The important thing to remember this weekend is that musicians are people, too. They’re just like the rest of us, which is why many jump at the chance after a year on the road to travel to a small city nestled in the mountains for a one-off concert.
“[The Christmas Jam] is our Christmas party—it’s an office party for musicians,” says Kevn Kinney.
Kinney should know. As a Christmas Jam veteran and a longtime singer/songwriter/road warrior, Kinney has spent countless weeks away from home slugging it out in tiny bars for little pay. But Kinney also knows that the right environment can create musical magic, and that’s why he’s helping to curate the inaugural Christmas Jam by Day, a two-day continuation of the Christmas Jam concerts.
But instead of having the same artists bash out their music in tiny clubs, Kinney has taken it upon himself to bring in some smaller acts for a series of acoustic concerts at Jack of the Wood. Other daytime shows will be at the Emerald Lounge and Stella Blue.
“This isn’t an open-mike night; it’s a collection of top-notch singer/songwriters playing half-hour sets,” Kinney explains.
One of those top-notch performers is Jennie Arnau, a New York City performer whose engaging and conversational roots rock has distinguished her from the coffeehouse acoustic set. Arnau, who was born in Greenville, S.C., sees the Jam by Day as a chance to show audiences what her buzz is about, as well as catch up on new artists herself.
“The Jam seems very festive, and everyone is really open to new music,” Arnau says. “It’s nice to go somewhere and hear what everyone is doing and to get caught up in it. It’s a fun time when everyone is hearing things they haven’t heard before.”
But the Jam by Day is more than just the strums of acoustic guitars over pints of local ale. Stella Blue is also hosting both a jam band day and a rock band day on Friday and Saturday. That may be a diagnosis for musical schizophrenia, but in Warren Haynes’ world, where he is equally celebrated in both communities, it makes perfect sense.
And that is what the Jam by Day is all about: musicians shaking off preconceived notions and labels, old friends reuniting and making new acquaintances. It truly is an office party for musicians, with all the attendant pitfalls that implies.
“There are people that I know and don’t get to see very often at home, so it’s kind of fun having the office party in Asheville,” Arnau says with a laugh. “I hope I don’t get absolutely tanked and make out with anyone.”
[Jason Bugg is a freelance writer.]