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Christmas Jam

Whiskey Christmas Jam
The Possums and other musicians
12/23, 8 p.m. • $5
The Whiskey • 1 S Front St.

In 1985, when Mark Mathers was 16, he experienced first hand the magnetism of the Grateful Dead live. He was at the Richmond Coliseum, among a sea of varied types, from hippies and “dreadies,” as he calls them, to men in suits and aging baby boomers, all shouting endearments to the kings of the jam-band frontier.

“When the lights went down, everyone around me started going absolutely ape shit,” Mathers remembers. Immediately, he was sold on the skeletal magic and snuck in during the second night through an air vent under the coliseum.
“I got detained by the police,” he admits. “But they were dumb enough to hold me without handcuffs. The second they turned their heads, I was dancing into the arena at lightning speed.”

Since, Mathers has been a faithful Deadhead. He listens and adores all things Garcia and company; he calls Jerry the “Mozart” of guitar and claims Bob Weir a master artist, “painting” songs with his rhythm guitar to near perfection. Mathers also carries forth his own passion for playing music.

A drummer since he was 11—learning through school marching bands and garage bands—the 43-year-old musician continues geeking out on sound. His current gig is with The Possums. “We play dead; get it?” he asks. Steve Todd plays mandolin/vocals, Mark Daffer is on guitar/vocals, Andy Dortch on bass/vocals, Dan Sween on guitar/vocals and, along with Mathers, Tucker Hill on drums. Having always played in some incarnation or another, Mathers has pulsated his mark on Poor No More, Mountain Mama and The Cornbread Mafia, too.

“I love playing with friends,” he says. “It bonds you. The guys I have played music with have proven to be my best relationships—you just spend time together working on a common vision. The music bonds you, and you can communicate through it.”

He’s taking his passion to another level on Friday, December 23rd, as he lines up the first annual Whiskey Christmas Jam at downtown’s live music venue, The Whiskey. He has invited a slew of comrades and fellow musicians on the scene to join. The Possums will be the house band of the evening, as other musicians fill in guest spots, all to help raise goods for Wilmington’s Food Bank. Guest players include Jeff Sanchez, guitarist for The Clams, T.J Prystal, drummer for The Casserole, George Lord, guitarist of Mountain Mama, and David Parrish, keyboardist for Havana Taxi, among others. “I’d like to put the opportunity out for anyone to play if they are interested,” Mathers says.

Based off of the same concept that Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule has been doing in Asheville, NC, over the years, the concert will be packed with noodling guitars and kaleidoscopic rhythms. While Mathers says The Possums will certainly pay homage to their tie-dyed heroes, the show will not be strictly made up of Dead music.
“We will be doing a little of everything,” he assures, “even a few originals. Beatles, Dylan, Bill Withers, Allman Brothers—jam-band stuff.”

Choosing the venue was easy for Mathers, as he touts owners Alecia Mitchell and Andrew Brothers not only good people but avid music supporters. They have provided Wilmington’s scene with a venue that, according to Mathers, is class-A. “They have quality sound, great equipment, and a very good and professional sound staff,” he says. “The more we all play together will enhance the Wilmington music scene and give it more ‘possibility.’”

The Possums host the Whiskey Christmas Jam on Friday the 23rd. Folks should bring $5 entry and canned goods. The Possums will match every item donated throughout the evening, which will be given to the Food Bank. Musicians who would like to join the jam can contact Mathers at or (910) 279-9691.

After the holidays, fans can continue to catch The Possums’ “Dead Night” across town. “We have had them at Palm Room and the now-defunct Port City Theatre,” Mathers says. They’ve also opened for legendary greats Donna the Buffalo at Brooklyn Arts Center, another space they’re hoping to occupy in 2012. “We are in talks planning an outdoor series or show at BAC starting in the spring, during the day in the courtyard,” Mathers says, “maybe Sundays when it is nice out or before shows.”

Air vents will be secured and handcuffs on hand. Music lovers of all types welcome.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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