We sent the unlikely Jon Reid (aka Jar-E) to review this year’s Christmas Jam on Saturday, Dec. 12. And of course we sent Jesse Hamm, who shot some supreme footage of the all-night event. Here, Reid’s dispatch, starting with check-in outside the Civic Center, with some videos thrown in:
I didn’t know what to expect when Xpress sent me to cover Christmas Jam. I like the Allman Brothers a lot. I have been to 14 Phish shows. I saw the Grateful Dead for the first and last time a few months before Jerry Garcia died. In high school I tried to “get dreadlocks” on multiple occasions. This is all to say that I have most definitely done the “jam” thing. But sometimes it feels like that kid putting corn-starch in his hair so many years ago was a completely different person.
Recently, a friend at work asked me if I think I would have gone to Woodstock if I were alive back then. I told him that it would depend on what kind of mood I was in. This is to say, I know the “vibe” is still inside of me.
What follows is a minute by minute journey of one open-hearted skeptic trying to reconnect with his inner jam.
4:54 p.m. “Hey bro, you got my extra?”
5:01 Somebody has definitely been smoking weed in this parking garage stairwell.
5:04 Christlike figure selling tickets out in front of Civic Center.
5:05 Lots of “Deadnecks” spotted (a Deadneck is a redneck who loves the Grateful Dead).
5:14 Backstage watching Warren sound check on TV feed with other journalists.
5:15 Warren asks for more “wah-wah scratch,” realizing I haven’t eaten anything yet today.
5:50 Wanted to “save the magic” and not see to much of Warren’s sound check. Decided to grab some food off the premises. Fellow press folk say “the Jam” went on till 5 a.m. last year. I must pace myself, in more ways than one. Not sure I can make it.
6:35 Wandering around town. Wondering what the hell I got myself into.
6:36 Weird dude looking at me.
6:45 Walking back to the venue.
6:54 Dudes selling nitrous balloons, referring to them as “ice cold fatties.”
7:02 Making my first attempt at securing free alcohol.
7:07 Watching one of the unknown “guests” perform on the TV backstage. Singer sounds a lot like Bob Dylan.
7:08 They are playing chords such as A minor and C major.
7:09 I hear live music from somewhere that doesn’t correspond to what’s on the TV. I’m confused.
7:14 At the side stage for the first time. It is the same dudes from the TV downstairs. Crazy Cats or some shit like that.
7:15 Letting these dudes play must be an example of Warren Haynes being a really nice guy.
7:17 Just got chewed out by bouncer for drinking a beer in the “working area.” He says “My pass is a working pass, not a drinking pass. If I’m going to drink I need to go out into the audience.” We obviously have very different definitions of “work.”
7:20 Amazingly huge and effective stage crew descends breaks down the Crazy Cats set up for “some rock and roll.”
7:22 Drinking beer in “audience.” Much better view than from side stage.
7:23 Bad-ass old Southern dude with white hair and beard lights up cigarette in full view of security like there’s nothing at all wrong with it. He is wearing brown camouflage.
7:27 Dude has smoked entire cigarette without incident. Possibly my new hero.
7:30 A friend just informed me that it was Missing Cats that just played, not Crazy Cats and that their keyboardist is from Widespread Panic. God, I feel like an idiot.
7:36 Umphrey’s McGee taking the stage. Getting another drink.
7:42 I’m assuming all of these cool-looking older black dudes backstage are from Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
7:43 Umphrey’s has Kevin Spacey on keys. I’m watching on TV.
7:44 This music makes Phish seem super meaningful.
7:46 A dude named John Bell guesting. Who the f—k is he?
7:48 “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone.” White musicians do a lot of drugging and drinking to try to convincingly sing the blues. Still usually doesn’t work.
7:51 I’m going to go out on a limb and say that is uninspired.
7:52 I can hear Gregg Allman and his full band rehearsing “Dreams” in some backstage cavern right now. Sounds great.
7:54 This next song sounds SO much like Phish. So far I’m thinking the best this band can be is when they sound like a Phish cover band.
7:55 Realizing I need to go upstairs to get the full “vibe.”
7:56 Most of the guys from Umphrey’s look like the young upstart partner in a dental office who will eventually buy everybody else out.
7:57 Kevin Spacey playing a Moog!
7:58 Tapping solo!
8:00 Methinks the emperor has no clothes.
8:04 Back upstairs. Smells like hella weed.
8:06 Realizing how much relative charisma Phish has for a jam band.
8:19 Hanging with buddies. Umphrey’s is done. Warren is next.
8:44 Warren cranking it up, he seems totally ready to jam but shit’s still being set up.
8:45 Wait, not Warren! It’s another big red-head dude with a beard.
8:48 Just saw Martin Anderson from WNCW from a distance.
8:49 It’s really hot up here in the audience with all of these winter clothes on. Increasingly worried that I’m going to lose my scarf this evening.
8:52 Warren Haynes band starting.
8:54 If they do another Beverly Hills Cop movie this is just the guy to do the soundtrack!
8:58 I keep running into the Kevin Spacey keyboardist from Umphrey’s. He seems like a nice person.
9:01 Second song. Also a shoe in for Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack.
9:02 Drummer looking fresh! Looks like one of the guys from Boys II Men.
9:04 How is it that some blues playing can be so utterly transcendent and at other times SO boxed in?
9:06 Ruthie Foster is a really cool name.
9:07 Warren Haynes still seeming like a really nice guy.
9:08 Third song now. Liking it. It’s about your baby being gone.
9:09 Three part harmonies killing it, Ruthie, Warren and Ivan Neville.
9:11 I’m nodding my head for the first time tonight.
9:13 I really liked that song.
9:15 Warren’s got jokes!!!
9:17 Now playing Otis Redding “I’ve Been Loving You.” Killing!!
9:18 Dirty Dozen horns sound magnificent.
9:21 This is good.
9:22 Warren has put on the slide. “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley.”
9:23 What’s the opposite of a nasal voice? That’s what Warren has.
9:24 First horn solo of the night by my calculations.
9:27 Pretty good.
9:28 I like how everyone keeps referring to Warren as “our host.”
9:29 Dude from Umphrey’s joining the band. I know this tune. “I’m Sick of My Shadow” ?
9:32 Wah-wah on sax = Unnecessary.
9:35 Warren’s done.
10:12 That was a long change-over. Steve Miller starting. “Big Old Jet Airliner.” I just walked by Ivan Neville in the stairwell. I got a big shit-eating grin. He said “Whats up man!”
10:16 “Take the Money and Run” I’m speechless.
10:23 Steve Miller is the man. What a killer voice.
10:26 I can’t overstate how cool this is. Warren Haynes ripping some righteous slide soloing.
10:28 Dude saw me nodding my head, walked up and said, “This guy’s been doing it forever. He doesn’t give a f—k about being a rock star.”
10:29 “Merrily merrily down the stream, don’t you know that life is but a dream.”
10:30 Steve Miller says “We’re just getting started, so much fun!”
10:31 “Further On Up the Road” sung by other band member.
10:32 Ivan Neville’s standing next to me. I’m totally sweating him.
10:33 Steve Miller is taking ‘em to church.
10:34 Texas blues song now.
10:36 This seem obligatory, I want Steve Miller jams, not blues jams.
10:42 More songs please!
10:43 This dude CAN f—king sing though.
10:44 Maybe I just don’t dig rock blues. I’ve heard people refer to this as “dick rock.”
10:45 Steve Miller just told us that Dirty Dozen played at his God-daughter’s wedding.
10:46 Steve Miller has magnificent hair.
10:57 Now he’s singing a jazz standard with a harp. Pretty nice and unique.
11:00 Just spotted fake Warren Haynes again.
11:01 I’m at the side stage and everybody is drinking. That bouncer was full of shit.
11:02 “Wild Mountain Honey” slow version with harp and fiddle player.
11:03 Tried to tell my friend in the audience how to get over to meet me. I said “audience right.” But I think I might have screwed that up as always.
11:04 Steve Miller is underrated.
11:05 Fake Warren Haynes looks so much like real Warren Haynes.
11:06 Fake Warren standing next to me, headbanging a bit.
11:09 Fake Warren is cool.
11:14 Steve Miller might not be underrated.
11:16 This song is called “Abracadabra.”
11:18 Running into friends who don’t like Steve Miller.
11:21 I’m getting distracted by people who aren’t aging rock stars.
11:24 I’m sensing a “Fly Like An Eagle” ending.
11:25 Yup! Love it! I think its really funny that he sings “Shoe the children, with no shoes on their feet.” Rock points for using “shoe” as a verb.
11:30 Warren is playing dueling guitars with Steve Miller.
11:32 They are “jamming” in the best sense of the term.
11:33 Steve Miller is not a bad guitar player.
11:35 I think they might be jamming too much now.
11:39 They finally stopped.
11:53 Warren Haynes just walked by me. Seemed so nice!
11:56 Talking to a CPA who works festivals for fun. He’s been working Christmas Jam all weekend. Says “This is a well-oiled machine.”
12:16 a.m. John Bell from Widespread doing pretty soulful stuff on a National guitar now.
12:19 I don’t know much about Widespread Panic, but this guy seems a lot older than I would think he would be. He also has a pretty great voice.
12:25 I’m guessing that this dude is Widespread’s version of Jerry Garcia. I can see that.
12:28 I like Habitat for Humanity.
12:31 It still smells like hella weed.
12:36 Just walked by a dude who said “his back was killing him.”
12:37 Some people’s ego is too big to be funny.
12:42 I’m just gallavanting around.
12:44 If someone’s skin looks orange they have done ecstasy.
12:54 Hanging out with buds.
1:06 Gregg Allman has started his set with “Midnight Rider.” Would have been cooler if it was midnight right now.
1:07 Something smells like a litter box.
1:08 Gregg is giving props to Steve Miller and playing one of his tunes now.
1:13 Gregg Allman has a “take no prisoners” attitude towards performance
1:15 “Dreams.” Love it. You can’t fuck with this.
1:16 How do all these old rockstars have long hair. Plugs? Wigs?
1:18 It’s good to adjust your dreads after you hear a good guitar solo.
1:20 Sax solo now. Pretty great.
1:22 Warren Haynes is good at slide guitar. (He jams with everybody.)
1:25 Damn! “Pull myself together … This will surely be the end of me.”
1:26 Ivan Neville standing next me, drunk.
1:28 Damn that song was good.
1:29 You gotta love Gregg for being a living bonafide rock star.
1:30 He is an amazing organ player. “Just Like a Woman.” Wow! What a voice.
1:39 New song.
1:41 I don’t like this song too much.
1:43 Am I supposed to like this song?
1:52. “Melissa.” It’s nice. I’m tired. Whatever.
1:55 “Unknown Highway.”
2:01 Gregg is done. Very impressive.
2:02 Dirty Dozen is playing next and then some kind of “super jam.”
2:04 I’m bored. I can’t do this anymore.