Warren Haynes and a number of special guests returned to the U.S. Cellular Center on Saturday evening for the second of two nights of the guitarist’s 30th Annual Christmas Jam in Asheville, NC. To add to the weekend’s celebratory drama, a rare snowstorm in the Asheville area prohibited many of Saturday’s Christmas Jam performers from leaving as scheduled. The predicament led to Warren and several of his talented friends returning to the nearby Orange Peel—where their pre-jam was held on Thursday—for a surprise, cover-filled pop-up concert on Sunday night.
Night one of Christmas jam on Friday saw Haynes and Gov’t Mule channel their inner Pink Floyd with a full headlining set as their common alter-ego, Dark Side of the Mule. Saturday’s festivities picked up right where Warren and company left off on Friday, beginning with the guitarist reuniting with his old friends as part of the 45 Cherry Band. The live band included a mix of musicians who played at the very first Christmas Jam back in 1988, which took place at an Asheville club named 45 Cherry. The band would play through a few tunes before Jeff Anders joined in for a cover of U2‘s “One”. Next, Philip Ashley came on to play on Haynes-penned latter day Allman Brothers Band hit, “Soulshine”. The festivities continued with a performance from Joe Bonamassa, who jammed out to his own “If Heartaches Were Nickels” before giving fans a mix of classic rock covers from Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, and Cream.
Jim James‘ performance followed shortly thereafter, with the My Morning Jacket singer/guitarist returning after his impressive showing on Friday to play some of the songs off his recent solo album, Uniform Distortion. Joanne Shaw Taylor followed with a trio that also included drummer Rocky Lindsley and bassist Johnny Jump. The three appropriately played a trio of songs, ending with a cover of Freddie King‘s blues power anthem, “Goin’ Down”.
Foo Fighters‘ Dave Grohl took the stage next, beginning with the live debut of his lengthy “PLAY” instrumental. Grohl continued jamming with a sit-in from Haynes that saw the two rock heroes lead the way on a cover of the Foo’s “Times Like These”. Grohl would go on to repay the favor during Gov’t Mule’s headlining set, during which he joined the quartet for a killer cover of Neil Young‘s rock and roll anthem, “Rockin’ In The Free World”, featuring a mid-song interlude of Band Of Gypsys’ “Machine Gun”.
Eric Church also took the stage as the evening continued for a mix of solo acoustic and full band performance. Some of the solo songs Church performed for his fellow North Carolinians included “Desperate Man” and “Record Year”. Church continued with full band covers of The Allman Brothers Band’s “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”, Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City”, and The Band‘s beloved classic, “The Weight”.
Finally, Gov’t Mule capped the memorable night with a headlining set including “Thorazine Shuffle”, “Revolution Come, Revolution Go”, “Million Miles From Yesterday”, “Dreams & Songs”, “Red Baron”, the Grohl-assisted Neil Young cover, and a set-closing “Mule” with the help of Audley Freed and Ron Holloway.
Gov’t Mule with Dave Grohl – “Rockin’ In The Free World” (Neil Young cover) – 12/8/2018
Sunday’s weather-induced pop-up show may have caught fans and Asheville residents by complete surprise, but Gov’t Mule and Grohl (on both drums and guitar) made sure that fans stuck in the city would have as much fun as possible with a two-set, 13-song performance that included covers of songs by Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and Tom Petty, just to name a few. The show began with another live rendition of Grohl’s instrumental marathon, “PLAY”, before continuing with covers of Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and Tom Petty’s southern rock masterpiece, “You Don’t Know How It Feels”. Set continued with more covers including Nirvana’s 90s grunge ballad. “All Apologies”, Petty’s “Breakdown”, and The Beatles‘ “Helter Skelter” with Jimmy Vivino on guitar before closing out with The Rolling Stones‘ “Bitch”.
Sunday’s second Gov’t Mule + Dave Grohl set kept the moving with more fan-favorite covers, as the band began with Temple of the Dog‘s “Hunger Strike” before tearing into a cover of Traffic‘s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and transitioning right back into “Hunger Strike”. The augmented band continued their classic rock run with a cover of The Who‘s “Eminence Front”, followed by a return to Zeppelin for their hypnotizing psych-rock power ballad, “No Quarter”. Finally, the was rounde out with one last cover of the evening in Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Simple Man”.
You can watch videos from the surprise Sunday performance below:
Gov’t Mule with Dave Grohl – “Since I’ve Been Loving You” [Led Zeppelin cover] – 12/9/2018
[Video: Tom Libera]
Gov’t Mule with Dave Grohl – “You Don’t Know How It Feels” [Tom Petty cover] – 12/9/2018
[Video: Tom Libera]
Gov’t Mule with Dave Grohl + Jimmy Vivino – “Helter Skelter” [The Beatles cover] – 12/9/2018
[Video: Tom Libera]
This weekend turned out to be quite the marathon of great rock and jam performances by Warren and company, making for a fitting 30th anniversary of his Asheville benefit show for his hometown community. Fans can catch Haynes early next year when he heads down to Runaway Bay, Jamaica for the 10th running of his annual Island Exodus destination event featuring performances from Gov’t Mule, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Devon Allman Project featuring Duane Betts, and more. Tickets and information for the snowbird-friendly music event in late January can be found and purchased here.