The Christmas Jam is at the civic center in downtown Asheville, NC and it has become quite an annual event over the past 17 years. Will, who lives in Asheville's sister hippy town, Boone, NC, is our guide as we walk several blocks from our car to the venue. Lee and I have never been to this kind of event before so Will tells us what to expect, including a (obviously fictional) place called "shake-down street" where you can get just about anything you like; legal or not. We cross the street in front of the civic center and suddenly I'm angling myself through a (non-fiction) counterculture jungle full of folks wearing pure fiber clothing and selling all manner of hand blown glass...er "utensils". I pass up many wares (including some rather tired looking burritos) , buy a Sierra Nevada, and enjoy the sociological spectacle before me. We aren't even in the show yet.
All my previous "concerts" had been of the ordinary over-the-counter variety; roughly 2 hours of music, plugs for the new album, one break, encore, fight traffic. This is different. Warren starts things off around 6pm, and the night ends sometime around 4:00am (though my memory is a little hazy), no breaks. John Scofield, Ralph Stanley, Trey Anastacio and Mike Gordon, Marty Stuart (yes, Marty Stuart), the Drive By Truckers,...the list seems haphazard and thrown together, but each artist moves in and out of sets naturally, and the variety is outstanding. Warren drifts in and out of nearly every set with insightful and appropriately masterful solos. Marty Stuart plays an extended jam, just him on the mandolin. Dazzling. Trey and Mike, whom I have never before seen live are every bit as tight as any track from Phish, taking us on a musical odyssey beyond comparison. The last hour or so, Warren and Gov't Mule come out for a smashing finale that includes one of my favorites, Steve Winwood's 'Mr. Fantasy'. Happily engorged on good music, we amble back to the car, quite festive. We all thank Darryl for organizing the trip and vow to do it again next year. I even forgive Warren for his scheduling snafu.
Will offered to drive us all back to the hotel and I promptly dozed off, only cracking one eyelid at the mention that Krystal Burger was still open. Nothing defeats a hangover like a 24 box of Famous Cheese Krystals.