Organizers of the annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam in Asheville announced Tuesday that they would not stage the concert his year at the U.S. Cellular Center and instead focus on bringing the event back in 2020.
The announcement came just shy of one month from the planned Dec. 14 concert date. Organizers offered no reason for their decision not to put on this year’s event, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, which included stars Dave Grohl, Jamey Johnson, Eric Church, Grace Potter and many others.
“After three decades, and an amazing two-night 30th Anniversary last year, it feels like the right time to take a brief moment to press pause,” Warren Haynes said in a written press release.
Haynes, an Asheville native, has built a career as one of rock music’s most accomplished guitarists and a prolific singer and songwriter. He joined The Allman Brothers Band in 1989 and stayed with that legendary group for about eight years before forming his own band, Gov’t Mule. He’s a frequent collaborator known for his connections and performances with surviving members of the Grateful Dead.
The cancellation left fans, many who visit year after year and plan well in advance for the mid-December date, scrambling to scrap hotel reservations. And while many fans on social media expressed thanks and gratitude for Haynes’ three decades of efforts to bring the show to town and donating proceeds to a local nonprofit, some expressed bitter disappointment.
The Christmas Jam has raised about $2.3 million for the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity since 1999, with performers famously donating their time. In announcing this year’s cancellation, Jam organizers said Haynes and his W&S Charitable Foundation had made a $400,000 donation to the group, one of the largest donations in the event’s history, bringing the donation total to $2.7 million.
“We have poured our heart and soul into creating this annual event and our commitment to serve the Asheville community and Habitat for Humanity remains strong,” Haynes said in the statement.
Still, a number of fans wondered if this year’s break was connected to the news earlier this year that Brian Haynes, the brother of Warren Haynes, had been fired at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity for refusing to comply with the nonprofit’s drug testing policy. Brian Haynes, a 13-year Habitat employee and assistant manager, told the Asheville Citizen-Times and reporter Joel Burgess that he did so to protest the organization’s anti-marijuana policy. Haynes is a member of Asheville City Council.
The annual Christmas Jam in the past has had several associated events, including a Pre-Jam concert at The Orange Peel music venue organized around offering Habitat volunteers and donors a show, and a Jam By Day series of mini-shows in local venues including Asheville Music Hall and Jack of the Wood on the day of the Jam.
Asheville musician Leigh Glass has announced that a two-day event called the Kevn Kinny Songwriter Jam will be held at Jack of the Wood this year. Kinney is a well-known singer-songwriter, guitarist and member of Drivin N Cryin and past Christmas Jam guest. The Songwriter Jam, set for Dec. 13 and 14, will feature a full slate of local musicians, from Laura Blackley, Marisa Blake and Dulci Ellenberger to Andrew Scotchie, Morgan Greer, Kevin Fuller and many more.
Here’s the full statement from Warren Haynes, from a written press release:
“Since we started the Christmas Jam in 1988, it has grown in every way we wished for, and in many ways that we could have only hoped for when we first set out. After three decades, and an amazing two-night 30th Anniversary last year, it feels like the right time to take a brief moment to press pause. We have poured our heart and soul into creating this annual event and our commitment to serve the Asheville community and Habitat for Humanity remains strong.
“I am so grateful to our many partners that help us bring the community together around the Christmas Jam every year, including the city of Asheville, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, WNCW, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., CID Entertainment, all of our production partners, venues, hotels, and local businesses, our incredible staff and volunteers, and countless others. And, of course, all the fans who have supported the Christmas Jam. We can’t do it without you.
“I will certainly miss seeing you all this year. Christmas Jam has become such a special time for me, my family and our Asheville community, and we look forward to continuing the tradition that we have all built together for many years to come. We are already planning a big show for 2020 and we can’t wait to share with you what’s in store. We will see you next year.”