 10, 2002), reminders come often through reminiscent discussion and anytime his music is heard.
Iâ€™m in love with a girl that I met in the bar Sheâ€™s brought me this far…
The unique guitar riffs, calm lyrics and quiet stage presence made him a fan favorite and when sadness recoils, the knowledge of knowing that someone so talented and gifted was taken from us at an early age only exacerbates the grief. Recollection of how astonishingly deep Mikeyâ€™s unselfishness was when he decided to go out on the road and tour with Widespread Panic, even when noticeably sick, his life â€œtimeâ€ limited. To make that sacrifice only proved how important music was for him, but to forgo spending that borrowed time with his family and off the road friends provided all who were touched in those remaining days a rare glimpse of humility, something for which Houser was a beacon. Ironically, ten years past his untimely passing, his family invited us to share in an evening with them to collectively reflect on Mikeyâ€™s contribution to life in a celebration of an immense man that so many will never forget.
Acting as organizer, it was hats off early to Barbette Houser- Horowitz for what immediately came across as a well-planned event. It was clear that she had put her painstaking all into this special tribute concert for her late husband; and in recalling the grief shared amongst fans through the years, there were shared thoughts abound concerningÂ the emotional fortitude that she and her family had shown in so doing.
The evening”s setting was the recently restored Georgia Theatre, the place to play for aspiring Athens based musicians, and as fate would have it, the place where an untold litany of early Mikey-inspired memories were made with Bloodkin, Vic Chesnut and of course, Widespread Panic. In terms of spaciousness and the like, the Theatre was noticeably more comfortable on this evening. One can only be presume that Barbette set a strict limit in regards to how many tickets could be sold.
Upon arrival, fans took to mingling on the rooftop and catching up with old friends and family before surveying the items that would be auctioned (including handwritten Mikey lyrics donated by John Bell, paintings and signed posters) to provide funds for The Michael Houser Music Fund. Early-entry VIPs were treated to some wonderful southern food, complete with delicious golden fried chicken, and entertainment inside by Dangfly, whose set ending signaled the beginning of a photomontage backdrop that scrolled through photos from Houser”s life, both onstage and off. The only unfortunate thing was that the event could have never accommodated all who wished to be there, but once again, Barbette showed just how much she “gets it” by making the entire evening accessible on the internet for free (though donations were accepted) to all who needed to simply couldn”t be in Athens. Even so, there was an ever-present group of approximately 25 ticketless souls who opted to watch from a sidewalk out of a desire to simply be as close to the magic that was inevitable.
Well the barstool rodeoâ€™s in town
And I know all of our friends will be going down…
In the moments leading up to the show”s opening, older fans and friends took time to reflect and remember what Mikey stood for while the younger ones in the audience were enthusiastically awaiting the closest thing to feeling the power that Houser”s presence always spawned.
Ceremonies officially got underway set from the Romper Stompers, a collaborative joint between Panic”s drum section (Todd Nance, Sunny Ortiz) and personnel from Bloodkin and Barbara Cue, an up and coming Athens collective that is showing true promise.
From the inception of the set, the tone was set for the evening, courtesy of an eclectic mix of songs that Houser held close to his heart, including: â€œAirplane,â€ â€œSmoke and Burn (Burned Faceless),â€ a nod toVic Chesnutt with “Blight” and a tune that most would have never predicted to be one of Houser”s favorites to rock when riding on Widespread Panic”s tour bus, Kathy Mattea”s â€œEighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses.â€ (according to Todd Nance, it was)
Former Widespread Panic guitar tech and current Outformation front man, Sam Holt, came out for a few songs including â€œShe Drives Me to Drink,â€ providing just the right amount of latitude to ensure that the high energy level was sustained until the last drop.
Intermissions throughout the evening were far from the standard drag, consisting of gear change and house music. Rather, all who participated in the raffles were on the edge of their seat and all were cheering for the lucky fans who walked away with rare memorabilia. The crowd was introduced to Houser”s parents who were there to share in the evening”s primary purpose, to honor their son. Needless to say, gratitude swirled as Barbette and family made a point of thanking the full room on multiple occasions when not sharing stories about Mikey”s love for music and family — never minding the fact that the pleasure was all ours.
The next band to take the stage and keep the barrage of tribute tunes up was The Heap. Through nine songs the band took the volume up for a downright funky 40 minutes. Highlighted by the second trip into Houser”s Sandbox, Â â€œLow Country” was an amazing offering, the horns blasting mercifully while fans grooved to the number that was spiraling the number into a new but fully spirited place down the spine and beneath the feet.
A near complete reunion of Outformation (Jeff “Birdogg” Lane”s percussion role was ably filled by Sunny Ortiz) was next to take the stage. The 11 song set featured favorites such as â€œWest Virginia,â€ â€œTime is Free” Â andâ€œ90,â€ but when John Bell and John Keane ambled onto the stage, the set took on a whole new meaning and direction. To no surprise, the Georgia Theatre throng shrieked with delight, knowing that a gem or two would be gracing their ears in short order. What they got were two great songs choices and a classic. â€œCanâ€™t Change the Pastâ€ was stellar as the front men traded verses and â€œSouthern Angelsâ€ was performed powerfully with full emotions on their faces.
The last song in the set was the nightâ€™s biggest and by far, the most sought after Mikey tune. â€œSandbox,â€ the title track from Houser”s second of two posthumous releases, was played for the first time in over a decade. HavingÂ been a rarity when active (played less than 25 times over a 5 year period from 1996-2001), it goes without saying that many from the Panic faithful went their entire tour career without ever having the pleasure of hearing the number live. Most figured the song to be permanently shelved alongside other gems (“Raise the Roof” and “Waker”) out of respect for the Mikey. On a night that was all about paying respect to the fallen brother, there could not have been a more fitting venue for the splendidly written number to resurface in all of its beauty; Holt, Bell and Keane did the song justice, playing it with soul straight from the heart… just as Mikey always did. As the song dwindled and came to a close, fans prepared themselves for the final two, and most anticipated, sets of the night but were thankful for the preceding final intermission.
Taking a brief survey of the room, it was interesting to see the various reactions that were being had in response to what had just occurred onstage. While one person was giving his buddy, a high-five, rejoicing over finally capturing a tune they had chased for untold years, another was sitting quietly, seemingly having gotten lost to the moment it time, blank-faced but bright-eyed. In the brief look, unique insight could be found. Whether fervently texting a friend, phoning a long since seen touring partner, tweeting a reaction, visibly moved with red cheeks from tears that had poured only moments earlier or simply lying one”s head on his or her lover”s shoulder, unity shone bright as the sun in the snow. In spite of the diverse expression of feeling, each were under the same agreement in regards to exactly how important the music and life of Michael Houser meant to each of them. In this room, his gentle soul was vibrantly present in spite of the fact that its vessel had long-since departed.
By the time that all had reconvened for the final sets, the energy in the building was at a fever pitch, all having no clue as to what would be coming next, just knowing that it was going to be special.Â John Bell and John Keane retook the stage with an ensemble of friends that included Ike Stubblefield (keys), Andrew Hammer (drums) and Tom Ryan (bass) and began the set with a welcomed and well played serving of Pink Floyd”s â€œWish You Were Hereâ€ that transitioned into â€œNo Matter Whatâ€ and Â â€œAll I Wanted,â€ interspersed by a revelatory JB telling stories about Mikey and disclosing song meanings. After a sweet take on “I”m Not Alone” with Randall Bramblett, the set closed with the most fitting number to close things out before the Tribute Jam, “Travelin” Man,” the final song Mikey wrote for Widespread Panic.
Going into the evening, all eyes had looked to the Tribute Jam (John Keane & Friends) to be the most valuable set of the evening. But after what had transpired throughout the evening from every ensemble and individual, proclaiming anything as a clear winner would be far too subjective. This said, the set delivered on every expectation with plenty of room to spare.
Opening things up with quite the trilogy of tunes, John Keane and Jimmy Herring traded leads on â€œSheâ€™s Not Thereâ€ while Danny Hutchens led his band”s subdued â€œEnd of The Show,â€ but it was “Porch Song” that proved to be extraordinary through the guitar of Herring and moreover, the rare appearance and fiddle work from David Blackmon. Blackmon has not played with Widespread Panic in over a decade, but it wasn”t just his mere presence that made the song so delicious. He had been out at various points throughout the night and no doubt, each time was special. But with “Porch Song,” it was the fact that the number just so happened to bring out his classic fiddle sound through composition that gave the impression that it was written with him in mind.
Joining the tribute jam was Dan Horowitz (Barbetteâ€™s husband) on bass and Tim White (from 1988″s Space Wrangler) on keys making the affair even more special, as though it needed anything else. Â The company brought the night”s festivities to a close with the all too fitting â€œMake Sense to Me,â€ a surprising rattling of the Rolling Stones” â€œSympathy For The Devilâ€ and Â an encored “I”m a Man” with drums thrown in the middle of the sandwich.Â With a gratitude cry from Bell of â€œThank you everybody. Thank you Mikey.â€ the house lights were up and the night far from being history for those fortunate enough to be in attendance and those watching from home.
Oddly absent had been Widespread Panic bassist, David Schools, and ivory tickler, JoJo Hermann who had previously committed to obligations with their current projects.
This town has always been my friend…
All in all, it was nice to see members of Widespread Panic, Bloodkin and Outformation along with host of friends, some of which are rarely seen. As he often did, Michael Houser had brought them together. They had come to celebrate the life and raise money in the name of their cohort, but moreover, their friend — something much greater than any old disputes, founded or otherwise. One can only hope that this was only a beginning of such occurrences.
The night had been a success on all accounts. Loads of dough was raised for The Michael Houser Music Fund (that provides scholarships to Athens Academy) and those lucky enough to be at the Theatre or watching on couch-tour.com could not have thought of any better way to use their own short bit of remaining time than they did by participating in the tribute event. It was a tribute to their musical hero. To us, Michael Houser was the best to ever play a Tele, the master of the volume pedal who could blister a jam as well as he could ride in the back. To his family, he was husband and father, son and brother. Â Fortunately, they were selfless enough to let us borrow him so that he could do what he seemingly lived for, sharing his soul in hopes of completing the pass with another”s.
26 years ago, two young men dreamed big. They got a band together and named it after one member”s disorder. He was a man that was always willing to sacrifice of himself to have his dream and eventually it came true. Â On this night, the tenth of August, 2012, his family shared him again. We were there together. They did it in downtown Athens, where it all began and in an evening of true sweetness, our souls were once again able to dance with his… and we were grateful. Thanks Mikey. Â (and Barbette, Waker, Eva)
Havin” a good time, here today
Watching the sun shine, matinee
Never the wrong time, time we stay
Living the moontime, time we play*
Airplane, Smoke and Burn, Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses, Blight, She Drives Me To Drink*, Bull Run*
*with Sam Holt
Sensible Shoes, Low Country, Itâ€™s Your Own Kinda Thing, The Future, Express Yourself, My Automobile, The Hipsterâ€™s Lament
Happy Child, Steve Lopez Raffle, Valley Blue, 90, Into My Arms, West Virginia, Game On > Edgewater > Time Is Free, Canâ€™t Change The Past*, Southern Angels*, Sandbox*
*with John Bell John Keane ; Sunny Ortiz on percussion in place of Birdogg
John Bell, John Keane and Friends
Wish You Were Here, No Matter What, Iâ€™m Not Alone*, May Your Glass Be Filled, Travelinâ€™ Man*
*with Randall Bramblett on sax
Sheâ€™s Not There, End of the Show, Porch Song, Makes Sense To Me, Sympathy for the Devil Encore: Iâ€™m A Man
(all of the evening”s appeared at some point during this set)
Hear John Bell, Dave Schools & Jimmy Herring talk about Mikey:
*Photos are protected under the Copyright Law of the United States, specifically under and by Title 17. Further protection exists under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 | Any distribution, copying or any use other than viewing, without the express consent of the photographer or designate thereof, is forbidden. For more information, contact Honest Tune Associate Managing Editor, David Shehi.
Sitting down with Bruce Hampton is one of the most enjoyable occasions one can fathom. He is genuine, funny and affable. But underneath it all is a surplus of wisdom and insight that when spoken, often results in double takes and in what Susan Tedeschi refers to as being “Hampmotized.”
Bruce’s accolades are deep. Beyond his own musical abilities, his eye for others’ talent is one from which Berry Gordy could learn. His peers praise him at every opportunity and often without mention. Derek Trucks credits him with being the primary reason that he stuck with music. Billy Bob Thornton (who cast Bruce in Sling Blade) perks up and straightens his posture at the mere mention of his name. Phish, Widespread Panic and Dave Matthews never missed a set by Bruce’s most known ensemble, Aquarium Rescue Unit, during the seminal H.O.R.D.E. tours of the early 1990s.
But the best part is that none of this seems to matter to him; and if it does, one would never know it by looking or talking to the inherently humble Zambi practicing Hampton.
While aboard Jam Cruise 10, Bruce invited David Shehi into his cabin for a chat and David clicked the camera on when Bruce said he would do something that is rare at best — play an acoustic guitar, improvising a number just for the fun of it.Â Not one who is entirely in love with on camera interviews, he allowed the camera to roll and the two converse on topics as broad as relationships and Egyptian numerics and as narrow as concert behavior and Super Bowl predictions.
So sit back, relax and take a trip to Zambiland as we present Life Improvised: An Honest Tune Interview with Col. Bruce Hampton, Ret.Â
On December 23, 2011, Warren Haynes Christmas Jam, in all its charitable glory, once again descended upon downtown Asheville, North Carolina.
Over the years, the Jam has become predominantly known for its unlikely ensembles and once-in-a-lifetime sit ins.
But upon viewing this year’s lineup, it was immediately obvious that the 23rd installment of the annual institution would hang its hat on beloved ensembles of times past and bands who have recently been on hiatus. On par with previous years, chairman of the Jam, Warren Haynes, rarely left side stage.
In discussing the Christmas Jam, it is always important to recall the event’s history, not only of origin, but of charity.
Christmas Jam was born from a simple idea: old friends who were members of different touring bands got together for an evening at a local club. It was a night of homecoming, camaraderie, and music with friends; the door money was donated to various charities. The event became a resounding success in the local community and as time passed, it grew in the most organic way.
Today, the charitable donations benefitÂ Habitat for HumanityÂ and the Asheville Civic Center (the city’s largest) is the permanent home for the festivities. The event sells out within minutes of going on sale each year, and 2011 was no different.
When it was announced that Phil Lesh & Friends and Gov’t Mule (who have not performed together in 2011) would anchor the line-up, the Warren and Jam faithful gobbled up the available tickets; the pre-sale tickets sold out in record time. In addition to the slated acts â€” which included scene veterans Los Lobos and banjo god Bela Fleck â€” the “special guest” list was nothing to scoff at. Notable names included Jimmy Herring, Kevn Kinney, Jeff Sipe, Mike Barnes, Bill Evans, and Audley Freed.
The evening began with Warren taking the stage as he has in years past, with an acoustic guitar and a smile. Opening the evening with Van Morrison’s “And It Stoned Me,” the mood was set as the subtle sounds of Haynes’ familiar voice soothed the gridlocked Civic Center throng, causing a hush and collective eye-shutting to fall over the room. It was a meditative moment that was probably as necessary for Haynes as it was for the fans. After all, everyone knew they were in for close to eight hours of high throttled jams.
Christmas Jam Band
Following the collective rumination, Haynes simply smiled as he looked adoringly at the patrons of the event that he holds so near and dear before introducing the first act of the evening, dubbed the “Christmas Jam Band.”
Featuring Kevn Kinney, Jackie Greene, Robert Kearns, Audley Freed and Brad Pemberton, the act opened with the Kinney-sung Drive-By Truckers classic, “Never Gonna Change.” The band amply fulfilled its duties and provided a nice warm-up set of solidly-played familiar tunes that included Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and The Beatles’ “I’ve Got A Feeling.”
Setlist: Never Gonna Change, Ain’t Waiting On Tomorrow, Breath > Rocket Man, I’ve Got a Feeling
Bela Fleck took the stage following a brief changeover, something that was much appreciated at this year’s Jam. In previous years, the changeovers have been a dreaded time for attendees. With the smaller lineup, a majority of the equipment was backlined. Hence, the only true gear overhaul took place during the scheduled intermission midway through the evening.
Fleck took the same approach as Haynes had nearly an hour earlier, taking the stage accompanied only by his famous Gibson TB-75 Flathead banjo for an improvisational session that segued into the “Ballad of Jed Clampett,” wherein Bela once again affirmed himself as one of the premiere banjoists of the modern era, if not of all time.
As the closing notes of “Clampett” settled and the applause roared, friends â€” guitarist Jimmy Herring (Widespread Panic), drummer Jeff Sipe (Aquarium Rescue Unit), fiddler Casey Driessen (Sparrow Quartet), bassist Taylor Lee (Jeff Sipe Trio) and saxophonist Bill Evans (Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock) â€” took the stage for what would be a definitive set of the night, especially in the areas of discovery and musicality.
In 2006, Bill Evans recorded the Grammy-nominated album Soulgrass. It featured numerous artists including Fleck and is the centerpiece of the jazz-bluegrass fusion sound. Though Herring was not featured on the fusion-focused album, one could never tell by simply listening to his perfectly executed play. It was wonderfully evocative of Herring’s Jazz is Dead days or his sessions with Chick Corea. To boot, there was Fleck, who seemed to preside over the ceremonies in a similar fashion to the way Bruce Hampton presides over Aquarium Rescue Unit.
The set, which lasted just over an hour, was nothing short of beautifully integrated harmonious orgasmia. It was far from typical call-and-response jam. It was a group of soloists who have the innate ability to musically intermingle amongst one another, and they executed to perfection. All of this, in conjunction with two of the players (Fleck and Evans) who are â€” without reservation from any scholar â€” living legends, made the set one of those “only at Christmas Jam” moments.
Setlist: Â Improvisation>Ballad Of Jed Clampett (Bela Fleck solo), Monkey See, Spanish Point, Scapegoat Blues#, Â Soulgrass
# Neal Fountain on bass
Los Lobos, the band that served as Ritchie Valens’ reincarnate with their rendition of “La Bamba” for the 1987 film, is hands down one of the most underrated, overlooked and unsung group of musical heroes on the scene today.
Though critical acclaim has met them at many turns and the devotion of avid followers runs deep, large commercial success has eluded them. This is perhaps best evidenced by the fact that Warner Brothers dropped the ensemble from their label in 1996 even though the East Los Angeles natives won a Grammy the previous year. These cats have folks like Eric Clapton, Mavis Staples and Elvis Costello on speed dial, but the response from the average music listener when Los Lobos is discussed is “who?”
In short, they were a perfect fit for Christmas Jam, an event whose lineup is curated by one of the most discerning ears in music, Haynes.
Opening with the title track from 1990’s The Neighborhood, the crowd was getting warmed up to the sound before subsequently being set afire by the electrifying solo from front man David Hidalgo that brought the number to a close. The segue-heavy set reeled through theyears of the veteran Hispanic rockers’ vast career.
Following the percussive heavy and intensely danceable “I Walk Alone,” a true standout from the band’s Live at Fillmore release, the band welcomed Haynes to the stage for a short ripping of a Grateful Dead-inspired rendition of “Not Fade Away.”
During “NFA,” Jackie Greene walked to the stage for the final number of the evening, a seamlessly segued “Bertha,” the Los Lobos contribution to the Grateful Dead tribute album, Deadicated. Â The 10-minute tune was interplay at its finest, as the five guitarists called and responded to each other with precision. Finally settling into a rhythmic backdrop, Haynes took center stageÂ and prevailed above his peers with a spine chilling slide solo that eventually channeled Duane Allman through a tease of the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’Man.”
Never minding the obvious, in so many ways the closer was the perfect introduction to what was about to unfold.
Setlist: The Neighborhood > Don’t Worry Baby > Revolution > Rattlesnake Shake > Chuco’s Cumbia, La Venganza De Los Pelados, I Walk Alone, Not Fade Away* > Bertha#
* – with Warren Haynes
# – with Warren and Jackie Greene
As fans took their first break from the music, hotdogs were eaten, merch was purchased, babysitters were called, bladders were emptied, and all other standard-fare set break/intermission activities were tended to. However, one thing separated the experience from most other events of Christmas Jam’s size: the attitude and graciousness from one fan to the next. It was this, coupled with the always unique musical experience that Christmas Jam provides, that sets it apart and dare I say, above.
The camaraderie of fans who were enduring an extended show was, as it always is, remarkable. It proved that when good deeds and charitable acts are in the air, self-centeredness actually takes a back seat. It was a beautiful thing to watch and joyous to take part in.
Phil Lesh and Friends: Warren Haynes, Jackie Greene, Joe Russo and Jeff Chimenti
From the moment that Phil Lesh and Friends were announced for this installment of Christmas Jam, the buzz was high. On the night itself, expectations were even higher as many have longed for a trip back to the days of a Lesh-led band as opposed to what is currently going on with Furthur.
This outing by the less-than-well-rehearsed ensemble (that also featured Jimmy Herring for the majority of the set) not only exceeded the high expectations, but proved that Bill Kreutzmann had a valid point when he stated that Furthur probably should have asked Haynes to join their act.
The set was Phil back where he is supposed to be: in his element as a bandleader, in spite of the fact that he occasionally passed his duties off to the very able hands of Jackie Greene. It was the beauty of Phil’s voice again; an ingredient that Furthur simply seems to not have appreciation for.
Most of all though, it was Phil’s Zone and for Phil fans, it can only be hoped that Lesh, who sported a perma-grin for the majority of the evening, will get this band on the road in the very near future.
Rather than drone on and on about the perfection with which songs were played (minus a miscue or missed change here or there), what was most noteworthy about the evening was witnessing how much Greene has grown as a player since the days when most got to know him as the kid who looked like a young Bob Dylan.
Herring was present for the majority of the set, so between he and Haynes, one would suspect that Greene’s guitar work would take a back seat, but it wasÂ far from the case. Sure, Haynes and Herring are more mature players and have abilities that are uniquely their own, but “the kid” held his own, and at times visibly challenged the elder statesmen to duels.
Highlighted by a trance-inducing “Dark Star” and space-filled “Wharf Rat,” the stage never seemed crowded; the sound was anything but cluttered and the present talent seemed to further heighten Jeff Chimenti’s confidence on keys. The set was one of those where the line between musical enjoyment and spiritual experience is crossed pretty quickly. It was a great night to be in Asheville.
Setlist: Shakedown Street > Deal > Viola Lee Blues > Caution > Viola Lee Blues > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Dark Star > She Said She Said > Jam > Dark Star* > Wharf Rat* > The Other One* > Sugaree*, Donor Rap Encore: Angel Band
*with Jimmy Herring
The moment that many had been waiting for arrived when the beloved quartet of Gov’t Mule ambled onto their platform before a legion of some of their most loyal. Though it has been less than a year since Mule’s last performance, for fans who are used to the band’s regular touring schedule, this one year with front man Haynes out in support of the Man in MotionÂ has felt like five.
To resounding applause and subsequent choral accompaniment from the crowd, Mule launched into “Railroad Boy” in a manner that suggested that while the band had been off the road, they wouldn’t miss a beat. By the time that bassist Jorgen Carlsson trickled in, drummer Matt Abts began the call-to-arms beat of the number and Danny Louis began his organ swirl, the temperature in the venue had already gone up a few degrees.
Phil Lesh took over bass and Bill Evans sat in for a cover of Traffic’s “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys,” which began with a degree of awkwardness that possibly could be attributed to the band’s seeming unfamiliarity with the number. At the time and even in hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best song choice, but by the time that the second bridge ended and the improvisation between Haynes and Evans ensued, Lesh had Â delight written all over his face. It was the highlight of the entire night.
After another Haynes and Jimmy Herring face-melting series of solos during The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” and a solidly-played Mule original, “Inside Outside Woman Blues #3,” the evening closed with the appropriate cover of The Doors’ “When the Music’s Over.” Followed by a simple “thank you and merry Christmas” from Haynes, the music was indeed over… but the memories will never leave.
Setlist: Railroad Boy > Beautifully Broken > Thorazine Shuffle, Banks Of The Deep End, Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys*#, Dear Prudence@, Inside Outside Woman Blues, When The Music’s Over
* With Phil Lesh on Bass
# With Bill Evans on Saxophone
@ With Jimmy Herring on Guitar
With that, the 23rd Annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam was in the books. In some ways, it broke from tradition, but one tradition was held onto as steadfastly as it ever has been: music and goodwill are always a blend worth pursuing. In times that have brought about much uncertainty for many families across our beautiful country, Christmas Jam remains a beacon of light that is spiritually refreshing and authentic. Of course, the music was badass as well.
Click the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the Jam by David Shehi…