After three weeks of Spaffnerds tearing each other apart, consoling one another, and having emotions and rumors flying around like crazy, The day was finally here. Would Nick be able to come back and keep Spafford at the level they had been performing, or would he come back and show his two years of rust? It was my first time at The Civic and I very much enjoyed the venue. New Orleans based Soul Rebels got the party going as the Nerds started flowing in. The venue was filled reasonably well allowing for optimum dancing space.
Take Your Mama started the show, which given the hype was not the song I wanted out of the gate. That being said it actually worked out in the best way because there were sound issues abound during this, so it allowed for everyone to readjust for what I'm going to say was the true opener, Electric Taco Stand. I was very pleased to hear it had not been taken down in tempo and for the most part got through the composed section nicely. Then the surprise of the night came as the jam transitioned into John Coltrane's Impressions. Here we all were expecting the return of the Untz Factor and on the opening jam they transition into a jazz standard. Looking back since it was jazz fest I should not have been so surprised but I was truly blown away. Everyone took a solo showing off their jazzy licks one-by-one finishing with Brian before transitioning back into Electric Taco Stand. As the peak of ETS came, smiles came onto everyone's face and the biggest one of all was on the face of Nick.
Comfortable continued the show which ended up being the only "newer" song played of the evening. Not too much to say beyond it was well played and nice to see Nick seemed pretty Comfortable on it (see what i did there?). The highlight of the night came next in the form of All In. Again the band got through the composed section with minimal flubbing, and then the jam came and reared its monstrous head. The slow funk section got a healthy dose of Red's organ which then transitioned into the tempo being sped up and Red moving over to a clean piano sound. The band locked in together as the familiar untz beat filled the air and Brian's solo began. Brian pushed his solo deep into the stratosphere and the tempo never lost its edge as it came crashing into the ending segment. Beautiful stuff!
The bouncing rhythm of Mind's Unchained continued the show which is one that I really wanted to see Nick on! Really loved the jam of this one. Super spacey psychedelic Red keyboard lines filled the air as everyone kept a slow but steady pace underneath until the build into Brian's solo. Really good contrast jam from the untzed out All In from the song before. The Postman showed a little bit of rust on Ole St. Nick, through the composed section he had a little bit of trouble but more than made up for it in the jam. Red laid a great foundation down after his solo using some wild sounds from his Virus keyboard that Brian was able to weave his way through for the opening section of his solo. An epic peak finished the jam off as the final section of The Postman arrived. Jordan and Nick traded a little solo section back and forward before Brian delivered the final piece of mail.
Leave The Light On concluded the historic set in style. The opening jam was anchored by an epic Brian solo, but the madness came in the second jam. Shortly into the second jam Red walks off stage for a few moments before returning with none other than Joel Cummins from Umphrey's McGee. Joel took his solo which Nick used to push the tempo back into the untz beat before the band switched into Brian's solo. Clocking in at the 23 minute mark the band left it all out on the stage as they sang the ending Leave The Light On's and the crowd roared with excitement.
There really wasn't a better choice for an encore than a stand alone Weasel. The Untz Factor Nick gives to the band had returned and they solidified it with a short but strong Weasel. I had a lot of emotions going into this show but I left with a feeling of excitement. Whether you agree with the band's choice or not, I strongly urge you to go see a show and find out yourself. Above all else all the members of the band seemed very happy and that is what is most important. Welcome back Nick! Let's do it again real soon :)
Nerds! It's almost impossible to believe it's been two whole years since we released spaffnerds.com 1.0. What an amazing adventure it's been growing the site and participating in this community. When we began there were only the most basic features available on the site. In fact, we didn't even link to recordings, just setlists and songs. This forum didn't exist either. It was, as we say in the industry, a minimally viable product... and from there we grew.
Since that time we've added:
- A forum
- A bot to scan Nugs and Archive to add recordings
- User submitted recordings
- Social media announcements
- An embedded media player
- A twitter bot to watch the band's twitter and update setlists
- An Alexa Skill to listen to Spafford on your Alexa
- A store with custom merch
- A video game
- and more
Today we're launching Spaffnerds 3.0. For the true nerds (geeks) among us, this is a fully serverless backend running on AWS Lambda and API Gateway. Test coverage is near 90% and in general the code is much easier to support and extend.
But the biggest benefit for you guys is more stability. During the Florida shows we had so many people on the site that the 2.0 backend fell over. It couldn't handle the amount of traffic it was getting. Fortunately it automatically restarts, but it was pretty clear that the time to go serverless was now and we were ready to do it.
To celebrate today's launch we're giving away stuff, because that's how we (and the cuttlefish) do.
Check out the new release of spaffnerds.com by heading over to the homepage and poking around. Please let me know if you see any bugs :)
- A copy of For Amusement Only on Vinyl.
- An Official Spaffnerds Shirt! and 2 pack of Candy Nerd Pins (Glitter and Glow)
- One (1) One year subscription to Nugs.net.
Some details on the prizes:
We'll draw for first, second, and third choice. That means if you win first, you choose from this list. Second takes from the remaining 2 prizes, and third is just happy to have won. ;)
The FAO Vinyl does not include the special edition print. Apologies. I didn't snap one up when they first went on sale. As my wife says, "You snooze, you lose."
The shirt and pin prize will include a shirt. But if you've already bought one, or we're out of stock in your size, we'll work out a replacement for you.
Finally, the nugs subscriptions is the standard 1 year that we give away.
You guys know how we do these contests. We'll draw next Saturday, April 27th at 12:00 PM Arizona Time (3pm Eastern). All you have to do is reply to this post to be entered, though you should definitely tell us a story about your favorite moment from the Winter tour, your favorite Spafford moment, or what you had for breakfast. It doesn't really matter, but be interesting, because it's better than boring.
We're giving away 2 of the 3 new offerings that are available in the store. Go check them out. There's a super exclusive 4 pack of candy nerd pins. Seriously, we have 4 sets. You should by them immediately.
Nerds! We're really excited to announce the latest update to spaffnerds.com. We've heard your suggestions and have taken the biggest one to heart.
Sure, the site offers links to all of spafford's shows, lyrics, live updated setlists, an internal media player, nugs giveaways, show stats, user stats, a forum, and even an Alexa skill. And all of it for free and without advertising. But You've asked for something even more important and useful, and we've delivered.
It seems like every review I write starts with something about high expectations and how well the band is playing. Their trajectory lately is undeniable. Every time I see them for the second time in a given city, they’re playing a bigger venue, and it’s easy to see why. Night after night they produce exactly what music enthusiasts crave – they cut a broad swath through genres, keep every show amusing, unpredictable and relentlessly energetic, and most importantly, connect with the audience like almost no other band can.
This entire tour has been a monster, to the point that every night produces at least one, if not several, forays I consider “recommended listening” for the Outstanding Versions thread. That said, the Northwest run has been particularly enjoyable. The Seattle, Portland and Eugene shows all shine in their own way, each a different but equally scintillating gemstone in the hidden treasure that is the band’s library. Having been on mini-tour with the band through Oregon, I couldn’t wait to see what they had in store for Bend.
Hard Way is a new song, and a simple one. And I’ll give it no guff for that – often I feel the most energy when the band starts up a lyrically brief tune, because I know it means they mean business. That said, I can’t help trying to translate set lists and song selections into deeper messages. What is the band trying to tell us? Well, after a staggering 40 shows in 55 days – I need a nap just after writing that – maybe they’re trying to politely remind us that this shit ain’t easy. Despite its reggae underpinnings, the tune itself has a dark lilt, and maybe a chip on its shoulder. The foursome likes unpredictable openers, and the crowd seemed to dig it, too.
But then the opening bit of It’s a Bunch kicked off and I was jumping up and down with excitement. This little fella has come a long way since its 4 minute, 50 second birth in Detroit to become an absolute powerhouse. At least in my statistically unevidenced opinion, it’s right there with Bee Jam for being voted Most Likely to Blow the Dang Roof Off in the school yearbook.
This version slides gracefully through the opening catharsis-jam through a darker, more evocative one. At one point I swear Brian was yelling “More! More!” at Cam. After that, around 21:00, I would have bet a flaming chicken that they were about to play their recently resurrected righteous reggae rager take on Exodus. But things turn a bit more contemplative and sparse, Red moves to his electric piano, Brian’s playing gets a bit more sparse, and suddenly I sense that this jam is headed Down Under.
They throw one more curveball before the tune proper starts, though – an utterly demented groove on top of a frenetic beat. For a moment one senses that the lunatics are running the asylum. Red’s flex after the “muscles” line always cracks me up. (When taking artistic risk on stage, it’s important not to take yourself too seriously.) I felt like they had a window right from the get-go for something unique, but they quickly moved to stay on the song’s usual path. Still, Brian finds a solid refrain, and Cam brings tremendous energy to his snare fills to close the song out.
After almost 45 minutes of nonstop play, the band insists we make ourselves Comfortable. This song has been in heavy rotation this tour, and for good reason. Many Spafford songs have a nostalgic component – memories of road trips, sleepless nights spent with friends, good times captured on polaroid that make us shake our heads at who we used to be. With its Stevie Wonder bass line and comforting chord progression, this song is a great example. When it finds its footing, I could see the closing jam reaching Slip and Squander-level emotional deliverance.
I thought they might end the set here, but Cam launches us into Broken Wing. This song is a saucy minx. It never strays far, but full-band tension and release contribute to a stellar rendition. And as far as standalone versions go, this is one of my favorites.
Their last time here, Spafford played the much preferable Volcanic Pub, a smaller and more Bend-y venue that also serves up live theater. The Domino is dark, terse, and serves nothing but drinks. If the venue influences the band’s selections, then this room – at this point a vibrating dance floor in a building one step above a warehouse – is a great place for In the Eyes of Thieves’ high-powered blend of funk, jazz and shred. The band looks keyed in, Brian seems to have just a bit more loathing in his eyes than usual while locked in a staring contest with his microphone, and despite this being an all-ages show, and drinking only being allowed upstairs, the crowd is feelin’ it (or, perhaps, killin’ it.)
This was my first time seeing Simon & Lily live. It’s a pretty song, with lyrics that tip the scale heavily towards the abstract and I love Brian’s guitar part. It works here, as a nice foil to the evening’s selections thus far.
The first jam of Leave the Light On features typically excellent playing to a broad peak, and they glide nicely into the song’s middle segment. The second jam, though, is instantly unique, with Cam dropping to half time and playing something on his MIDI pad that could provoke a genre argument among EDM fans – is it chill trap, or trap-chill? Maybe it’s psybient trip-trap. Whatever it is, the band digs in, and for a few minutes they explore this new soundscape, before the energy level comes up. Red hits a nice refrain on the organ and Jordan lays down a frenzied groove, wheeling us around to the song’s conclusion.
Bend loves the Dead, and West LA Fadeaway gets a nice cheer of approval from the crowd. A few whitehairs in attendance are instantly closed-eyed, presumably transported on the wings of an acid flashback to some buried barefoot memory. Red takes an extended solo on the organ, complete with the rest of the band pulling an “oh, he’s not done” eyebrow raise at him halfway through.
Lonely’s electronic vibes can sometimes be the opening for an ambient exploration of an effects-laden landscape. Other times it’s just used to whip the crowd into a dance frenzy. This one’s a bit of both, with the band bring their dynamics down but Cam never really leaving the four-on-the-floor late night dance hall behind. Jordan’s fuzz effects and Red’s ambient pad make a wall of sound, with Brian’s rhythm play maintaining just a hint of funk. The lights were particularly on point during this jam, puncuating the tension and release that took the song to its fruition. And like that, the second set is over in what seems like a blink of an eye.
Continuing the trend of alternating ragers with songs I can’t quite figure out, Radio gets the encore call. I think this song makes me sad, but in the best possible way. It’s the last Spafford song I’ll see live for a while, so that’s a fitting feeling. From the quality of the music and the looks on their faces, it’s easy to tell that the band loves playing in the Northwest, and I know they’ll be back soon – but never soon enough.
P.S. I forgot to bring my custom Killin’ It stickers to this show – if you were at it, or if you collect them, hit me up and I’ll send you some!
The Alexa Skill
This project was born from a personal need that I had. I use Amazon Alexa Dots as my primary audio player in my living room and my office. Unfortunately though, I had no way to listen to Spafford's live shows (except the ones on Spotify) on these devices. So I did what any good engineer does when he has a problem... I wrote code to fix it. Thus was born a new Alexa skill that you too can use to listen to Spafford!
In the meantime... we're going to help YOU take advantage of this audio player by giving away an Alexa dot to three (3) lucky Nerds. The only requirement is that you not own an Alexa enabled device as we're trying to make this skill available to people who can't otherwise try it out.
The rules of the giveaway are pretty standard. We've done this before. All you have to do is add your name to this post. Just reply and say you want to be entered in the drawing, and you're in. You might also consider subscribing to our YouTube Channel, our Facebook Page and our Twitter Feed because they're great resources. You'll get notifications when there's new recordings available, and then you can ask your Alexa to play those recordings for you.
We'll do the drawing next Saturday, March 2nd at 12:00 PM MST. We will pick 3 names at random from the list. If you are chosen, you win. We'll get your mailing address and send you an Echo Dot. As usual you'll have a week to reply to your notification that you've won and if we don't hear from you you'll forfeit your prize.
The drawing will be done on facebook live and the results posted here.
Using The Skill Now
You can use the skill right now if you've got an Alexa enabled device. Here's the written instructions to walk you through it. There's also help videos that show you how to install and use the skill. They are the same ones listed below.
Installing The Skill
SpaffNerds.com Audio Player Alexa Skill Installation Howto – 01:50
Using The Skill
Spaffnerds.com Alexa Audio Player User Guide – 09:01