Apr
2
(495 Views / 1 Upvotes)
2 Replies

How do you get your live dose of Spafford?

Some of you Nerds get to go on tour, hit multiple shows, and maybe squeeze in a summer festival. Congratulations, I salute you for soaking in as much jamming as possible. For others, despite the desire for more, more, more we have to be satisfied with a single show squeezed in between work and family commitments. These days, I'm a member of the latter group. Which means when I do get my Spafford fix, I savor every guitar solo, cling to every cymbal crash, and absorb every bass vibration. They have to last me months.

With my touring days relegated to the rearview mirror and the band eschewing Denver for Colorado ski towns this winter, the Barkley Ballroom show was my lone opportunity to catch a show on this tour and share my enthusiasm with other Nerds. I was fortunate enough to catch the Aggie rager on the Fall Tour, and anticipation for the Frisco show was intense, as it was one of the only shows on the tour to sell out months in advance (Atlanta was the other).

I was able to convince my high school friend Scott to fly out from the East Coast for a show, a day of skiing, and a family visit. It would have been his first show, but he one-upped me by sneaking out to check out his home state show in January. I was only mildly jealous that he was treated to a gorgeous Red’s Jam opener and the tragically underplayed Sweet closer at his very first show.

After picking Scott up at the airport, we headed into the Colorado high country for dinner and drinks up the road in Breckenridge. When I saw the setlist from the previous night in Steamboat, I confess my heart sank slightly. I sensed that the Frisco show was probably going to be overshadowed by the previous night, but that admission hardly tempered my enthusiasm.

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The Barkley Ballroom is a small nightclub tucked into the lower level of a shopping plaza. What it lacked in charm it made up for in intimacy. I just can't imagine the band playing venues of this size for very much longer, certainly not in Colorado. We pre-gamed at a bar/pizzeria across the way, where we had another beer and chatted with other enthusiastic Nerds who were waiting for the doors to open at 9. We met several folks who had attended their first shows on this Colorado run and were already hooked.

Since we got there early, I positioned myself right on the "rail," smack dab in between Red and Jordan. As a short guy, I love having an unimpeded view of the interplay between the band members. After introductions with my neighbors Lance, Amy, and a few others, we settled in for the ride. The mix up front was outstanding, and everyone in the first few rows was friendly, eager, and intently focused on the music. A distraction-free listening experience in a sea of positivity-- a sharp contrast to the rail scene that generally surrounds a certain foursome from Vermont.

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It was the band’s 3rd show in a row and 13th show in 17 days— yet they barely showed signs of exhaustion, though there were signs that they may have been feeling the venue’s 9,000 foot elevation. Focused and deliberate, they dove right in.

Set 1-- Love holds us together....

The show opener People caused me to break out in a shit-eating grin. This is the song I sing to my 6-year-old daughter, who responds to the catchy hook and doesn’t have the patience for long jams. This version had some extra mustard on it as well, with a very nice middle jam that boasted a psychedelic tinge before exploding in a high-energy climax.

Aeroplane— Aside from its debut performance on New Year’s 2016, this cover has only been in the rotation for about 5 months. Nonetheless, it's already become a great jamming vehicle. Ignore the mislabeled tracking on the Nugs release, as this version winds down into a quiet, bubbly jam that eventually builds back up into a funky, bass-driven departure. Call it "Barkley Jam" or an extended Aeroplane, but regardless of what you call it, this improvisation simply soars. This flight eventually descends for a smooth landing, sliding seamlessly into All My Friends at the 20 minute mark.

With all the great Bee Jams out there, this one might wind up being relegated to the forgotten pile. It doesn't feature the wild, extended improvisation of other versions and the band takes some time to find a groove. Eventually, a quiet theme that echoes the Doors' "Riders on the Storm" emerges. The final two minutes are fiery, but this version is standard when compared to its legendary brethren.

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This was my first Leave the Light On in the three shows I've attended, and it was one of the first Spafford songs that really caught my ear. Words are insufficient to describe the ebb and flow of this version, but it holds up nicely against other versions from the tour.

I was all but certain that LTLO would close the set, but instead we got a bonus song. I wasn't familiar with The Man, which was busted out for the first time in 95 shows, complete with a birthday dedication to Spaffnerd Chris Ogor-Lopez (@Lopez .)

At setbreak, I find Scott relaxing, bleary-eyed, in the back of the venue. He was exhausted and fading, clearly feeling the effects of the 5am East Coast time start, the beers, and the altitude. I drove him down the road to our hotel, returned to the venue, and found my spot on the rail for set 2.

Set 2 -- I don't like sleeping at night...

It's hard to ask for a better second set opener than Todd's Tots, one of those idiosyncratic Spafford tunes that is part of their signature sound. The feedback drenched journey never wandered, a focused batch of tots if there ever was one.

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The Remedy (which was subbed in for Levilan Shores on the setlist) meandered for some time before getting going. The wandering jam included several moments that sounded to these ears like the introduction to the Grateful Dead’s “The Wheel". By around the 14 minute mark, things heated up significantly as the band locked back into a jubilant major key groove that had the entire venue grinning from ear to ear.

Since its introduction on New Year's Eve, the Lovesick Melody > Soil combination has proven extremely fertile. This outstanding pairing didn't disappoint in Frisco, with the Soil jam a contender for best version to date. Cam switched to the e-drum for the first time of the night, Red got futuristic with the synth sounds, and Brian followed with some downright dirty, extremely danceable funk that transitioned into high-energy rock and roll.

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The Postman delivered the goods for the second set closer, the contemplative opening section allowing me to ruminate on all that had brought me to this night, and what future might await this talented foursome on the live stage. The build up was funky and fierce, eventually bringing Brian to the edge of the stage, his foot on the monitor, egging on the crowd in front of him. A fierce, high-energy special delivery.

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The short but high-energy Electric Taco Stand encore was icing on the cake, a gift of one of the band's signature songs to send us off into the night. For the discriminating listener, check out People, the Aeroplane jam, Soil and the Postman-- all contain outstanding band interplay, and the entire night was a celebratory ride.

Walking out of the venue, I had no doubt in my mind that the days of connecting with the band in intimate venues such as these are numbered. The band is simply too talented, and will continue converting fans one at a time. This summer, they'll have the opportunity to play to thousands of new ears at a time and convert even more fans. The ascent continues, and it's going to be a fun ride. Invite your friends!

Our heartfelt thanks to Tara Gracer Photography for the amazing photos

Apr
2
(247 Views / 6 Upvotes)
0 Replies

Nerds! That was fun. The April Fool's gag got incredible feedback, and use, from the community. It was really fun putting it together and launching it. Believe it or not we did that in less than 1 week's time. In case you missed it, or you just want another go at whack-a-nerd, you can still find the reskinned site and the game available at the following locations:

https://officious.spaffnerds.com/
http://whack-a.spaffnerds.com/

The gag wouldn't have been possible without the incredible contributions of (in no particular order) @robAF, @Cody, and @Lopez. Cody did the bulk of the artwork including the Nerd and his captions, Rob chose and assembled the memes and even threw in some surprises to me, and Lopez came through in the 11th hour to make sure you got to see the memes on the game over screen. Never forget rule #1: Teamwork makes the dream work.

We've got some other cool stuff planned around the corner. Stay tuned... same nerd time, same nerd channel.

Mar
28
(421 Views / 2 Upvotes)
1 Replies

Coming into this Colorado mountain run, I had extremely high expectations considering the remote and intimate setting. Somehow Steamboat shattered those expectations so I went into Frisco with a blank slate. Spafford completely mangled my sense of judgment so all things became possible again.

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That excitement led us to thinking the show started an hour earlier so we walked our way to the venue before doors had even opened. As luck would have it, Brian and Jordan were hanging outside so a few us got to chat with them. In the brief moments I do interact with the band, I rarely fanboy or gush over their prestige but tonight we all felt responsible to congratulate their magnificence the night prior. Of course, these guys were radiating with a wondrous glow but remained gratefully humble in their accolades. They did joke they were "bored" of playing their songs the previous night. We joked back to let us know the next time they are bored so we can make sure we are there. And blasted, they were summoned inside, so we decided to walk back to our hotel since doors weren't even open yet.

Blip to about 45 minutes and lots of laughs later and another lucky moment strikes. As I'm getting let in the door to the Ballroom, Red is walking in a different door and we exchange heartful waves! The epitome of a cool cat, Red grabbed me and led us into the green room. It's just Red and Cam back there so I took the moment to praise them as best I could without feeling silly. Lucky day indeed as I love both these guys. Red has so much heart, I always feel blessed that he finds the time to talk to me while Cam hasn't even been in Spafford for a fucking year and the band has evolved so fast that it's hard to believe they haven't been playing together longer. Time flies and out of nowhere I hear Brian call out 5 minutes to showtime so I find my jacket and go look for my friends out on the dance floor!

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Having now talked to all the band members prior to the show, I was super amped up for it to start. I knew we weren't getting another Old Town Jam but I also could sense they weren't going to come out flat. They all had a swagger about them. Cool summer breezer blowing through each strand of hair one by one is the best way to describe it. That's how cool these guys played it.

The first set starts out with a top echelon People that immediately straps the crowd in for the first rollercoaster ride of this highly spontaneous evening. The band quickly locks into a groove, with Cam pounding away, leading us into a blistering jam that is reminiscent of pieces of the Old Town Jam from night prior. Right out of the gate, the band weaves together so tightly in a loose abandon of improvisational genius.

After a scorching People, Aeroplane flies right on in to cool things down with its outro jam. This jam starts out gentle. A very relaxing gesture serenading the attentive into a contemplative gaze. It allowed me to paint the dust of the stars through the gateway of dance. It's one of those jams that can make you so happy that all the walls start to break down and the dam of tears flows its river of grace. Just as the night before, they seamlessly switch gears right into the next jam without blinking an eye. So the second attraction of the evening, Aeroplane, already has spawned into a multi-faced gem of a jam. In the next section, Brian isn't as out front, giving the rest of the band space to spread their wings. They really get the groove going and the whole crowd sways in unison. With the rest of the band just about coming to a stop, Brian keeps the plane moving, and we get our third movement of this attraction with the band playing off Brian. After a playful minute or so, you can clearly see he's leading the band into All My Friends....like a fucking boss. He gives everyone a full minute or so of playing around with the riff before dropping into it.

There may be songs written on this setlist but there's a lot of JAM in-between them all. Bee Jam gives us 10 more minutes of that sweet honey. It starts out real slow, slowly building and building to another moment where the whole band is locked in, sending us to another peak in the amusement park.

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We don't get a glorious segue but the band quietly finds their way into Leave The Light On next. The first jam builds into another showcase of Brian's shredding abilities. The second jam starts with Red working some of his magic and sends us off on another fine jam.

@Lopez gets a Birthday shoutout and The Man played for him to close out set 1!

My friends all found it funny and poked at me when Todd's Tots started second set. It's ok.

The Remedy got us right back into the groove. The band finds a quick exit strategy and takes us back into its bosom. The Remedy has that swagger where the whole band lets go, allowing the music to play. Not even 6 minutes in and we catapulted to a soaring peak and then plateau for a bit, waiting for the next moment to spark. In this interlude, we have Brian making his guitar sing a song of love with Red adding his vibrant color to the mix. Amongst all the beauty, the band eventually steps their way right into the next jam. Another jam that has multiple breaths about it.

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Lovesick Melody > Soil got nice and weird. A great number to dance to once it gets moving. Cam gets on the edrum and the whole room starts swirling about. Hot damn this gets sexy! Red's tossing out some alien psychedlia while the rest of the band makes sure the crowd keeps the ship spinning. Slam! Brian slays us into another platonic crescendo as we crash back into Soil.

The Postman to close down the set. Definitely wasn't thinking about Tots to open the set as Postman's vocal came to a close. Don't worry, though-- Postman delivers the goods as usual.

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So there ya have it. Steamboat > Frisco as the meat of the Mountain run. There's a whole lotta extra jam pouring out of that sandwich with every bite. Huge shout out to our crew for completely obliterating the dance floor and being a powerhouse of positivity, as always.

Radiating Spaffnerd love to Tara Gracer Photography for the amazing photos.

Mar
27
(666 Views / 4 Upvotes)
3 Replies

Setlist, Attendance, and Recordings for: 2018-03-15 - Old Town Pub, Steamboat, CO

A state like Colorado has many peaks scattered throughout. Add Spafford to Colorado and all you have are peaks. Steamboat Springs was the second stop on the four-night Spafford Colorado run to close out the tour. When the tour was announced and I saw those shows, I somehow wanted to make it, but there was a slim chance I would be able to with school. Well, let me tell you, after that raging Milwaukee Miramar show, I had to go see more, as I didn’t want my Spaff Infection to wear off. I ended up buying the tickets to each of the four shows while I was three sheets to the wind at 1 in the morning. I woke up the next day and saw that the Frisco show had sold out, so I was happy I did that.

Back on topic here, Aspen was Night 1 of the shows, and boy that was fun. After being up all night in Aspen, it was either go to sleep now (at 10am) or drive about 2-2.5 hours to Steamboat, and sleep at the hotel. The second option seemed doable at this point. We mustered ourselves up after some influential Slam Poetry, courtesy of Shea. We made it to Steamboat and went to the hotel to check in, Mother Steph fed us our McDonald's we picked up on the ride there since our room wasn’t quite ready yet. Once our room was ready, the first thing we did was take a nap as we waited for our other friends to arrive. We all ended up getting a sufficient amount of sleep and decided to head to a local restaurant for dinner.

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After dinner we headed towards the venue, Old Town Pub, which was very small compared to Belly UP Aspen the night before. As we arrived it was still pretty empty, so we got a solid spot front right of stage. It just so happens that I was feeling a bit "tired" and “winded” from the previous night of partying, so I sat in a bar stool at the side of the wall for literally the entire show.

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I was happily accompanied by Shea and Brandon. In all honesty I did not feel guilty sitting during the show, I was able to listen intently to the jams and watch Territo bust his sick dance moves on the floor. The band took the stage at 10:23pm and started out with what I could tell might be a long jam.

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Photo courtesy of Tara Gracer Photography

There was no distinct chord played that shouted at me and said, “oh, hey, it’s that song!” The Old Town Jam started out with some dreamy licks from Red, some nice grooves by Brian, and backed by a smooth beat/bass combo between Cam and Jordan. This continues on and changes a bit and starts to build a nice peak as they connect on a faster paced, highly danceable groove. At this point in the jam, I think Josh shouted Todd’s Tots at least six times.

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Photo courtesy of Tara Gracer Photography

The energy is picking up in the room and the jam, then BOOM!, peak central strikes again and knocks your head back and lets you “soak it in”. After the peak they slowly bring you down a nice carpet ride to the bottom of the mountain they just built. For the next few minutes, the play a nice melodic jam with soft touches that soothe the soul. As the notes start to get higher and higher, another peak is rising, and boom, they settle back down and keep the euphoric jam style pumping. Red starts to make it a little space-funky with a drippy noise played on whatever instrument that makes that noise (I really wish I knew).

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Photo courtesy of Tara Gracer Photography

Shortly after we hear the “untz” from Cam’s e-drum for a brief stint as we are still in the “dream” phase of this jam. The jam shifts to some more upbeat, fast paced rock n’ roll style. Once again, they situate themselves on a nice groove and hang there for a bit while Red eats a couple loaves of bread (aka lays down the space funk that makes your feet jump). Right about now I was basically standing while sitting and really giving it on that stool. The funk has entered the building and the place is going nuts to this jam, as I’m sure many had no idea what was going on, including myself.

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Photo courtesy of Tara Gracer Photography

The pace picks up more and more until Brian just takes off on a “Rampage Through Time” and completely rips the place to the ground as Josh is trying to hoard pieces of burning wood and sell them on eBay. When the fire settles to embers, it becomes mesmerizing to listen to. This guitar work is fancy as it builds to a bluegrass style jam which features Red on the piano. Jordan picks up the pace with some nice bluegrass style bass licks. Cam holds a nice steady “slap your thigh” beat. The place right now is having a blast, the whole entire building is moving up and down as if I were at a Badger Football game duringJump Around”. Whatever pieces of wood remained unscathed, are now set ablaze by Brian once again.

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Photo courtesy of Tara Gracer Photography

The peak happens, and they settle into a little “duel” between Brian and Red. Cam then hits a few drums (nicely) and the pace picks up and everyone is having a blast again. At this point I thought “this may be the most enjoyable jam I have ever heard” as Brian rips my face off with some machine gun style guitar work. At this point, they weren’t hinting at stopping anytime soon, and we were about a half hour in. At one point I thought I heard the song “Hollywood” coming on (around ~32mins), but many people heard many different possible songs that were about to happen. I am one who’s not the best at picking those things out. Gears shift back into a pleasing jam climbing to the top of Mount Elbert (highest peak in CO) at a slow, but appealing pace. Sploosh… They gently carry you down to some gorgeous piano work from Red, who switches gears shortly and hops on the synth, which sometimes reminds me of a Steve Winwood song for some reason. They find a nice slot to stick around in and haaaaang out for a little, before they switch to a funky groove around 45mins in.

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Photo courtesy of Tara Gracer Photography

At this point the effort to get from one groove to the next is nonexistent, they don’t even need to try, it is so smooth in a jam that is so large. They have covered so much ground in this jam so far and are not stopping quite yet. Think of it like Forest Gump, he just keeps running, this jam keeps jamming, and at this point I’ve gone through an entire case of Jif Chunky Peanut Butter and am now borrowing the peanut butter from the guy who claps like he smells bad. I mean seriously, this jam is ridiculous, there are more peaks in this jam alone than in all of Colorado. After an insane peak, the jam fizzles to some bluesy licks thanks to Brian. The jam starts to take the form of another song, but at this point no one was sure if it will actually be played, then boom, they segue into It’s a Bunch. It was a very straight forward Bunch before they left the stage for set break which allowed us to take the time and pick our jaws up off the floor.

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Photo courtesy of Tara Gracer Photography

Wow, a one song first set with easily the best, and longest jam I have ever heard from Spafford. The second set kicks off with Ain’t That Wrong. I love the jams that come out of this song. This one took off in the dance club party mode before switching to some “untz, untz” Cam jam. The major peak in this jam before switching back to the lyrics, features Cam pounding away reminding me of my friend Harambe pounding his chest (R.I.P.). Brian explodes out of the rising peak like a geyser and lays down the business.

Plans, which features one of my favorite lyrics, “When you stand so close to me, I can feel the way that you look at the world”, was up next. One may think that after jamming for the entire first set, the song choice would be maybe be “less jammy” for the second set? Wrong. This is Spafford and the slogan is #wejam. My favorite part of this song comes at the end of the structured portion, and right before the jam. Brian’s chords and Red’s piano do my ears a favor. The jam in this song is like looking at the coolest kid in school walk down the hallways as he, in slowmo, takes off his slick shades and flicks his hair to the side. Red covers us with some nice piano work for a bit before the jam starts to pick up and build. It is clear tonight that Spafford is firing on all cylinders. I say it every time I see them, they only get better and better.

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Photo courtesy of Tara Gracer Photography

Next up to bat for the winning team was Mind's Unchained which started off with a different tone from Brian. This Mind's seemed to be a bit slower than previous versions I have heard, which may make this one the “cool down” jam of the set. It features a soul-filled peak and some awesome blissfulness and a dash of flair to it. I felt as though I was swimming through space, then BOOM! the peak hits and I’m doused with goosebumps. I really had to go to the restroom at this point and was curious to hear the next song.

Shake you Loose kicks off and there was a lot of making out as I made my way to the bathroom. Glad to see some PDA going on at a show. The next song starts as I am getting back to my seat. Windmill, which is a rare song for me, starts. I really like this song. Through these riffs my troubles are always lost. If Spafford asked you out on a date, one date would feel like a million. They can take you to the Pluto with spacey jams, they can rip your face off with cheese grater jams, and they can fill your soul with beautiful jams. Windmill definitely fits the bill on a beautiful jam, and god dammit, I love it. After the wind dies down and the Windmill stops rotating, the cheers and applause erupts the smaller venue.

Based on the time frame there was probably one song left, and Feel Like a Stranger would be the final song of the set. It was, and it was a rager! A 9min Stranger got the place moving as the jam was rather upbeat and intense and came to a fierce peak. They left the stage and the cheers were more like roars. People in this room were absolutely on board with Spafford.

They came back out for the encore, which to my surprise was Backdoor Funk. Starting off funky and easing to a more mellow jam, the peak was slowly building. Brian was in rage mode for a few minutes as the peak was still rising. I love to watch his fingers move unbelievably fast while he either has his eyes closed, or tongue out looking at the faces he is melting, it is incredible. At the front door of this show was a MONSTER jam, and at the backdoor was the funk. I had too much fun at this show, now it was time to get some rest and hit Steamboat to do some snowboarding and skiing in the morning with the one and only Hilldaddy!

Yours truly,
The Funny Teenager
Keegan Lauer
@keeganlauer on Instagram and Twitter

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Special thanks to Tara Gracer Photography for the incredible visuals

Mar
27
(346 Views / 1 Upvotes)
1 Replies

Spafford will be supporting Umphrey's McGee for a 5 show stretch through Oklahoma, Indiana, and Florida this August. You can use the links below to purchase tickets (when they go onsale, we'll update this post when we've got the onsale dates) and you'll help support the site.

8/9 - Tulsa, OK
8/11 - White River, IN
8/16 - Orlando, FL
8/17 - Miami Beach, FL
8/18 - St. Augustine, FL

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