21st Annual Warren Haynes Xmas Jam: The Pre-Jam

We’ve been a little slow on the site lately thanks to my new full-time job out here in the Bay, but that isn’t stopping us from welcoming friends to the site to start dropping some contributions in their own way. First up is our long-time friend, Ross McKillop, a recent New York City transplant from Vancouver.

Hi, my name is Ross, and I’m a live music addict.

So this is my first post on the Live Music Blog. I’d like to thank Justin for giving me the platform to bather on about the concerts I go to, the music I listen to, and the (generally poor) pictures I take…

I suppose we should get this out of the way up front. I’m not a professional music writer/reviewer. Never will be. All of my “reviews”, comments and thoughts come as a fan, and always will. If I seem unprofessional at times, that’s because I am.

Lets get started.

This was my first Xmas Jam Pre-Jam. For years I’ve wanted to attend one, and this year I finally made it. As a fairly well known “rail rider” (those who go to great lengths standing in line so that they’re on the rail/in front of the stage) – I arrived at the Orange Peel very, very early. Thanks to two quad espressos, I was able to remain awake. Thanks to three jackets, a sweater and a sleeping bag, I was able to remain warm.

The Orange Peel staff were nothing short of fantastic. I was offered coffee on more than one occasion, and they even kept me company at times. Not terribly long after I arrived, some of the other ‘regulars’ joined me. They shared stories of previous Pre-Jams and generally managed to get me more and more excited for the evening.

At 5:30’ish they opened the doors to those of us who are WNCW Radio Donors. As a radio donor, you’re entitled to enter the venue before the other VIPs and general ticket holders. We were treated to some excellent BBQ while waiting in another line inside (at least it was warm) from Luella’s BBQ. After about 30 minutes they opened the ropes and we quickly made our way to the rail. With our spots secured, I decided it was time to wander around the Orange Peel and see what I could see. I quickly found the door to the smoking area outside, the merch stand, and washrooms.

Because this show was broadcast on WNCW, it started very promptly at 7:00PM. Warren Haynes came out and played solo versions of Mad Man Across the Water and Forevermore, which was an excellent way to kick off the evening.

Warren Haynes
Warren Haynes

Next up was the previously unannounced band Cornmeal, and it was a great surprise. Bluegrass fan or not, you couldn’t help but enjoy the energy from the stage. Though I had never heard of them before, I now own their album Feet First, and its been getting some pretty heavy play on my iPod.

Because the Xmas Jam (and Pre-Jam) is all about artists collaborating on stage, it came as no surprise that Jeff Austin (of Yonder Mountain String Band fame) joined Cornmeal for a couple of tunes. This was the first of many, many collaborations that night.


Next up was the Xmas Jam Band, which consisted of Kevn Kinney, Audley Freed, Robert Kearns, Fred Eltringham and Ron Holloway. After playing I Ain’t Waitin on Tomorrow and Jumpin Jack Flash, they were joined on stage by Jackie Green for a great version of Tax Man. As if there wasn’t already enough talent on the stage, Warren came out and joined the entire crew with a cover of Neil Young’s Ohio. At a previous Gov’t Mule show I’d seen them play Ohio w/ Jackie Green, and this version was even more over-the-top.

Audley and Kevn
Audley Freed and Kevn Kinney of the Xmas Jam Band

One of the great things about the Pre-Jam is the very short time between bands. The stage crew was extremely fast and efficient, and you barely had time to get another drink from the bar or go for a smoke before the next band was on stage. So after a quick setup a “super-group” consisting of George Porter Jr, Adam Deitch, Eric Krasno, Ron Holloway, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andres and Craig Sorrells hit the stage. After waaaay funky versions of Look A Py Py and Africa, the one and only William Bell joined them for Everbody Loves a Winner. It was beyond obvious that not only the audience, but the performers on stage, were in total awe of Mr. Bell. The set wouldn’t have been complete without Mr. Haynes joining everyone for Be All Right.

William Bell
William Bell

If the show had ended now, no one would have walked out feeling unsatisfied. But this is the Pre-Jam – the night wasn’t even half way done.

Now, I’ve been an Ani fan for ages, but I never would have expected to see her at an Xmas Jam. Which is of course the beauty of the Xmas Jam. She did a fantastic mix of original material and covers. Her on stage doing a song with Warren Haynes isn’t something I ever expected to see in my lifetime. Together they did a terrific version of the folk classic “Which Side are You On”. Jeff Austin came out to join her for Freight Train, and then the stage FILLED when George Porter Jr., Nigel Hall, Jeff Austin, Craig Sorrells, Ron Holloway, Warren Haunes, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Adam Deitch & Eric Krasno ALL joined her for Overlap. I would say this was one of the highlights of the evening, but the evening was nothing but highlights.

Ani DiFranco
Ani DiFranco

Due to a flight related issue moe. had to switch stage times with the Counting Crows. Now I’ll admit, I was skeptical about the Counting Crows being a part of the lineup. In all honesty I didn’t even know they were still performing together. My skepticism ended quickly. The did serious justice to a number of cover songs, including Girl From The North, Friend of the Devil and Thunder Road – which was played right smack in the middle of their own song, Rain King. The sit-ins during the Counting Crows set were fewer – Warren joined them for You Aint Goin Nowhere and Sullivan St.

Counting Crows
Counting Crows w/ Warren Haynes

Up next was moe. Their set seemed a bit short, but the guests were back. They did Opium w/ Danny Louis and Mike Barnes and 32 things w/ Jeff Austin & Allie Kral (of Cornmeal). Adam from the Counting Crows was sitting at the back of the stage watching the moe. set (he was visible at various points all night at different locations on stage, watching the performances). I saw him w/ his phone, but didn’t find out until later that he was in fact twittering at the time.

moe. with Jeff Austin
moe. with Jeff Austin

The final act was of course, Gov’t Mule. I’ve seen the Mule quite a few times this year, and this set was up there with the best of them. They started out with a smokin’ Railroad Boy, and then another tune from their latest album (By a Thread) – Monday Morning Meltdown. Then the guests started to come out. They did Feel Like Breaking Up Somebodies Home w/ Ron Holloway and Brad Whitford, then Polititian w/ Brad Whitford, Ron Holloway & Fred Eltringham. It was during Politition that I had to dig into my pockets to find my earplugs, because Brad was not only tearing it up, he was loud. After another new tune, Inside Outside Woman Blues, they brought out Jackie Green to help with yet another Neil Young cover, Southern Man. The crowd wasn’t quite ready to leave, so they came out to kick some more ass with Broke Down on the Brazos.

Warren and Jackie
Gov’t Mule with Jackie Green

21st Annual Xmas Jam Pre-Jam setlists:

Warren Haynes
Mad Man Across The Water

Long Hard Road
Better off This Way
River Gap w/ Jeff Austin
Jenny in the middle w/ Jeff Austin

Xmas Jam Band
(Kevn Kinney, Audley Freed, Robert Kearns, Fred Eltringham, Ron Holloway)
I Ain’t Waitin on Tomorrow
Jumpin Jack Flash
Tax man w/ Jackie Greene
Ohio w/ Warren Haynes and Jackie Greene

George Porter Jr, Adam Deitch, Eric Krasno, Ron Holloway, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andres and Craig Sorrells
Look A Py Py
Everbody Loves a Winner w/ William Bell
Be all Right w/ Warren Haynes

Ani DiFranco
Swan Dive
All of This
Which Side are You On
Freight Train w/ Jeff Austin
Overlap w/ George Porter Jr., Nigel Hall, Jeff Austin, Craig Sorrells, Ron Holloway, Warren Haunes, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Adam Deitch & Eric Krasno

Counting Crows
Girl From The North
Hangin Tree
Richard Manuel
Friend of the Devil
You aint Goin Nowhere w/ Warren Haynes
Sullivan St w/ Warren Haynes
Meet on the Ledge
Rain King>
Thunder Road>
Rain King

Opium w/ Danny Louis and Mike Barnes
32 things w/ Jeff Austin & Allie Kral

Gov’t Mule

Railroad Boy
Monday Mourning Meltdown
Feel Like Breaking Up Somebodies Home w/ Ron Holloway and Brad Whitford
Polititian w/ Brad Whitford, Ron Holloway & Fred Eltringham
Inside Outside Woman Blues
Southern Man w/ Jackie Greene
Broke Down on The Brazos

Download the 21st Annual Xmas Jam Pre-Jam sets:

The Xmas Jam Band
George Porter Jr. and the Funk Band
Ani DiFranco
Counting Crows
Gov’t Mule (includes the Warren Haynes solo songs from the beginning of the Pre-Jam)