Warren Haynes Christmas Jam: Pre-Jam – Return of Phil & Friends

Warren Haynes’ annual Christmas Jam got off to a rousing start last night at the Pre-Jam, which was held at Asheville’s Orange Peel. The evening featured short sets from many of the acts scheduled to perform at the Civic Center tonight. Phil Lesh’s latest Phil and Friends outfit closed out the show marking the first P&F performance since 2008.

[Photo of Bela Set from @TourTweet]

Haynes kicked off the Pre-Jam with a few, choice solo acoustic tunes (River’s Gonna Rise, A Friend to You) before welcoming up his Gov’t Mule band mate Matt Abts and Planet of the Abts. Another of Warren’s Mule cohorts, Danny Louis, added trombone to a few songs at the end of PoA’s set. Xmas Jam regular Kevn Kinney graced the stage next with his “friends” and played Here Come The Regulars and A Good Country Mile. Next up was Jackie Greene and Friends, a band put together especially for the occasion which featured Joe Russo on drums and ended with a scorching take on Don’t Let Me Down featuring Warren Haynes on guitar. Following Greene was a jazz-laden set by Bela Fleck, Jeff Sipe, Casey Driessan, Taylor Lee and Bill Evans. Then, Los Lobos delivered a seven-song set that included a sit-in from Haynes on Killing Floor as a tribute to the late Hubert Sumlin. Warren also guested on 300 Pounds of Joy and Mas Y Mas.

Gov’t Mule has been on hiatus for the majority of 2011 while the Warren Haynes Band took most of Haynes’ attention this year. The Mule didn’t seem rusty last night as the group tore through a Trane > Eternity’s Breath > Goin’ Out West opening sequence. Bela Fleck came out to add banjo to Come Into My Kitchen and then Bill Evans guested on sax for Devil Likes It Slow. Mule’s finale gave a taste of the forthcoming Phil & Friends set as the quartet was joined by Phil Lesh on bass, Jeff Chimenti on keys and David Hidalgo on guitar for a cover of Dear Mr. Fantasy by Traffic.

Phil and Friends closed out the Pre-Jam with three well-jammed tunes. Haynes, Lesh, Chimenti, Russo and Greene started off their set with a Jackie-sung New Speedway Boogie. A psychedelic jam led into All Along The Watchtower, sung by Warren before Franklin’s Tower put an exclamation point on the evening. All of the acts who performed at the Pre-Jam will take the stage tonight at the Asheville Civic Center, along with a number of special guests, to raise money for Habitat For Humanity.

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