On Sunday afternoon, right when the folks of Asheville, North Carolina, had either finished shoveling more than a foot of snow that had fallen overnight or were simply hungover from a weekend spent at Warren Haynes’ 30th Christmas Jam, the Gov’t Mule frontman and Dave Grohl, who performed his hard-rock opus “Play” at the Jam the night prior, decided to put on another show.
“Tonight happened because of this snowstorm that hit, knowing we probably weren’t going to fly out today,” Grohl told Rolling Stone following the performance over Miller High Lifes at the nearby Buxton Hall Barbecue. “Last night at 4 a.m., we’re at the after-party for Christmas Jam. I said to someone, ‘We got to find somewhere to play.’ And everyone was talking about this place the Orange Peel.”
Around 4:00 p.m. it was announced that the duo would take the stage at the iconic rock venue in the heart of Asheville. An hour later, the 1,050-person venue was sold out at $10 per ticket, as a sea of people stood outside in hopes of a miracle. By 8:30 p.m., Grohl was behind the drum kit with his band to once again perform “Play.” Featuring members of Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures and Jane’s Addiction, it was only the second time the ensemble had done the number together onstage.
“It takes a certain kind of spirit — or a certain kind of confidence or stupidity — where you brazenly walk into [something like] this,” says Grohl. “Before this show, Warren and I were sitting backstage with no idea of what we were going to do. I didn’t know if we were going to do the ‘Play’ thing. I didn’t know if we were going to do covers. [It was], ‘Well, what do you know?’ ‘I know ‘this,’ do you know ‘that’?”
As soon as the “Play” production ended, Haynes took the stage with Gov’t Mule and Grohl, sliding into Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and then “You Don’t Know How It Feels” by Tom Petty (later on, “Breakdown” surfaced), featuring six-string ace Audley Freed.
The surprise of the evening came when Haynes, backed by Grohl and the “Play” band, dove into Nirvana’s “All Apologies,” providing a spellbinding moment of watching Grohl bang along to a tune by his former band. As the melody faded to silence, the audience sang in unison with Haynes: “All in all is all we are.”
“Warren said, ‘Do you want to do ‘All Apologies’? That used to be thin ice and delicate ground for a long time, for good reason. That’s something that had to be handled gently,” says Grohl. “When he mentioned that song, my initial reaction was, ‘I can’t do that. I shouldn’t do that.’ But then I think about the people that the song means so much to and has been a part of their lives — that joy and love should be shared. And then, as we were playing it, the audience starts to sing along, and I’m crying my eyes out onstage trying to keep it together — what a beautiful moment. And who am I to keep people from that beautiful moment?”
Grohl finally emerged from behind his drums, grabbed his guitar and launched into a gritty, raucous “Helter Skelter,” with the Rolling Stones’ “Bitch” closing out the first half of the performance.
The second set flowed into Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike,” with a jam transitioning into Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” before the band tackled both the Who’s “Eminence Front” and Zeppelin’s “No Quarter.” For the encore, former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle, who lives just down the road in Black Mountain, jumped behind the kit for “Simple Man,” with Haynes, Grohl and Freed handling guitar duties.
“I love playing with other people, and I love walking onstage not knowing exactly what’s going to happen,” Grohl says. “I love jamming with people I just met five minutes ago, because — in a way — it’s a more comfortable conversation than actually speaking to someone.”
“Since I’ve Been Loving You”
“You Don’t Know How It Feels”
“Dear Mr. Fantasy”