5 things we’re psyched to see at Christmas Jam 2018


The 30th annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam is taking place at the US Cellular Center on the evenings of Friday, Dec. 7, and Saturday, Dec. 8. Here are five things we at Ashvegas are hoping for and looking forward to at this year’s 30th anniversary event.

1. Dark Side of the Mule, with Grace Potter in the wings

Of all of the bands that I would want to hear play some Pink Floyd, Government Mule has to top the list. Masters of the dark art of rock and roll and willing and ready to take their listeners through the heaviest of journeys, their style and gruffness just feels right to mix with England’s greatest rockers. Assuming they stick tothe Dark Side of the Moon album (some are suggesting that their set will be covering the record in it’s entirety) then they are setting up a collaboration for the ages.

I’m pretty sure that there is a solid number of us who can remember sitting mesmerized, and most likely stoned, in our parents garage with a copy of Dark Side of the Moon, turning the album back over and over again to simply gawk at the vocals of Clare H. Torry on the song “The Great Gig in the Sky.”

Friday night, during the Dark Side of the Mule set, vocalist and musician Grace Potter will be backstage. With a bit of luck, we may get her take on Torry’s classic, wordless vocals. While there are no guarantees of certain combinations at any Christmas Jam, her range and her performing on the same evening as Dark Side means the odds are in our favor.

Jim James and Dave Grohl together on stage

This is another pipe dream that seems almost certain to become a reality at some point Saturday night: Dave Grohl (NirvanaFoo Fighters), one of the founders and greatest ambassadors of the grunge rock movement, playing alongside Jim James, whose band My Morning Jacket is essentially what a love child between grunge rock and jam music would sound like.

While Grohl has earned eternal credibility through Nirvana and The Foo Fighters, My Morning Jacket has been hailed repeatedly as one of the most inventive and cutting edge bands playing today. Furthermore, both musicians are revered for their captivating and (despite the stadium audiences they are playing to) interactive shows. once again, there’s no guarantee that these two will share the stage, but for those of us paying attention, it’s a pretty safe bet.

Dave Grohl playing “Play” live for the first time ever

Speaking of Dave Grohl, the truth is his music represents so much more than grunge or rock and roll. Earlier this year he released a documentary called “Play,” a two-part miniseries that he directed about the importance of overcoming the challenges that musicians might face.

The second part of the documentary features a 23-minute instrumental track that he wrote and plays every instrument on. He can be seen walking into the studio in seven different outfits, and then a seamlessly edited surround angle shot shows him playing each of them together, creating what is clearly his opus as a musician.

The documentary was released on Aug. 9. In a heavy nod to the musical intelligence of the Asheville fans, he has announced that he will be performing the arrangement live, in it’s entirety, for the first time at this year’s Christmas Jam. With the live show he will not be able to play each instrument, as the arrangements go far beyond what even a master musician and looper could do, so he has assembled an all-star cast of “friends” (although he wouldn’t even give Spin Magazine any hints as to who those “friends” are) to play this masterpiece with him.

This will certainly be a massive moment in music, a unique opportunity to hear the evolution of one of rock and roll’s greatest performers, and it’s happening right here in downtown Ashvegas.

Mike Gordon and Marco Benevento getting Phishy

Last year, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio brought one of the best sets of the night to Christmas Jam. This year, bassist Mike Gordon will be performing, and in another baseless prediction as to what he will play and who he will play with, we are sincerely hoping for a Phishy collab with keyboardist and vocalist Marco Benevento.

Benevento’s personal band has opened and played with just about everyone who is anyone in music today. He’s one of the great young talents on the scene. He is still perhaps best known as the keyboardist for JRAD (a band that CBDB bassist Blake Gallant has described as “if the Grateful Dead had kept the same trajectory from 77-present that they had for 72-77, this is what they would currently sound like.”)

Phish fans should be chomping at the bit to see this combo bust out a song or two.

Giving back to the community

Once again, thanks to the generosity of Warren Haynes and the rest of the artists, the proceeds from this year’s Jam will go to our local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. This year they’ve built a home for Marquita Smith, a single mother of two who works with disabled youth full time.

People complain about ticket prices to all sorts of events, but in this instance, you can be sure that what you are paying for a ticket is bringing a world-class amount of talent while taking care of those less fortunate in your own backyard.

Caleb Calhoun is an author, journalist, and poet living in Asheville, NC. You can find him on facebook or email him at caleb.calhoun@gmail.com.