Guitarist Warren Haynes' annual Christmas Jams are known for their jaw-dropping "wow" moments, but this year's star-studded, 20th anniversary throw-down — held December 12th and 13th in Haynes' hometown of Asheville, North Carolina — had more than usual. The one that silenced the 7,200 partiers who packed the Asheville Civic Center on the first night came when Haynes and one of his rock & roll heroes, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, appeared onstage together and played a stirring, acoustic guitar and mandolin version of the Zeppelin classic, "Going to California."
When Haynes changed the lyrics to "Going to Carolina with an aching in my heart," the crowd erupted. The duet came about three-quarters of the way into the Friday night show, which began with a performance by Haynes' band Gov't Mule, at about 7 p.m., and didn't end until more than nine hours later, at 4:20 a.m. Saturday morning, when Haynes' other group, the Allman Brothers Band, hit the last note of "One Way Out."
Sandwiched in between were performances from the Derek Trucks Band, Joan Osborne, country singer Travis Tritt, bluegrass king Del McCoury jamming with gospel group the Lee Boys, and New Orleans funk band Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk. On Saturday night, Haynes, who sat in with every act on both nights, did it all over again, this time with Ben Harper, Steve Earle, Coheed & Cambria, Johnny Winter and and a slew of guests including Susan Tedeschi and Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood.
For 26-year-old fan Jeremy Hargett, who drove 10 hours, from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, it's a Southern rock family reunion he hasn't missed for the past five years. "Warren does this for people who still love live music," Hargett said during Osborne's set. "It's like a big family of musicians and fans that we're all a part of. And you always see something that just blows you away."