Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam made a grand return to Asheville after a three-year hiatus

By Grant Golden

December 15, 2022

The streets of Asheville were filled with a palpable sense of excitement as Warren Haynes’ 31st Annual Christmas Jam made its return to Asheville for the first time in three years. The revered music marathon boasted star-studded jam sessions featuring an eclectic blend of genres– there were indie rock icons sharing the stage with jam band legends and modern country rockers jamming alongside Southern rock staples. The Christmas Jam has long been heralded as one of the finest music events in the country, and it didn’t take long to realize why it garnered so much acclaim.

J Mascis of rock band Dinosaur Jr. performing at Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam in Asheville. Photo: Kevin Harrington

The weekend kicked off with a Pre-Jam at Asheville’s landmark venue, The Orange Peel. The opening event set the tone for the rest of the weekend’s vibes with Haynes and friends both leveraging their spotlight to provide a platform for up-and-comers while linking up with accomplished musicians for some unforgettable collaborations. The Meters’ George Porter Jr., J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., and Tyler Ramsey of Band of Horses fame all weaved in and out of the collaborative jam at the Orange Peel.

Saturday’s events kicked off early, with music starting at Asheville Music Hall, One Stop, and Jack of the Woods at noon. Jack of the Woods hosted a slew of songwriters for a writers-in-the-round style event, while Asheville Music Hall and One Stop utilized their two-story setup for a constant rotation of tunes throughout the day. Local and regional favorites like Andrew Scotchie & the River Rats, The Snozzberries, and The Paper Crowns played early afternoon sets to a packed out crowd.

M.C. Taylor (Hiss Golden Messenger), performed an acoustic set at Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam in Asheville. Photo: Kevin Harrington

Lines wrapped around Harrah’s Cherokee Center as fans anticipated the start of the weekend’s main event, which started with an intimate set from renowned guitarist and frequent Warren Haynes collaborator, Scott Metzger. The Cherokee Center was set up with a main stage and side stage, which had a festive backdrop for the solo performances of the evening from acts like M.C. Taylor (Hiss Golden Messenger), Tyler Ramsey, and Katie Jacoby. Multiple stages kept the evening’s vibes high, allowing for minimal downtime between acts and a constant flow of spirited performances for an eager crowd.

Dinosaur Jr.’s early set could have easily stuck out like a sore thumb among the pack of roots-leaning jam-friendly acts, but Mascis and his trio brought a reeling, career-spanning set of fuzzed out guitar rock tunes. The night’s biggest surprise came from the Maryland-based country outfit Brothers Osborne, delivering a careening set of tunes that ranged from outlaw country to low-tempo crooners. Tracks like “Dead Man’s Curve” dazzled listeners and temporarily transformed the sold-out Cherokee Center into a sticky-floored honky tonk. The duo came back for a stripped down side stage set that included an invigorating cover of The Band’s “The Shape I’m In,” further solidifying themselves as one of the evening’s best performances. 

While Brothers Osborne may have taken the crowd by surprise, all in attendance surely expected the tour de force of Tyler Childers. On the heels of his most ambitious record to date, Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?, Childers played an even mix of covers (including Charlie Daniels’ “Trudy” alongside Warren Haynes), beloved old favorites, and standouts from the new record. The gospel swing of “Way of the Triune God” garnered vivacious singalongs from the crowd and the set-closing “Lady May” hushed the raucous audience for a moment of serenity.

Tyler Childers performing at Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam in Asheville. Photo: Kevin Harrington

The country-leaning combo of Childers and Brothers Osborne served as evening highlights as Haynes’ work with both Gov’t Mule and Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh was equally dazzling. Gov’t Mule’s set was full of collaborations, including Audley Freed (The Black Crowes), another appearance from Porter Jr. for a cover of “Hey Pocky A-Way,” and Allman Brothers favorite, “Blue Sky” with John Osborne.

Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam made a grand return to Asheville. Photo: Kevin Harrington

Though some of the crowd thinned out after Childers, a large faction of Deadheads remained for a set full of inspired takes on tracks like “Shakedown Street,” “Morning Dew,” “Terrapin Station,” and more. As the band closed their evening with “Box of Rain,” the final lyrics rang true for the Christmas Jam fans that have waited since 2018 for the event’s return: “Such a long long time to be gone / and such a short time to be there.” Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long for the next Christmas Jam to land in Asheville. 

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