Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hope and Habitat for Humanity: Tough Times Holiday Report

20th Annual Christmas Jam Report

Warren Haynes and John Paul Jones

Season's Greetings, Earthlings! Warren Haynes' (Allman Bros., Government Mule, lots of etc's.) 20th Anniversary Christmas Jam this year had the usual "pre-jam" in local pubs - locals mostly - and the main event went to 2 nights due to the all-star lineup. More musicians than you can shake a stick at, and more participants than any one venue could hold. So this year there were art exhibits, a film festival, day-jams at those local pubs, and two long, long nights at the A-ville Civic Center Arena - big enough to park all the tour buses, Winnebegos and Priuses before you even got to the curtained-off green room & bar or the musician's dinner, drinks and rehearsal area. I'm guessing this is where they park the lions, tigers and elephants when the circus is in town...

The Citizen-Times covered the full event in all its glory from the starting gate - we love our Warren, just as we loved our Mr. Moog. We started early on as well, back when Warren was just beginning his long career in charity and memorial concerts/jams, which he figured he could do because... he's Warren Haynes. In 1990 we did our first Haynes jam at the Jacksonville Beach Pavillion, a memorial for Lynard Skynard / Rossington-Collins guitarist Allen Collins. Entertained the young'uns before the show with the basic juggling and magic. Not exactly respectable musicianship (we have no musical talent at this end of the family), but it does get us in free. Mostly because there IS (or, sadly, was) musical talent at other ends of the family.

Johnny Winter

Brother Chuck was a guitarist - Jimmy Hendrix, both Winters Brothers, Zappa and Captain Beefheart were his heroes. Little Sis sang backup for Skynard since before the air crash, provided harmony and backup for our short-lived Tulsa band the Honky Dreads (America's Premier Third World White Guy Band), sang for and promoted Derek Trucks when he was starting out at the ripe old age of 11, and was Alpha-Fowl of those notorious Hens (3-sister backup for Jacksonville's Roosters). Jax had more truly great, hard-working but starving musicians in those days than Nashville! Did what we could...

Anyway, enough about that. Other than yes, we did get into the Jam's Opening Night for free (the only way we ever get to go to such things). Just called up Derek's father and he put us on the "family" list. Took 18-year old grandson Jahsh who thinks all these crazy old guys (like Warren and Government Mule as well as those dottering Allmans) and their weird music are just plain hippie-pitiful. Yet who looks EXACTLY like an 18-year old Derek, but with purple-tipped dreadlocks. Heck, he looks more like Derek than either of Derek's brothers (Duane was there for drums, David-who-is-incredibly-good-looking, was not). Derek was a safe 15 when our grandson was born, but grandson turned more than a few heads in the green room and on the floor, someone I am pretty sure was Tom Petty (not booked but having a lovely time backstage) was pretty sure Jahshua was a Trucks. You'll have this with all these rapidly aging hippies. Who are these old guys? Who are the young upstarts?

Travis Tritt

Here's the C-T Report on the second night of the Jam. Some of the artists did a two-fer, which is no doubt why opening night when we were there lasted so late we had to walk out in the middle of the Allman Brothers' set because they didn't start until 2:30 a.m., way past my bedtime because I'm an old fart too. Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones had done a great mandolin to Warren's guitar and singing on "Going to California," during which Warren managed to hit every one of those high notes (some surprise and appreciation from all, including Warren).

Night #1 hosted the bluegrass/country set, and Travis Tritt literally shocked everyone with his guitar chops, rocked the house on more than a couple of serious blues jams with various members of various groups. He shared a mike with Dell McCourry and Joan Osborne on a fine bit of down-home Bluegrass Gospel, did a semi-passable tenor version of "I Walk the Line" that since I'm related to and grew up with Johnny Cash, I didn't much like. Travis did finished up with a solo acoustic 'pickin' that floored even determined-to-be callous grandson. Who wasn't nearly so callous after he got picked up by a sweet young thing who'd driven up from SC just for the weekend's jam, and thought he was the coolest thing since sliced bread. Sigh. You'll have this with those up-and-coming hippies...

Guitar Master Derek Trucks

Derek and Susan were their sweet selves even in that crazy environment, so I guess it's kinda nice to be so far inside the clique that John Paul Jones isn't any more impressive than Eric Clapton or Bob Dylan (with whom Derek has played semi-regularly). We asked about the kids (home with Grandma), promised to stop by next time we're in town, Derek was taken a bit aback by Jahsh. Last time they'd hung out together much Jahsh was about 8. Now he's 18, that too-serious munchkin is 6 foot 2, has those purple-tipped blonde-blonde dreadlocks, and I'm sure Susan is asking her hubby all over again exactly how old he was when that particular baby was born to the notorious jealosy-bait Sally Saphire (in whose jam backup band Derek played on the Riverwalk all those years ago)...

There were multiple recording and floating camera enclosures on the floor, taking up about a third of the room. I know they produce Jam CDs for sale for Warren's charity (Habitat for Humanity), and beaming a live feed into a big-screen TV in the green room surrounded with comfy overstuffed couches for the REALLY old set - parents and grandparents of the aging hippies onstage. I expect they could edit and market a video of all that great music by great stars to HBO or some other pay-per-view outlet and triple the charity take. Definitely worth the price (whatever it is), for music lovers all over the world.

Joan Osborne

So for the 20th year, kudos to you dear friend Warren. You're finally getting the HUGE attention your ample efforts (and the willing participation of your many friends) have always deserved. And we'll be there again next year with bells on (not kidding), to thank you yet again. Not that many people understand how much of a serious performing artist's work is given away for free, even when they're Big Stars. We always called it the 'Donate Portion' of what would have been annual income, and it can run more than the usual 10% tithe.

I still believe in Santa Claus. Of course, we're elves, so that's not exactly a surprise. This year, as for 19 previous years, Santa *is* Warren Haynes (among so, so many others). That is always something to celebrate - even in hard times - and hope this year is running higher than it's run for way, way too long!

Thanks, Warren. And thanks to all your so-talented friends, too.

* Photos from the Asheville Citizen-Times, because our picture-taking ability is minimal. Check out their Jam galleries, they've hundreds of great pictures and videos too!

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