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By Ray Chelstowski
Few artists know how to celebrate a holiday better than Warren Haynes. Every year he ushers in Halloween with his Mule-O-Ween concert and of course, now for the 31st time he hosts his widely celebrated live charity concert event, Christmas Jam.
After a two-year hiatus tied to COVID concerns, he returns to his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina and Harrah’s Cherokee Center for a sold-out performance on Saturday, December 10th. This year’s Christmas Jam, also presented by the W&S Charitable Foundation and Stefani Scamardo, will benefit longtime partner Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity along with BeLoved Asheville.
The 2022 Christmas Jam will feature another incredible lineup including Phil Lesh & Friends (feat. Warren Haynes, John Scofield Rob Barraco & John Molo), Tyler Childers with his band The Food Stamps, Gov’t Mule, Brothers Osborne, and Dinosaur Jr. in addition to many special guests including Hiss Golden Messenger (Solo), Audley Freed, Scott Metzger, Katie Jacoby, Mike Barnes, and more.
The Christmas Jam’s annual Jam By Day lineup has also been revealed. Spanning three of Asheville’s premier music venues, daytime performances will take place on Saturday, December 10th at the Asheville Music Hall, The One Stop at Asheville Music Hall, and Jack of the Wood from Pressing Strings, Cody Jasper, The Snozzberries, Mike Barnes Band, Abby Bryant & The Echoes, Josh Blake’s Jukebox, Paper Crowns, Bobby Miller & The Virginia Daredevils, Ray Sisk, Ashley Heath, David Earl, Joshua Singleton, and more.
In other local happenings that weekend, The Christmas Jam will set up an exclusive merchandise pop-up at Records in the RAD, owned and operated by Brian, Susan and Dylan Haynes, on Friday, December 9th and Saturday, December 10th from 11am-7pm featuring limited edition merch, including a very special design by Dylan Haynes, and appearances by legendary concert photographers Jay Blakesberg and Michael Weintraub. Grateful Bread will also host their 10th annual warm clothing drive outside of Harrah’s Cherokee Center on Saturday, December 10th from 5:00-8:30pm. Additionally, BeLoved Asheville will be hosting a toy drive outside of the Pre-Jam at The Orange Peel on Friday night and at both the Asheville Music Hall and Harrah’s Cherokee Center on Saturday seeking new, unwrapped toys for children aged 0-10.
Christmas Jam’s rich history continues to grow each year with unforgettable musical moments from past performers that include The Allman Brothers Band, Ann Wilson, The Avett Brothers, Blues Traveler, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Bob Weir, Branford Marsalis, Counting Crows, Dave Grohl, Dave Matthews, The Doobie Brothers, Gov’t Mule, Grace Potter, Hot Tuna, Jackson Browne, James Johnson, Jason Isbell, Joe Bonamassa, John Scofield, Johnny Winter, Marco Benevento, Michael McDonald, moe., O.A.R., Peter Frampton, Phil Lesh, Ray LaMontagne, Sheryl Crow, Steve Miller Band, The String Cheese Incident, Taj Mahal Trio, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Trey Anastasio, Umphrey’s McGee, Widespread Panic and many more.
Goldmine, grabbed a few moments with Warren in between concert planning to talk about his return to Asheville and what excites him about an event that is always evolving and bringing new voices and forums to music’s most memorable yearly close-out.
Goldmine: How did you make the decision to return to Asheville this year?
Warren Haynes: I wanted to take a year off after the 30th anniversary to kind of reassess, and then we were faced with COVID for the next two years. We tried for both of those years to make it happen and last year we were thinking that we could pull it off right up until the final moments. But there was no way we were going to risk having people get sick at a charity concert.
GM: This has to be a lot to put together. When do you begin work on Christmas Jam each year?
WH: It usually starts around April. We start to reach out then and make preliminary calls to see who might be available. To whatever extent is possible, I do want it to be different every year. There are so many wonderful artists that have been a part of it so many times through the years that they’ve almost become staples. I don’t want it to just be those folks but we do depend upon them and they are a big part of the spirit of the event. But we do want to always add new acts. For example this year includes Tyler Childers, Dinosaur Jr., and Brothers Osborne; none of which has ever been on the bill, so I’m really excited about that.
GM: The Christmas Jam lineup is always so diverse. In the past you’ve had non-jam acts like The Doobie Brothers and The Steve Miller Band appear. Is that intentional?
WH: I think that that’s an important part of it. We always want to have artists that are part of the jam band world and some that aren’t. I’ve always kind of maintained that it’s a more interesting show and it holds people’s attention a lot longer if there are many different genres of music being represented. So the more diverse the lineup, the more fun it is and the more likely people will stay for the entire show, which is very long.
GM: Is there anyone this year you really wanted to be part of the event but the schedules just didn’t align?
WH: There’s always people who try to make it happen but can’t make it work, and that changes every year. Actually at one point earlier in the year it looked like we had too many performers and we weren’t sure how we were going to accommodate everyone. But that’s a good problem to have, and as it turned out peoples schedules changed. It’s just a real juggling act.
GM: You’ve added a new charity to the mix this year. What is it about BeLoved Asheville that impressed you the most?
WH: They are a wonderful organization and all of the people in our camp that deal with that aspect of things have been really impressed with what they are doing so once I started hearing about it I checked it out. We’re really honored to bring them on board. Asheville is growing so much and there are many great charitable organizations sprouting up all of the time. We look forward to working with more and more of them in the future and expanding the horizons of Christmas Jam in general. We’re trying to expand it in a way that some cities do for major festivals so that people who come in from out of town can experience Asheville on a number of different levels.
GM: This week on what would have been Gregg Allman’s 75th birthday a concert at The Beacon Theater in New York City celebrates his life. Do you have anything planned at Christmas Jam to acknowledge this milestone?
WH: We usually do something of honor of Gregg and The Allman Brothers in general. Gregg was so generous in coming to Christmas Jam in the past by himself and with The Allman Brothers. It was such a beautiful gesture and I have such fond memories of those experiences, so we usually wind up doing something at Christmas Jam that honors that.
GM: How close to going live on stage are you still working on the material?
WH: Well, it’s nice to prepare as much as you can but there’s probably about thirty percent that you can’t prepare for. It’s different every year. Some years there are more individual artists that are looking for different ways to be accommodated with different people on stage. This year there aren’t as many as there have been in the past, but there are still a number of musicians who’ll be collaborating with other artists for the first time, which is great. That’s a big part of what Christmas Jam is all about.
To learn more about Christmas Jam: www.xmasjam.com
To learn more about Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity: www.ashevillehabitat.org
To learn more about Beloved Asheville: www.belovedasheville.com