I hit Levitate late Sunday morning, my wife and kids in tow. We made it through traffic and into the lot behind the main stage with relative ease. I was anxious because Spafford's set was early @ 2:15 and we were still in traffic out front at 1.
By the time we met up with Ron and hit the front gates it was already 1:30. We came upon the Style Stage (middle sized of the 3 stages at Levitate) to find the band casually sound checking. We said our hellos and well wishes and retreated to set up by the left of the soundboard as they vamped on a funky jam.
My wife and kids could sense my relief at finally arriving with time to spare and we all relaxed a bit. They took off for slushes and face painting and Ron @Lauer-Nation and I got started with some brews, gave hugs and hellos to all the spaffamily along the rail, and dug in for the set!!
The America opener was hot out of the gate. (Yes, @603Brett, you immediately got credit from Ron for calling that one, well-played sir). The continued buzz around the band was felt as the crowd rapidly ballooned from less than 100 to what felt like thousands. The energy was high and the riffs were powerful, as the band drew their crowd closer.
Backdoor Funk came slinking up next for what would become the jam of the set. After a roaring peak, the band moved into a smooth jam while Cam set the table. The driving jam once again peaked at what we all thought would be the end of the song but they weren't finished as another layered jam emerged. By the time they were done, close to 30 minutes had passed and we were only two songs in.
The killer shuffle of Broken Wing started up next. This was my first live experience for this tune and it just seemed to fit the daytime festy slot so so so well. I couldn't help but remark how easy Cam made it look. He CRUSHED this song start to finish in so many subtle ways I couldn't begin to explain... The band was having SO much fun with this one building the crowd to a frenzy with Brian chicken pickin' like a lunatic, foot up on the monitor, and really giving it to the fans with a full sonic onslaught.
When Beautiful Day started up, my wife had returned with my 7-year old son who I placed on my shoulders and danced as best I could without falling over in the midday July heat. This was bliss. The crowd swayed and sang in the sweaty sunlight and I felt like the luckiest man alive to have my family there with me to feel that perfect moment.
Ron and I mused over what the next song would be as we approached their one-hour mark and, as he said it, they broke into The Reprise. The band takes such obvious delight in making this a slow burn and building that tension... With their joy apparent, they pulled and twisted this into a raging finale. The crowd was absolutely bonkers for them as Moss crashed down face-melting peaks just ruining everyone within earshot.
Brian gave everyone a little nod as they decided they had enough time for one more. They ripped into a favorite and special request from Sharon Steinberg and the team sparkle crew, Space Gadget. The short and punchy tune ended the set with a bang and I'm sure more than a few people walked away whistling that catchy riff to themselves asking, what the hell happened to Inspector Gadget??
Nerds! We're really really really excited to announce the first major feature upgrade in Spaffnerds 2.0. Thanks to the hard work of our team, specifically @alexkiaie, we've got a full featured embedded media player in spaffnerds.com. All Archive and YouTube recordings will play in the embedded media player, and you can browse the site while they play. Feel free to check song history, lyrics, other shows, or even buy tickets. The media player will keep your ears happy through the whole thing.
Here's a demo of the EMP in action:
We also fixed a long standing bug where we could only have one show on a particular date. After Spafford announced the late night Umphrey's show on 8/11 it became clear that this needed to be fixed. Fortunately many of the secondary problems that a fix could have introduced were patched as part of the 2.0 release. This made the upgrade relatively simple. If you're curious you can see this in action on four dates:
Nerds! To celebrate Tall Four and to promote the sale of tickets through spaffnerds.com we are giving away a pair of 1 year nugs subscriptions! This contest is a little bit different, and it applies to some retroactive actions you may have taken, so be sure to read on...
We're offering (2) lucky winners a free, (1) year subscription to nugs.net. We've done this before and you guys know how it's done but this time is a little different.
- There will be a total of (2) prizes given away.
- (2) lucky winners will each receive a 1 year subscription to nugs.net
- The drawing will take place on Saturday, July, 14th at 12:00 PM Arizona Time
- (This is subject to change if real life interferes. You will be notified ahead of time should the time of the drawing change.)
- The drawing will be live streamed on the Spaffbase Facebook page
- As soon as the live stream is completed we will post the video to our youtube channel and make it available on this thread.
- Names will be placed in a list which will be randomized and numbered. A random number will be generated and the name which matches that number will be chosen as a winner.
- This is not a fundraiser but you are always welcome to make a donation
- Donation is not required to participate in the drawing. If you decide to donate, please post your donations to our paypal account. https://paypal.me/spaffnerds/5
- You are ineligible to win if you have won one of these drawings within the last year.
- You must claim your prize within one week of the drawing or it is forfeited.
How Do I Enter?
In order to enter you need to:
- Log in to the site
- Use the site to purchase tickets to the upcoming fall tour shows (or any shows that are onsale).
If you are logged in, the site will track the shows that you click on to buy tickets. We will use that list in order to generate a list of entrants into the contest. For each show that you get tickets to you will get a single entry into the contest. You could, for example, have 10 entries if you buy a lot of tickets.
But I already bought my tickets through spaffnerds
That's okay! Entries into this contest are retroactive as of the day that tour was announced. We've already got a list and we'll simply use it to make sure you're entered into the contest. We will post that list shortly and you can verify your entries.
But I wasn't logged in when I bought tickets
OMG!!! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING????
Seriously though, just post a comment here and we'll give you 1 entry into the contest. That's the best we can do. If you bought like, 20 tickets through the site, maybe we can make an exception... maybe... ;P
But I bought tickets elsewhere
OMG!!! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING????
If you use this site, support it. Spread the word. Know for next time.
Spafford has released their Fall Tour schedule. We've added all dates to spaffnerds.com along with ticket purchase links.
The band has a promo video which you can check out here:
Spafford 2018 Fall Tour Announce – 02:58
I'm really excited to see what the boys do on this tour. We're in an incredibly special time for this band. They're big enough to have a following, they're crushing the festival gigs, and we're bound to see some new faces joining the herd. Two set shows with the chance to stretch their legs and really work out some of the new songs should be a huge treat.
In the meantime, start complaining about how you don't like the dates, and remember, buying your tickets through spaffnerds.com helps support the site.
TL;DR - Spafford played an awesome 3.5 song, 1 hour fest set, and introduced the mainstream kids to what it means to jam.
I never expected to be “from Delaware.” My wife and I moved here from the Philly burbs in 2008 to be closer to her new NICU position. Rather than have her die from falling asleep at the wheel during her 1.5 hour commute each way to her 12 hour shifts, I decided to find a job in Wilmington and we’d “temporarily” move down here. Alas here we are, 10 years later, still in the Red-Headed Stepchild State.
On the plus side, it is cheap. The cost of living is pretty low for our proximity to Philly -- I live closer to the city now in DE than I did growing up in the PA Philly burbs. Property taxes are about 20% of what they would be just 5 miles north in PA, and there is no sales tax. And Delawareans are generally very nice people. The negatives though are that Wilmington, where I live, is sometimes referred to as “Murdertown USA,” and the public schools rank extremely low for an east coast city.
And, well, culturally it’s pretty boring here. In this regard Delaware definitely earns its reputation as perhaps the most uninteresting state. Bands do not come through here, especially south of Wilmington to “lower, slower Delaware.” We did get UM once at the Grand about 8 years ago, and miraculously Trey Anastasio made a stop at that same theater a few months ago during his solo acoustic tour. But typically if we want to see great bands play it requires a trip to Philadelphia to places like the Fillmore (home of The Foundry) or out to my second home, the legendary Ardmore Music Hall. That’s why it was such a big deal for the state-formerly-known-as-the-Small-Wonder when it was announced that the largest music festival on the east coast would occur right here in our forgettable state.
Unfortunately for me, but rather fitting for Delaware, Firefly is as commercial and mainstream a festival as it gets. Each year I look at the lineup and it’s the same thing every time. Dozens of hipster/indie bands whose names could easily have been generated by an algorithm (optimized for irony), some DJ and hip hop sets (meh), and huge mainstream headlining acts (yawn). This year was no exception. Their lineup graphic says it all:
Except… wait… is… is that a jam band in the lineup? To say I was surprised by Spafford booking the festival would be a gross understatement. I mean, I know Spafford is all about the festivals during the summer -- and rightfully so. Nowhere else can they introduce large groups of new people to what we already know: Spafford jams. And really, really damn well. But that makes total sense at High Sierra, Peach, and even Bonnaroo, where the hett set can most often be found. But Firefly? A chad fest? Huh. But hey, I enjoy weird situations and it did sound like an interesting experiment, and since it’s only an hour south of me - well within my “attendance required for any Spafford show within a 2 hour radius” rule - I decided I needed to witness this go down.
Fast forward to Saturday night of the fest weekend, 8:30 pm. I get the kids to bed, kiss the wife gnite, and me and my OG buddy Boy Don (aka Domey (aka Dirt Boy)) head down to Dover. After a very disconcerting 30 minutes trying to find where we’re supposed to park we finally board the rented school bus that will shuttle us to the farm where the fest is held. It was fun being on a school bus with Don, as we first met on one in 7th grade. I felt like we should be vandalizing the thing or smoking cigarettes in the back seats or something. Instead (and for the best), this maybe-21-year-old kid chatted us up. It was his first music fest ever and he was very excited to be experiencing it. When I asked him what bands he was most interested in seeing he named the big ones - Eminem and Kendrick Lamar - and few indie bands I’d naturally never heard of. He asked for any pro-tips I could give him. Stay hydrated, wear sunblock, and if at all possible, pitch your tent next to a vehicle that will block the morning sun. There’s nothing worse than waking up at 8 am, a few short hours after you fell asleep (if you’re doing it right) as the sun heats your tent to temperatures usually only measured in degrees kelvin. Oh, and come see Spafford at 1am.
Don and I finally get in the fest, grab a beer (it was all Anheuser-Busch brands, obviously), and a few minutes later Eminem takes the stage. It was exactly what I expected. Big, expensive production value, lots of people on stage pretending to play instruments to a pre-recorded backing track (you know, cymbals are pretty loud, so it’s surprising that they make zero sound whatsoever when the “drummer” “plays” them), an of course Eminem - who I do recognize as an extraordinarily talented rapper - pacing the stage, spraying the crowd with profane, very clever lyrics.
We watched about 30 minutes of Eminem before leaving the main Firefly Stage area for the Pavilion Stage next to it, where there were already a dozen people watching Spafford soundcheck. The Pavilion was a giant, temporary metal tent, with a gravel floor, littered with hundreds of empty plastic bottles, glow sticks, broken sunglasses, shredded, empty iPhone cases, and just about anything else if you looked close enough. Baloo, Spafford’s tour manager, even said he ground scored some birth control pills, so there had undoubtedly been some serious partying going on in this pav before we got there. The big question though, was how many people will come here after Eminem’s set?
While Spafford was the last band scheduled for the night, the beginning of their set overlapped with the Portugal. the Man DJ set (just typing that name gives me flashbacks to the Chameleon Club stream) and Martin Garrix, a Dutch DJ. So yeah I could see why many of the mainstream kids in attendance would skip some unknown rock band from a red state out west for the promise of sweaty, gyrating people (read: girls) rolling tits at a euro EDM set. I set my hopes and expectations low, accordingly.
Spafford loves what they do, and they love each other. Like a true, Platonic, deeply cosmic love. I see it on their faces when they are playing, and it is apparent in their music. It’s also apparent because even though Eminem’s insanely loud set is going on right next door, the technical reasons for their soundcheck are long finished, and only they can hear themselves play through their monitors, they are absolutely crushing a no-holds-barred improv jam. As I stood there chatting up the lurkers, I kept having to stop in mid-sentence to listen to Cam play some polyrhythmic, several-bar fills with the whole band resolving on 1 at the height of Brian peaking a solo. Just fucking magical. I’m always appreciative when I get to see a soundcheck because it’s as close to seeing the band at their most relaxed and natural state possible; what I imagine their post-tour rehearsals are like. They’re free to take chances and make mistakes without repercussion, and as we all know with high risk comes high reward. Always a treat, these soundchecks. They wrap up and leave the stage as Eminem is doing his encore. Some people are now trickling in, and I run into Doug M, his brother Keith and his lovely wife Michelle, who are diehard Spafford fans. Always great seeing them, which I do at every Spafford show from DC to NY. We stake our claim on the rail and get ready to rage.
At 1:00 am on the dot Spafford takes the stage to probably 500 people. Not bad! That’s probably the average attendance these days at random tour stops outside of the bigger s’nerd strongholds. And those are headlining gigs where people came to see Spafford, so having 500 pairs of virgin ears is pretty exciting.
The band kicks it off with JJ Grey’s On Fire, which I thought was an extremely appropriate tune for the time and place. Brian seems to play it with a crunchier distortion than normal, but that might be due to the Gibson taking place of the Raven for the fest. His solo is shreddy but very melodic as always, and the band breaks down into a really funky groove. Red’s playing soulful Hammond funk, and Cam and Jordan are in lock step. Red transitions to a crunchy, almost pornographic clavinet rhythm and the band hangs there for a spell before Brian takes over again, building to an excellent first peak that earned the first audible feedback from the audience (at least from my vantage point). I looked back to see everyone dancing and having a great time, with more and more people filing in, just as the jam resolves to a quiet but dynamic, lumbering groove. Cheers from the attendees. They’re getting it.
This groove continues and deepens, with Brian repeating an untzy monophonic melody while Red mans several synths, playing a staccato beat-repeater pattern with one and accenting nicely with the other. The energy picks up as Brian builds back into a solo around the show’s 10 minute mark, raging for a minute or two before taking us back into the last verse of On Fire.
The communication these guys have is just uncanny. I’m pretty convinced that Spafford is a single, telepathic, hive mind. While I’m nowhere near a pro-level musician, I have been playing drums in jam bands off and on since the mid 1990s so I have a pretty trained ear. And unfortunately I have experienced, many times, on stage, in front of actual people, what poor communication when jamming leads to. It is not pretty. But Spafford’s transitions are simply gorgeous. They can turn on a dime without it being awkward, or even most people realizing that it just happened.
Take for example the key change that Jordan leads Red into just after the 17 minute mark in On Fire, and the almost imperceptible tempo increase to a precisely 102 BPM, setting the stage for their second song of the set. Cam introduces the untzy beat and they glide right into a perfectly landed and very well placed Walls. Fuckin A, Peter. Fuckin A.
They do the first verse and settle into a very comfortable untz jam, sticking with Wall’s 102 BPM tempo. 102 BPM is a pretty chill tempo for the untz, which typically ranges from around 115 BPM up to the 160 BPM range. The band has an exceptional ability to build and add energy to their jams without increasing the tempo at all. This Walls jam is no exception, and should be used in music school textbooks discussing the very subject.
After the perfect amount of time in the groove they complete the composed double-time section of Walls, into my favorite part where Brian’s guitar sounds like a European ambulance (I’m reminded of one every time), back into the verse and then settling into a long, bluesy, Rhodes filled untz jam lead by Red. Cam slowly introduces the edrum pad, and they ride this groove out for a good stretch. They transition from a familiar Walls chord progression to one I can best describe as having a flamenco or latin feel to it. If I were a real musician I could tell you what scale and mode it was but all I got is that there may be a bit of Carlos Santana in the solo. They finish the jam and Brian leads them into Leave the Light On.
LTLO is another good choice here as it’s very accessible to new ears. It was chosen as the first track to release from For Amusement Only for good reason. As always, Jordan delivers passionate and soulful vocals. The crowd was definitely digging this one. The band takes the LTLO jam out of the station with Red’s synth solo on top of an ethereal pad, before he moves it to the piano adding depth and space for a delicate but fast solo by Brian while Cam is keeping a great pendulum-like, backbeat groove. They start building it up layer by layer to a huge peak back into the chorus and wrap up the tune as normal.
Immediately following the final note of LTLO the band vamps on a similar groove as Brian starts talking to each member, explaining where they’re going next. A time check shows it’s only a few minutes before the scheduled 2:00 am end time, so I’m very curious where he could be taking them with only a half dozen minutes left. Brian starts playing 16th notes in faster and faster succession, pulling the band from LTLOs 90ish BPM up to 125 or so. Firmly in untz territory, the jam sits on a deep quarter-note thump by Jordan and Red and Brian shred as Cam delivers the familiar 4-on-the-floor dance groove. One big peak and the band pauses while Brian picks the notes to the… ending? ...of Weasel? Ok! Unorthodox, but I love it.
Clearly Brian wanted to send these kids back to their tents with something to remember Spafford by and called the audible. Always a barn burner and spectacular set closer, this abbreviated Weasel delivers the goods. Huge energy in the room, everybody thoroughly into it, and the crowd explodes into applause after the closing notes.
It is without question that Spafford triumphed tonight. Everyone in the pavilion was cheering, fist pumping, high-fiving, and begging the band for more as they took a bow and said goodnight. My guess is by the end about 1,000 to 1,500 attended, though from the rail it’s very hard to see where the crowd ends so I could be severely underestimating.
As we are ushered out of the pav by security mere moments after the band leaves the stage, I hear many people talking about how great the show was. “Best set of Firefly by far! BY FAR!” one guy exclaims to whomever will listen. Shouts of “so fucking good!” “amazing!” “that was SICK!” fill the air as we walk out, and I hand out some IKIS before being stopped by some very young dudes; maybe 18 or 20 years old. “Hey man, do you know where these guys are playing next?” “You liked the set?” I ask, knowing damn well they got bit hard. He proceeded to explain how blown his mind was before imploring once more “so where are they playing next??” We have an instant s’nerd on our hands. I tell him about the other fests for the summer, the inevitable fall tour to be announced real soon now (right Spafford?!) and give them each a stack of the Poe/Raven IKISs - pointing out this domain’s URL - as well as Cody’s spaffhands stickers for good measure. I really hope we see them on here, but honestly I’d be more surprised if I didn’t.
Noob show-glow is a wonderful thing to witness. I have no doubt that those kids’ lives were changed tonight. I will never forget the first time that happened to me, seeing Garcia Band and learning that there is a limitless, unbounded force out there as powerful as anything else in the universe, that we earthlings like to call “live music.” I saw that same look in those kids’ eyes as my own so many years ago. They’re on their way. Firefly was the catalyst to get them out and seeing live music, but it was Spafford that showed them truly how deep and powerful an experience that can be. It truly warms the cockles of my heart.
While I may never get back to another Firefly I’m certainly glad I went. I now totally get the booking. It was genius level strategery, and one that likely converted more new s’nerds than any hetty ass hippie fest. These kids were hungry for what Spafford had to offer, without the years of baked on, caked on jam band fan jade and prejudice.
Welcome aboard. We’re happy you’re here.