Last weekend, the US Cellular Center hosted the 27th Annual Christmas Jam, the yearly Habitat For Humanity benefit show that locals and many other music fans look forward to all year long. Warren Haynes calls upon his friends each year to create a lineup that surprises and intrigues fans of jam bands, rock, and Americana genres, and this year was no exception.
The night kicked off with Love Canon, bringing bluegrass variations of popular 80’s hits between each set throughout the evening to ensure that there was never a dull moment. They opened with “Money For Nothing,” and then ended their first of their many short sets with “She Blinded Me With Science.”
Brian Haynes then came out and introduced his brother and our host with the most, Warren Haynes, for the first time in the evening. Warren performed “Give Me Love” just before Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady took the stage as the very electric version of Hot Tuna. Jack and Jorma delivered a high energy set with drummer Justin Guip that included their songs “Been So Long” and “Comeback Baby” and left the crowd begging for more.
But there was a lot more to come throughout the evening, and Love Canon helped with another transition by breaking out three awesome sing-along songs, starting “Sledgehammer” and moving into “Centerfold” by the J. Giles Band. As Bruce Hornsby was getting ready for his set, the bluegrass outfit started into his own hit “That’s The Way It Is.” In the true spirit of Christmas Jam and much to our delight, Bruce stepped aside from setting up to sing a couple stanzas with them. Hornsby then played a set of his own friends Gibb Droll, Ross Holmes, & JT Thomas on a dulcimer for some very refined renditions of “Black Rats of London,” “Pretty Polly” by Ralph Stanley, and “Valley Road.”
After another entertaining intermission with Love Canon, the Tedeschi Trucks Band took the stage for an eager crowd. They opened strong with their funky new song, “Don’t Know What It Means” and went straight into “The Letter,” which would be the first of a few songs from Mad Dogs & Englishmen album. Warren Haynes then joined his former Allman Brothers bandmate Derek Trucks in a hot version of Tedeschi Trucks Band song “Keep On Rolling.” Trucks and Haynes traded licks for a nice intense jam which melded into a mindblowing guitar performance, leading up to “The Storm.” Susan Tedeschi showed off her soulful pipes to end their already epic set with a Joe Cocker inspired version of “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
Next up was American folk-rock band Dawes, they started up with a great version of their song “From The Right Angle” with Duane Betts leaning into a great gyral guitar jam. From there they went into their slower song “Now It’s Too Late, Maria” from their new album All Your Favorite Bands. Taylor Goldsmith brought some intense energy while Griffin Goldsmith held down the rhythm through “Peace In The Valley” and Lee Pardini took the song to the next level with an exciting keyboard jam. Their impressive set ended with a hugely satisfying version of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”
Warren then stepped back out to collaborate with Love Canon for a version of Tears For Fears “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” before Blackberry Smoke came out for their set. The Atlanta based group showed off some impressive chops through five songs from their 2012 album The Whippoorwill, including “Six Ways To Sunday,” “Sleeping Dog,” and “Ain’t Got The Blues.” Once again, Warren Haynes returned to the stage to help out with a rocking version of “Deep Elem Blues.”
Though the hour was approaching midnight, the energy reached one of it’s highest points in the evening when The Doobie Brothers finally had their time. The Doobie Brothers recently welcomed keyboard player Bill Payne to their already stellar lineup. They took off with an energetic “Jesus Is Just Alright” which lead into a driving “Rockin’ Down The Highway.” The intensity only rose as Marc Russo blared the saxophone with fervor through “Dependin’ On You,” and “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While).” Warren then contributed his bluesy guitar to a lesser known Doobie Brothers song “Don’t Start Me Talkin’,” before he stepped aside briefly to let the boys take on the super fun sing-along “Black Water.” Multi-instrumentalist John McFee added a vibrant violin while Tony Pia and Ed Toth provided the rhythmic backbone for the whole audience to sing along with. Haynes joined them on stage once more for what is arguably their most popular of their many hits from the 70’s “Long Train Running,” followed by “China Grove.” John Cowan then lead through a grooving “Listen To The Music,” spurring nearly everyone in the audience to participate.
Love Canon took the stage for their sixth short set of the evening, when the last bass note of their set matched the first note of the final act: The heavyweight champion of the evening, Warren Haynes with his Ashes & Dust Band, comprised of Matt Menefee, Ross Holmes, Royal Masat, and Jeff Sipe. The Allman Brothers Band classic “Jessica” started the set off with a bang. A couple of slower tunes followed before Asheville Guitar owner Mike Barnes joined the band for a psychedelic and eerie take on “Skin It Back” by Little Feat. The band moved into “Instrumental Illness” which set the very talented Jeff Sipe up for a colossal drum solo. Haynes and company then slowed it down again for the vocal harmonizing “Angel Band” which went straight into the Haynes penned slow ballad “Soulshine.” The next transition into the Radiohead medley of the songs “Karma Police” and “Paranoid Android” was a pleasant surprise. Warren then welcomed Duane Betts out on stage to help with “Blue Sky” the Allman Brothers song written by his father, Dickey Betts. The night ended with Warren inviting local up-and-comer Marcus King on stage along with Craig Sorrels and Mike Barnes for “Two Of A Kind Blues.”
Thank you, Warren Haynes, for another awesome night of surprise artists and unexpected collaborations. Music fans everywhere look forward to seeing what you have in store for us next year!