Locked in for Lockn’
Oh, the magic that is Lockn’!!! A reminder of the days when the large music festivals were filing their lineup with jam friendly bands and packing the side stages with every regional and local act they could find. Certainly, it is one of the few larger festivals that caters too those who crave improvised music. I was absolutely delighted to see Spafford on the lineup for Lockn’ as it is one of my favorite festivals to attend in general and I know the scene watches this fest closely.
Sunday afternoon is not the day I personally would have picked for Spafford. True, they are rather new to the scene, this was evident in the fact that most of the people I talked to throughout the weekend many had only heard OF them, not actually heard them. My personal theory on this has to do with age. Wait a second and hear me out. I am over 40 myself so this is not a slight, just my observations. It seems to me that Spafford sits in a grey area between age gaps. Not quite electronic dance music but not quite just full-out rock and roll either. So, it seems to me that they sit in the middle of the age spectrum yet still gather fans from either side. I think this makes them perfect for Lockn’ as that is a perfect age group for the fest to target.
Personal theories aside, I was eagerly anticipating this set. I knew it would be a short one but what would they do with it? I had our vendor neighbors excited to see them as neither of them had before. So, I enter the concert field at about 2:00 and quickly head to the soundboard area. The heat pushed a lot of people back to the shade after Keller’s Gospel set, so the field was only spattered with people at the end of the Judy Chops set. As the final note rang out, the stage began to turn, and the boys were already jamming as they spun into sight. The sound switched over to them and we were off to a running start.
Broken Wing opens up the set. You can hear it as soon as the main sound system picks them up. It was a hot tempo too. Brian can be seen sending back monitor adjustments. A short intro jam leads into the main body of the song There were some technical difficulties at the beginning. First a loud POP from the system at one point that was quickly fixed and then in between verses it looked like Brian lost a cable connection or something as he had to bend down and fix it. The song itself was a feisty little romp but fairly safe and standard. I like this song a lot and think it has potential for some huge jams, but I personally think this song might fit better later in a setlist. The song ends strongly, although I can’t help but feel that there might have been a little frustration at the tech stuff that took Brian out of the mindset for a second.
Red stands and waves at the crowd which has now filled in the central pit of the main stage and the crowd goes nuts. More younger people in the field overall but some of the older heads are there to check out this quickly rising band. The opening phrase of Slip and Squander greets us as the 2nd song of the set. I have mixed emotions about the placement and choice here. It was played beautifully, and Red’s voice was on point for sure, however, after the rockin’ intro it seemed to take the vibe down a little in the crowd. The lyrical section was tight as always and the instrumental build was patient and well-crafted but Red’s voice is the strongest part of this version to me.
A short break after SaS and the quick-tempo, funk-strut of Electric Taco Stand graces our ear holes. This song immediately breathes new life into the crowd and despite it being the hottest day of the festival, people get up and start to dance hard. I think ETS also hit a higher gear for the boys too. Brian finally seems to let loose a bit more adding little flourishes here and there that were less noticeable earlier. Jordan’s bass sounds amazing! Really clear and heavy yet not overpowering. After the first few minutes of sound issues, the mix was perfect in the field. I could easily hear Red’s keys tinkling down over the crowd as clearly as I could hear Brian shred and feel Jordan drop bombs. ETS certainly brought the heat. Again, I notice the communication between the group, especially between Brian and Cam. At one point I see Brain actively trying to pick up the tempo in the jam section and Cam immediately responds. Not much of a change but just where it needed to be. They really seem to be firing on all cylinders now. Brian is dancing around as they patiently make their way to the build. As they wind back into the melody of the song, building into a huge crescendo the guy standing next to me dances over and says, “This drummer is on point!”, then dances back to his blanket blissfully smiling. As the song ends the crowd erupts and even those that were laying down getting some sun were on their feet.
With about 20ish minutes left in the set it seems like the perfect place for All In. Sure enough, right after I think that, they drop into it. I’ve never seen this song fail to win a crowd, especially as the end of a short set. There are so many styles they happily wander through that there seems to be something for everyone. The composed, heavy section ends and they ease into that rolling reggae feel. Everything feels really light now. Red has descending runs down the keys that seem to peek out of nowhere. Brian’s fingers seem so nimble as he switches back and forth from strumming to picking, slowly pushing the jam forward and up. Really beautiful, patient jam. You can hear Cam pushing things slightly, but it’s balanced by Brian’s longer tones. This is my highlight of the set and everyone is up dancing around now. The build to the end is large and finds Cam and Brian playing off each other to perfection as Red fills in the sound to give them a landscape to play on. The song and the set end on a massively high note and with authority.
As the stage spins back around, I begin the long walk back to the booth I was working, handing out slaps as I go. After that ETS and All In, with Pete Shapiro watching and smiling from the side of stage, I have no doubt that Spafford will be back at Lockn’. I know for a fact that they gained many fans. I’m hoping for a better time slot honestly. Maybe even a night spot so we can see the amazing light shows as well. Personally, I’m hoping for them to slide into that late-night Saturday spot. Two nights of JRAD late night and a night of Spafford late night? I’d buy tickets just to go to late night!!!!
The Oldest City in America! When I looked through the tour list after Spafford announced they would be returning to the road with Umphrey’s, there was one show that called to me. One show that I knew if I was going to catch them at all this tour, it would HAVE to be that that show in St. Augustine.
For those who have never been, I personally think St. Augustine is the best city in Florida. In what other state can you dangle your feet over the bay while sitting on a moat wall built in the 1500s? So much history, so much peace, and so much fun. I used to live there and the thought of seeing Spafford rip up the same stage I used to perform on as an actor made me giddy. A home show away from home. And I also would get to introduce a good friend to my favorite Florida city. Let’s do it!!!
I stopped and received my pit wristband from the very friendly amphitheater attendant just as Spafford kicked into the opening notes of Eternity. “Damn! I’ll never get close to the front now,” I thought. But when we rounded the corner of the food booth I saw hardly anyone standing in the pit. Dancing down the steps, across the pit floor, all the way up to the 2nd row back from the rail. “Let it play straight from the Heavens, bring that joyful music raining down on me.” Eternity was a nice little warm-up. It’s not necessarily one of my favorites songs but this eternal city on the Florida coast seemed to be calling for it. As the song comes to an end, I look around. The S’nerds are into it, but others seem to be just waiting for Um and talking.
Then I hear coming from the stage that funky strut rhythm. Wow! Could they really be dropping a Double-Time right now?! Yes, yes, they are. A smile stretches across my face and the funk fills my booty and my body begins to really jam. Funny thing is, those talkers and folks just hanging out, they begin to move too. Jordan’s bass sounded extra crisp to me. Strong and clear with a nice mix overall. Double Time is the song that woke everyone up…including Brian. During the short jam section, the Moss face started. Tongue out, jumping up and down, this is when the feeling hit. On the short side, but full of feeling.
Double Time ends and both Jordan and Brian step back on the stage to let Red take the stage. With a soft rolling key intro, it could only be one song…Beautiful Day. I felt this one coming before the show. A sunny Saturday, with few puffy clouds in the sky, it almost screamed for a Beautiful Day to settle out the hard funk before it. As Red winds into the song a guy standing next to me asks what they have played already. I tell him the list so far. “Is this Beautiful Day they are rolling into?” my new friend asks. “Yessir it is!” I hand him some of my St. Augustine slaps and a Dis Go pin that I had on me. He smiles and says “Awesome! They played this in Orlando.” Red’s voice is spot on today. It’s strong and clear and just floats over the melody. The “old school Badshoe “T” was replaced by “New school.” Wish I could have heard it but the chompers standing next to me on the rail overpower Red, and I couldn’t catch it. Hopefully we will hear it on a recording.
Beautiful Day ends and there are some nods from Brian to the rest of the boys and they break into the next song. At first, it's as if my ears don’t believe what they hear. “Holy Great Gaps, Batman!!! It’s a Virtual Bean Dip.” All of a sudden I get a tingle up my back. I know they haven’t played this one in a bit so this feels special. This would be the song that all the boys seem to really connect too! Watching Brian and Cam communicate non-verbally during this tune was amazing. The jam seemed cohesive as a whole and they were really paying attention to the small things. Cam’s fills seemed more confident now, or maybe just more warmed up. I don’t know exactly but they definitely feel at this point that they have hit a groove they really like. The crowd feels it too as they have stood up, even those in the nearly empty seats have begun to dance hard.
VBD begins to mellow out and there is a shift in the drums. An island rhythm begins to form and there can be no doubt for those that know. For the first time it feels as if we might get a bleed. Slowly the change comes. Next change comes from Red and now there is certainly no doubt. They finally drop into Salamander Song after a fairly long and patient bleed. Even those who are only partially familiar with Spafford know this one and the whole crowd begins to dance. A nice version of Salamander and they carried over the connection they had found during VBD. The song is blissful and upbeat and leaves everyone "dancing the whole way home." The crowd breaks into applause and those of us at the rail begin yelling our heads off thanking the boys for the show.
I’m waiting for them to walk off stage before I leave my spot but, Brian turns and looks out at the sound board area with a face that seems to say, “One more? Do we have time?” A look over to stage left another glance back to the soundboard. You can see Brian say “Yeah?” and Red sits back down at the keys. YES!!!! One more final song. What will they play? They are talking among themselves for a second and all of these hopeful ideas float through my head. There was one song besides Broken Wing I was hoping for. Then, as if my thoughts had been beamed directly into their heads, the opening of Hollywood. I have been waiting to hear this song for a minute now. Not a long version but a tight one. Again I have to remark at the boys communication on stage. The way they listen and respond during songs is something I haven’t seen to this degree in a long time from a band.
The set ends with a cute little finality and I stand there, wrapped in the warm Hollywood fuzz they left me with. They played a range of song from the get downs to the lyrically driven and it’s that range that makes me continue to follow this band around the country. I thought that maybe the Umphrey’s fans were waiting till closer to the start of Um to come in, but even when they came on the St. Augustine Amphitheater was still somewhat empty in the back. If you ever have a chance to see a show at this venue, TAKE IT! The venue itself is small but beautiful, and the city is amazing place to spend a few days. Moe. and Widespread will be playing there later in the year just FYI.
After the show I pull out my phone to see just how long it’s been since Hollywood was played and I’m surprised to see some of the gaps. Eternity was last played on 2018-03-10, Double Time last played on 2018-03-14, Virtual Bean Dip last played on 2018-03-11, and Hollywood last played on 2018-03-07. That’s a hell of a lot of gaps dropped on this show folks and some of those songs people have been waiting to return. Loved the easy feeling of the show to match the easy feeling that St. Augustine gives you. I left the city relaxed, centered, and totally excited for what they might drop at Lockn’!!!!! I’ll see you ‘nerds in Virginia!!!!!!!
Nerds…the August 10th, 2018 show at The Chesterfield Amphithteater might not be remembered as the set of the summer…after all, they played their first Bonnaroo and are gearing up for Lockn’. Peach Fest ushered in the mythically unforgettable whipping rains that caused Brian’s pedal to fart out, leaving Jordan to lead the rhythm section of All In jamming’. Surely it wouldn’t have the mystique of the Element Festival with the Cressman/Hartwick and Hann sit-ins and the best Lonely to date…in CANADA!!!! They used their PASSPORTS, for heaven’s sake!!! And I’m sure that for those lucky enough to catch the late night set at Hi-Fi in Indy, it couldn’t possibly touch THAT Nerdvaganza, not only for it being the lengthiest of the summer sets (1 hour and 45 minutes, I’m told), but for the sole fact that it was an opportunity for the Nerd faithful to gather, as they often do, to show appreciation with our own kind for our favorite jam quartet. It’s a Spafford late night set…need I say more? Actually, I think I will…
It MIGHT have even been forgotten except for one simple fact. I was in the audience…and I will certainly never forget the “Major Rager,” aptly named for it having occurred the same weekend as the PGA Championship Golf Tourney, which, if you’re not a golf fan, was also one for the ages. And any time I can unexpectedly snag a really cool print; when I have the opportunity to meet the man, the myth, the legend himself Chuck Johnson; and when, in the same evening, I can convert a new Nerd…well…it’s a memorable night.
And given the circumstances surrounding the security staff at the venue and the weather that had plagued the area all day, it MIGHT have been dubbed The Chesterfield Chafing (best I could do), The Missouri Uncompromise, the Show-Me State ShitShow, given how it began. Sheets of pouring rain battered my cousin’s white Infinity Mom-mobile as I drove 15 minutes north to the home of my college friend, musician/producer extraordinaire Lenny Mink. The entire drive I’m thinking, “Rain? Again? I JUST went through this at Peach…at least I was prepared for that.” Then again, it’s Spafford, so all I could think of was Bill Murray in Caddyshack. “I don’t think the heavy stuff’s gonna come down for quite a while.”
Lenny and I hung out at his place for a bit, hung out at his studio, a puff and vodka. Lenny is Russian, so vodka is always on tap…though this one was from Hawaii. Who knew?? At about 5:45, I’m so antsy to get to the venue but also to play him some Spafford in the car to warm him up. My jam du jour? ETS sammy from Terrapin Crossroads, of course! I was so frustrated because the Infinity wouldn’t connect to my phone via bluetooth, so I kept holding it up so he could hear exactly what they were doing as ETS gave way to Alternate Ending, then back to the reprise of ETS, those joyful climactic major changes kicking it just as we hit the seemingly sparse parking lot scene.
The Chesterfield intimate outdoor venue nestled conveniently in this midwestern suburb’s Central Park, in front of a small lake and around the corner from a YMCA.
The venue had one sidewalk on which the main line eventually formed but was completely empty when we arrived. I soon realized that because of the heavy rain, which had since slowed to a steady but harmless drizzle, most people stayed in their cars to party. When we finally made our way towards the entrance about 15 minutes later, a line had formed of couple of hundred people. Since Lenny and I had to pick up our tickets at Will Call, we left the line and headed over to the window. That was the first sign of trouble.
The ticket window peeps couldn’t seem to find anyone’s tix. I heard them ask at least 3 other parties in front of me “When did you buy your tickets?” Good God. Well, I got the same question and when she finally “found” mine, she handed me a paper ticket, saying to me, “Ok now I’m going to have to give you a paper ticket.” I’m thinking…okaaayyyy…how else would you have given it to me, on a sandstone tablet? Bar code tattoo?” Suffice to say these people had some issues to sort out.
We go back to the line…Spafford was set to take the stage at 6:30. 6:15, 6:20, no movement…6:25…we moved up maybe 15 feet. At 6:30 I’m thinking, “Well, they’re not going to take the stage with all these people standing out here. I mean, that would be ludicrous, right? Breeeeeaaathe….
I’m wearing my Spaffnerds on the Rocks shirt…yes, so the band can see that I will go anywhere, anytime to see them and for other Nerds to recognize me and maybe say hello. Heck, maybe Cam will see my shirt, recognize me as the guy who caught one of the sticks at Red Rocks and, like Mean Joe Green in the old Coca Cola commercial, walk through the crowd and hand me a stick, patting me on the shoulder, saying “To match the other one.” (Spoiler alert…that didn’t happen.)
Suddenly, the boys take the stage…opening chords of People…my blood is now on full boil.
Some backstory…3 days prior, Tuesday, was a travel nightmare. 14 hours from LA to Winston-Salem, up at 6 the next morning to work all day on my feet at a BMW dealership training people, then a 6 hour drive to Atlanta in the worst thunderstorms I’ve ever seen…and I mean EVER…then overnight at a friend’s house in Atlanta, then a flight Friday to St. Louis, so now I FINALLY get to relax…orrrrrr I am in the midst of yet another nightmare. W. T. F!!!!!
I walk past the patrons up front. I approach the security staff. I’m clearly upset, but keep telling myself “What would Buddy Pierce do?” (see Solana Beach 2/28/18) Well, Buddy ain’t here, so I am pleading w them without getting TOO angry, that it’s insane they can’t process us through any faster, that some of us are here JUST to see the band that is now playing one of my favorite songs. AND they’re only playing for an hour…or so I thought.
Long and short of it is…the security team just didn’t give a shit about expediting people into the venue. Regardless of whether the weather almost canceled the show and there were delays and a curfew, that’s all fine and good. But as a team, they should’ve adjusted to the situation. And THAT’s…one to grow on…
NOW…getting back to that paper ticket?…Yeah, I found out as we finally approached the entrance that they processed the e-tickets first and made those with the paper tickets wait, which seemed rather ludicrous, but I’m tired of talking about the staff, let’s get on to the music!!! I finally reach the entrance and, as an extra little F-U, the dude takes about 15 seconds to put my paper bracelet on my wrist. Try counting out 15 seconds while missing Spafford jamming out on People and see if your head doesn’t explode…(spoiler alert: it WILL!)
I dart into the venue , Lenny following close behind, looking on like I’m his unruly child run wild at an amusement park. This is what I love about Spafford…I make a Bee(jam)line right for the front middle…and within 30 seconds, I’m right behind the guy on the rail, Lenny behind me, my eyes locked on Brian (and he on mine, twinkle twinkle) as he is building towards the climax before lyric re-entry, Dunh duuuuuunnnhh…dunnnnhhhhhh….duuuunnnnhhh “People like me and youuuuuuuu…” It is, as it always is…a sublime opening number, the syncopated funk beckoning to the primarily Umphrey’s crowd to reconsider if they were only half listening to the boys from Prescott. A smile and a sigh washes over me. I feel awful for Lenny not having experienced the complete song, but it’s out of my control. I surrender, I breathe, all is well. It’s time to get funky.
It might have been serendipitous that we missed half of People because, apropos of a FB conversation last week about what song to play if one is introducing another to Spafford, they played what I consider to be the ultimate song in the Spafford starter kit…The Remedy!! In my opinion, it has all of the ingredients to make an instant Nerd. Great lyrics, a great hook, a great jam, a funky beat, a thrilling climax and, most importantly - and the reason why they set themselves apart from so many other jam bands - HEART!
Now mind you, I’ve seen The Remedy live 5 times (Bing, Spaffbase!) and it never disappoints…but there was something about this one that was different. I don’t recall Brian being this inventive up and down the neck as he was on this take and it reinforced why I stalk his fingers (that sounds so vile) throughout every show. You just never know what’s coming next. I remember throwing my hands up in disbelief several times during the jam thinking “I just…I can’t even…what is going ON and why can’t I have this every day?!?!?!” I turn to Lenny, a guitarist of 30 years, who says “These guys can JAM! And his tone is amazing…you just don’t hear that kind of tone from a lot of these bands.” I agree, of course.
Whenever the double tap of the opening chords of Backdoor Funk ring out with just enough space and just enough time to hear those “in the know” to cry out in delight, I am instantly reminded of the 7 I’ve heard live (Bing AGAIN, Spaffbase stats!) and the dozens on my phone that, wherever I am, transport me to another planet. When I hear those chords, my entire body is jolted into excitement and I am instantly excited not only to hear my 7th Backdoor live, but also for Lenny, who gets to hear another quintessential Spaff tune with yet another great hook and some killer funk. Lenny may have had accolades for Brian, but he was gaga over Cam on the kit. This one also never disappoints, but again, there seems to be some higher level that these jams are achieving this summer which is preparing us for fall tour of limitless exploration. Whether we will get more of these so-called Type 2 jams, I can’t say, but the freedom and inventiveness in their builds are reaching new heights of exploration.
Right in the middle of the jam, I had the first of two heartwarming moments for a dyed-in-the-wool Nerd. Guy BEHIND me...tall, dreads, we had exchanged a few knowing glances, he's checking out my shirt, finally he is right behind me, I can feel his breath in my ear and I’m thinking, “I’m either 1) being offered drugs, getting hit on or stabbed to death with a letter opener…slow, methodical, bloody, silent death. He whispers in my ear “Shhh…don't tell anyone, I’m leaving right after these guys, they're who I came to see.” I look at him. "Me too, though we’re gonna stay for a bit, my buddy wants to see a little Umph....but I hear ya, man!" He gives me the thumbs up. I turn back a moment later and say quietly (don't wanna be a chomper, after all!!) "They're the best." He yells "The BEST! I haven't been this excited about a band in 20 years!" I mouth back "Me too." Hey, its not a knock on the closing band, but I was there specifically for Spafford.
After Backdoor ends, Lenny is hooked. The guy in front of me…bald, mid-40’s, turns to his friend, lets out a sigh like he has just had the shit kicked out of him in the best possible way, then turns to me and says, "I haven't had my face melted like this in 15 years." I shed an invisible tear of pride and joy.
We all take a much needed breath…the crowd is all…in. The opening chords of Electric Taco Stand kick in, I am both elated and racked with guilt. I just played this for Lenny in the car!!! Doh!! Why didn’t I pick the Solana Windmill or one of 15 amazing In the Eyes of Thieves, that would have covered the entire 20 minute drive from his house!! I turn to Lenny, apologizing profusely. He doesn’t give a shit, he’s lovin’ it!!!
But what I thought would be a delicious taco sammy smothered with Alternate Ending demi glace or Dis Go in 5? aioli turns out to be a mere appetizer…but…like…a crab cake appetizer at the best seafood restaurant in America that you choose to eat for dessert because you like sweets, but you loooooove crab.
They bid us farewell…wait, it’s only 7:15! A 40 minute set?!?!? Guess the rain and the curfew forced their hands...![alt text](![image url](image url))But what a 40 minutes…
Epilogue: Lenny and I walk up to the mercy table. I introduce myself. “Hey, I’m Marc. How’s it goin’? What’s your name?” “I’m Chuck.” “Oh cool…Chuck…(as I’m trying to think of a way to basically ask “Why are you here?”) And he says “Chuck Johnson.” “Oh cool, great to meet you, Chuck.” And I start in on how amazing the set was and a quick debrief of the door situation and that’s when he says, “Up until 5:45, we didn’t think the show was going to happen at all.” That’s when the pre-show events started to create some kind of narrative in my mind. And every time he spoke about the band, he said “We…” Finally I realized, okay this guy is an integral part of this organization, I should probably know him. And then 30 seconds later, it hit me. I’m talking to THE Chuck Johnson! Chatted for a few more minutes, bought the Major Rager print and was on my way.
All in all, a fantastic set with a few hiccups pre-show, but what a tight, albeit short, set, with some surefire highlights. Please forgive the lack of band photos in this post, as I try not to take my phone out when Spafford takes the stage and I figure everyone else is taking pics for me. Guess I'm old-fashioned. :-)
See you in Chicago October 5th, Nerds!!!!!!
I want to start this review off by talking about the first venue for my 7th and 8th Spafford adventure. The Lawn at White River in Indianapolis is an open amphitheater with mainly a grass standing/seating area that is in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. It was the perfect setting for an evening filled with great music being delivered to us by Spafford and Umphrey’s McGee.
Spafford came out to a big, early crowd. Many of the people around me were seeing Spafford for their first time. I assured them they were in for a treat. As the openers, Spafford brought the heat with When It Falls to start their hour-long, four-song set.
Right into, what is becoming a classic, Ain’t That Wrong, to give the Spafford fans and new fans a taste of their musical prowess.
Another favorite of mine, All In, came in nicely as the sun was setting behind the stage and put Jordan’s vocals caressing across the lawn at White River. Red brought it with the keys on this one in the meat of the song along with Brian shredding on the guitar. Cam kept that tempo smooth and in the pocket.
To close the set they set off on America. A perfect song to get us Midwesteners dancing around around and ready for Umphrey’s set. My overall impression of this set was exactly what I expected: professionally sound and perfect for opening set and but a prelude of what was coming later at HI-FI!
After Party at The Hi-Fi:
This show had been sold out for weeks. You could feel the excitement and anticipation growing in the night while waiting in line to get in to the venue. As I walked through the door, the first thing I did was snag a @Jon-Rose print from the merch table, then found my spot in front of the stage between Brian and Jordan.
*Photo credit Aaron Bradley
They fellas came out to a resounding applause and atmosphere to a packed house.
Opening with a funky Funkadelic was a perfect way to continue that excitement from earlier. Right into Broken Wing> My Road. Red really slayed the keys on My Road along with his angelic vocals. They went on a spree of shredding this one out. I was in awe of the magic I was watching on stage. I couldn’t believe how tight these guys were. Their chemistry is off the charts! I’ve seen a lot of music and this is one of the VERY few times that I can remember where I was so excited from the first note to the last.
Leave The Light On was next and got EVERYONE singing back to the band. You could feel the room sending the energy back to the band which they feed off of really well. This was one of the best LTLO that I had seen. The way they brought it out of the main chorus and into a jam and back into the chorus and back out again.
Mad World, it’s a Maaaaaaad World, was up next (which I happened to call earlier in the day even!) I love their version of this Tears For Fears classic. Their spin on this instantly made it my favorite cover that they do. While every other song in the set is fast paced and shreds, this song, during the chorus anyway, slows it down for just the right amount of time to bring you back up again!
They ended the set with another Brian shred fest, The Postman. You can never go wrong with this pick as it is a favorite among just about everyone. Lots of jam and fast paced slaps from Jordan, Red on the keys tickled our ear buds with those highs, and Cam kept us grooving on the bottom end.
They encored with The Reprise. Probably my favorite of the whole evening and the cherry on top. Brian continued playing The Raven to remarkable speed and technicality. All-in-all, I feel that this set at The Hi-Fi in Indianapolis will go down as one of the best sets I have seen all year from any band.
Thank you, Brian Moss, for melting my face off multiple times.
*Photo credit Aaron Bradley
Special shout-out to Aaron Bradley for the incredible photos and to Mike Jacobson for the capturing video (link on the show page) of 3/4 of the opening set at The Lawn at White River. All you Nerds friggin rule!
This was my first Spafford show. I’ve been looking forward to this for months as I have not listened to a band this obsessively before seeing them live since I started listening to Phish in high school. The deep dive has been strong the last 3-4 months and my excitation was peaking hard the morning of the show (pretty sure I was just pacing around my house for an hour waiting for my girlfriend to get off work so we could head to the festival). We arrived at the Werk Out with a few hours before Spafford was set to play and it is really just a beautiful, small festival. No waiting lines, beautiful venue, and laid back vibe. After we hiked all our stuff in and set up camp with a big group of our friends, I ran down to catch some music because the Thursday night lineup was absolutely killer. As I was enjoying Mungion’s set, I saw the boys pull up behind the stage and eventually Cam came over and sat down next to Rob Compa (who was about to shred with Mungion) and the dreams of a sit in started to float through my mind. I am a guitar player myself, and Brian and Rob are easily my favorite two players not named Trey Anastasio.
Alas, the sit in never happened, but just the thought of it was enough to keep me geeking until the set. After Mungion, Lettuce kept the tunes rolling and Michelle and I went over to camp out in front of the other stage to wait for Spafford to start. We set up 15-20 yards back as I usually like to be close enough to see well, but far enough back to get the best mix possible. The boys finished setting up and left the stage empty and utter excitement (and mild nervousness for my first show) was coursing through my entire body.
After a few more minutes of waiting and Michelle making fun of me for being a ‘Nerd and setting up a notepad on my phone so I could remember all this when I sat down to write the review, the boys took the stage. Jordan started up the opening bass line of All In and a sense of “I’ve made it” rushed over my body. This is the first song I became obsessed with, so it was a fitting start to my first show. Unfortunately, there were some sound issues at the beginning of the song with a very audible low end feedback smothering every other frequency. Moss made some gestures to the sound guy that the low end was causing issues and he seemed to fix it for the most part as they made it through the composed part of the song and I started to forget there was ever a problem. Right as they were finishing the ‘song’ and Brian was shredding away to head into the jam, the feedback (my buddy thought it could have been a grounding issue) reared its ugly head and came back with full force. My stomach immediately sunk, they only had an hour to play and it was bad, set ending bad. The guys faces were visibly upset and Moss eventually stopped playing all together with his hands up in a “what do we do” type frustration. As the sound guys kept working on the issue, the band, although obviously perturbed, kept chugging away with a groove. I cannot say how well they handled themselves in what was a terrible situation. After about 3-5 minutes it seemed the sound guys fixed the issue and the boys were still holding it down and grooving while Moss provided some sick jazz runs and Cam was adding tasty snare rolls. The sound issues may have been a blessing in disguise as it caused them to be very patient building up the jam. Once they felt comfortable they could play without issues they slowly built up the jam to its roaring finale that we all know and love. Moss shredding, the band flushing behind him, building into a glorious peak before returning to the composed ending to wrap up the song after about 25 minutes.
After this, it looked like they were going to go into a Red song, but there were issues with his microphone and they started up Broken Wing. Right away you can tell these guys love this song as there were smiles all around while they set the stage with a nice opening jam. I really enjoy this song and I always get a NASCAR-y vibe from the riff that leads into the vocals. Moss crushed the vocal portion of the song and they settled in for the jam. I often try and think of the reasons why this band is one that really grabbed me so tightly and there are many reasons, but a large part of it is how patient they are with their jamming. They are not afraid to take their time and it really makes the release at the end that much greater. Red was adding some very tasteful playing behind Brian’s leads, while Cam and Jordan were holding down the groove incredibly tight. They kept the energy low and light for a bit before slowly starting to build it up with Moss leading the way. This is what makes him such an incredible guitar player to me, he really knows how to craft a solo and build you up, taking you through little peaks and valleys while shifting the overall energy upward and finally releasing in a peak of joyful bliss.
Absolutely crushed and with the sound issues far behind them they started up It's A Bunch. I was really hoping to hear this song as it’s the one song that ‘For Amusement Only’ really turned me on to and is a top 10 song of mine. They played it to a T, with no extended jamming, which I was totally onboard with since the first two songs went close to 40 minutes.
After a brief pause, Moss started up the opening chords of Electric Taco Stand and with about 15 minutes left I figured this would be the last song of the night. ETS is such a great fucking song and they were funking around hard in the beginning. My notes are “percussive Moss, shuffle Cam, slap poppin’ Jordan, chordally tasteful Red” so I’ll leave it at that. During the vocal portion the crowd was singing along to the chorus and it really makes for a great live experience. Out of the vocals and coming into the jam they settled into a nice groove and kept with the theme of the night (every show?), PATIENCE! Again I was awed at their comfortability to be patient with a jam. Eventually, they moved into a new sonic arena and Moss was teasing a melody on his guitar while singing/scatting over it. I’m not sure what it was, it could also have just been a nice improv melody, but maybe some ‘Nerds can help out when the recording drops. After building this up to one final peak, they dropped back into the final chorus (with the crowd really singing their hearts out now) and concluded my first ever Spafford show.
Yes, there were issues in the beginning, but I couldn’t have asked for more and I was grinning like a Cheshire cat for at least ten minutes after. Spafford is my favorite band these days and I cannot wait to keep riding along this journey. Cheers!
P.S. JRAD played directly after and those guys are absolutely unbelievable. They may be the best improv band on the scene right now. My jaw dropped countless times.