Let me try to set the scene as best I can. Element Music Festival is set on this amazing piece of property that has gorgeous mountains and hills all around it, there is a beautiful lake in the middle of it directly behind the main stage, the moon was huge all four nights because of the full moon on that Friday, and there were literally just 300 tickets sold to the event. Needless to say I knew it was one of the final times that I would see Spafford with such a small crowd. On this Saturday night Lotus had just delivered an epic set two and I was getting my ass handed to me by my extra curriculars that I had taken. I stumbled to late night which is legit straight-up in this barn at the top of a hill that makes you feel like it's a test just to get there. I ended up front and center early for the set with my "I'm Killing It" stickers ready. The time hit close to the set and there were only about 50ish people in the barn. My excitement was through the roof at the intimate show we were about to get!
I truly thought they would open with something heavy and rocking but the bouncing psychedelic sound of Mind's Unchained opened the night and an immediate smile came over my face. As we all floated along the opening section the crowd began to fill the front with us and the late night vibes began to truly sink in as Spafford took us into the first jam of the night. Brian and Red painted the psychedelic landscape in what I like to call the "fill the space" portion of the jam where no one is really taking a solo everyone is just grooving along feeding off the energy of the crowd and the room and filling the empty space in the sound. Brian then took us on his solo journey ending in an epic peak and the sound of the small but mighty crowd could be felt.
The always welcome People continued the set as Canada got it's first dose of Red's voice. I'm very interested to see the time stamp on this because the middle jam section felt like it was 10+ minutes. Red took a very extended solo that went from the funky quick chops of the piano to the dark and trippy sounds of the synth before heading into the guitar solo section. I was so excited I finally got the extended version of People I have wanted and am stoked to see where it goes in future sets.
Wasting no time at all the band brought out artist-at-large Jason Hann from String Cheese to play percussion on In the Eyes of Thieves. Jason did an excellent job during the composition section and added a fantastic dynamic to the dance friendly jam section. All band members could be seen looking back with big smiles on their face. I asked Red after the show how he felt Jason did and he said, "I think he did great, some percussionists we bring up get lost in the changes but he was always right there with it." The crowd began to migrate closer and closer during this jam as I looked back to see smiles on everyone's face.
Backdoor Funk was the highlight of the set for me, the tempo felt slowed down more than normal during the opening section. As the band progressed the jam broke down to a very bare bones groove before climbing into a crazy spacey sound section bending everyone's mind in the barn. Continuing into space Brian hit us with the nasty Backdoor solo before Jordan returned us back to earth with the final lyric section.
America came up next which featured a fun little lyric switch to "In the heart of Canada." Honestly, the jam wasn't all that and a bag of chips but it was still played nicely and featured a good solo from Brian. Continuing the rock vibe Lovesick Melody filled the barn and had heads rocking along before digging deep into the Jordan funk-filled Soil. Soil provided the dark mind-expanding groove that its getting a reputation for and saw some awesome rhythm work from Jordan and Cam. I'm sure I looked ridiculous as I just stared at Jordan for most of the jam but he was just so damned locked in!
Slip and Squander finished the set and was one of the few songs that got the Woos right as the song started from the Canadian crowd. The jam section of Slip felt like it was a little more played out than usual so I will again be interested to see the time on it once the recording (fingers crossed) gets released.
Spafford encored with Salamander Song which, much like the High Sierra set, was given a little extra love at the beginning seeing great guitar play from Brian. We were sent "Dancing the whole way home" eager to see what the band would bring the next day.
Peach Fest. July 21, 2018. Saturday at Peach was very wet, with a huge rain storm rolling in early in the morning and intermittently dropping buckets of water onto all of the Peach veterans and noobs alike. My day started off with a 35-minute wait for a shuttle to the top of the mountain, as they had seemingly forgotten people were still parking in our lot. @Cody, @Kyle-Burbank, Collin, and I met up with the legend himself, Johnny Love, as well as a few other S’nerds that were there for the set, and in between all the running around and trying to find cover, we managed to get ourselves thrown out of the main stage after we accidentally entered the reserved section.
After a long day of being damp and waiting out middle-aged Mule fans for pavilion seats, we made our way over to the Mushroom Stage. As we arrived, the band was starting to set up their gear, and they looked very worried about the amount of water pouring off the roof and onto the stage. The crew ended up putting them as far upstage as they could in hopes that the water wouldn’t get to the band, but we would all come to see that placement didn’t matter… they were going to feel some rain. Just before they got started, the crowd tried to help instill a little confidence in the band by erupting into a giant cheer, letting them know that we’d be there no matter what. We had waited all day, and we weren’t gonna let some stinkin’ rain get in the way of our Spafford.
Bossa Nova Jam > Funkadelic: I have no idea where to even begin with this. The jam went on for at least half an hour, and this whole segment took up almost the first hour of the set. Musically, it was incredible. The members have very obviously been picking up some jazz chops with their time off, because for an improvised jazz jam, they were absolutely Killing It. It seemed as though they were taking all of the anxiety and frustration they were having before the set, and turning it into fiery section after fiery section. What was really special about it was how the weather seemed to be reacting to their music. Words can’t describe the experience, but I’ll try to write an apt description.
This section of the show transported the band and the crowd to a whole different world. It was as if Mother Nature was Spafford’s LD and the rain was another cue she had access too, because every time the jam started to pick up or peak, rain would start pouring out of the sky. It was raining so hard at points that the wind was whipping it sideways, throwing it across the stage and swirling it through the radiant beams of light and around the band members, making them look like some sort of otherworldly jam beings. It was made even better by the fact that the crowd danced harder and harder the more rain came down. It was energizing us, keeping us in the moment, and appreciating the heat that was radiating off of the music the band was laying down. It was a truly breathtaking experience that no one in that crowd will forget for the rest of their lives.
> Electric Taco Stand > Dis Go in 5? > Electric Taco Stand: After that hell of a first half, ETS was a welcomed morale booster. There’s not a single Spafford fan I know that doesn’t enjoy ETS. They spent a little more time on the intro jam since they had to transition out of Funkadelic, but once they got into it, they got into it. After a big sing-a-long with the crowd, they proceeded to perform the dirtiest transition into Dis Go in 5? I’ve ever heard or seen. Dis Go was longer than I’m used to, but right as it started to go into that peak > ETS section, the rain started pouring again, as if it was summoned by the band’s music.
All In: This was the first pause of the night. They had been playing for an hour plus at this point, and they were ready to keep the energy going. All In is another of those songs that’s beloved by every Nerd, so the whole crowd was singing along and raging the night away to Jordan’s magnum opus of ballads. The coolest, but most unfortunate, part of the show was when Brian’s pedalboard started malfunctioning. The rest of the guys realized what happened and quickly started jamming as a trio to compensate for Brian’s gear troubles. He’s since told me that it was his Tube Screamer and Carbon Copy that were the root of the problem, and once he and his trusty sidekick Sashi troubleshot? the problem, he rose from the ashes like a phoenix (thanks Rachel!) and threw down the best solo of the night. He took all of his anger about the pedalboard and harnessed it to make the Raven cry out through the storm, melting the faces of anyone in a 100-hard radius.
Take Your Mama: This tune was fun to see, but definitely the odd one out in the midst of all the grandiose jams they were laying down. It seemed to serve as a sort of break for the guys, as Brian’s gear malfunctions and the rain weren’t making it easy for them.
The Postman: After seeing the written setlist, it’s fairly obvious that Postman was a last minute decision. They discussed what to play for a while before Brian suddenly dropped into that familiar intro, hinting to the audience that they wanted to go out with a bang. This really solidified the legend of this set, because the only way they could follow all of the madness that had just ensued was the most grandeur song they have in their catalog. The composed section was pretty standard, and once they got through the “I’m the postman” section, they took off to the races. I legitimately forgot we were still in Postman at a few points, because the jam took the music so outside the typical Postman sound. When they seamlessly dropped out of the jam and into the outro, the crowd went wild, and the rain started coming down harder than it had during the whole set. It was the perfect ending to an incredible night.
This experience is one I’ll never forget. The rain, the lights, the crowd, and everything else that contributed to that set couldn’t have been more perfect. We were there for jams, and they delivered beyond any of our wildest expectations.
It was After Midnight, and from left to right Red, Jordan, Brian, and Cam were set back 15 feet from the front of the stage in an attempt to keep them and their equipment out of the vertical downpour of rain that had been raging since 6 or 7pm. Far back as they were, there was no defense against the sideways rain and the boys and their crew grimaced their way through a challenging soundcheck. Things were in a rough state on Montage Mountain. I suck at estimating crowd size, so please give me some help in the comments, but I’d say there were about 500-700 rain-drenched and poncho-draped nerds in front of Mushroom Stage at this point.
I stationed dead center up front in the vicinity of @Cody, @Kyle-Burbank, @jaredsusername, Colin (where you @ homie), Mike, Jessica, @RobAF, @mcbwahh, @mdjabber, Bobby Jae (where you @ homie), and a bunch of other fine nerds. Earlier in the day I had the pleasure of meeting @Phokus and @AZCoug in the flesh and they were every bit as cool and embracing as I imagined. I also had the joy of spending lots of time with @diana-quirin. I wish I had caught up with them again for the set but everyone looks remarkably the same in a poncho. Energy was high, anticipation was peaked, and the elements were swirling in rage all around us.
As the set started, the crowd began to sway and bop to a smooth mellow jam that unfolded in surrreal juxtaposition to the fierce weather and conditions that the band and crowd were facing. I imagine when Spafford conceived this setlist and the opening Bossa Nova Jam, they were picturing a warm summer evening with mojito-sipping nerds dipping their feet in the wading pool alongside Mushroom Stage. But with patented patience, Spafford let the jam slowly and smoothly evolve, adding color and flourishes and layers as they went. I failed to take notes as in reviews past, so please litter the comments with your remembrances, but I recall a couple highlight moments of Red working the synth and Brian taking solos. It was a beautiful groove to start the night and it lasted for a half-hour or an eternity, I’m really not so sure.
When the opening notes of Funkadelic broke out, the crowd which had been bopping and swaying with plastered grins erupted in shouts and cheers. The dance party started to get funkier and while the storm was still raging it was clear that the energy the band and crowd had whipped up was a superior force and would win the evening. Again, I’m short on detailed description, but as a highlight I recall an abrupt drop in tempo at one point and Jordan taking a nice solo.
When Electric Taco Stand took off, you don’t need me to tell you the crowd went apeshit, jumping and singing right along as an hour (or eternity) into the show the first Spafford vocals rang out. Brian extended the scat section a little bit although not quite as much as he did at Bonnaroo. I love hearing the way they continue to experiment and take chances and keep things fresh in this way. As the funk gears shifted into the ballistics of Dis Go in 5?, the world was reminded that Spaffnerd crew ain’t nuthin’ to fuck with. The band was playing with as much intensity as I’ve ever seen and if you looked out at the crowd you would have thought you were at a ‘93 Rage Against the Machine show. I think Brian could’ve given Zach de la Rocha a lesson or two in rage face and Jordan was stepping into his bass like he was warming up for a UFC bout. I’m not sure what was going on under the Pavilion at this point but I’m pretty sure it didn’t look or sound like this. Spafford maneuvered back into ETS for the completion of the jam sammich.
I think there was a break in the playing at this point although I could be very wrong, I won’t pretend to have the clear recollection I would like to. I will admit that I dashed off to the Porta-me for some quick relief as the opening bass notes of All In were played. Don’t judge me, I was back in a jiffy. At this point I decided to wander the crowd for other vantages and vibes. Alongside the wading pool to the right of the stage gave me some nice room to move which All In pretty much necessitates. At some point during the jam, Brian experienced technical difficulties with his pedals and was joined by one super-powered mustachioed member of the crew as they knelt down to try to remedy it. At first, the frustration was evident in their body language. But Red, Jordan, and Cam absolutely CRUSHED their trio performance. I can’t wait to relisten to it. Red was raging the synth, Cam was going nuts with his cymbals, and Jordan was an apocalyptic beast of biblical proportions. The crowd was loving every second of it and I think this gave Brian and Superman some relief because their body language shifted to laughter and calm. After some time, the problem was either fixed or abandoned, I’m not sure which, but Brian popped up and jumped back into the jam like the machine-gunner he is. The crowd roared.
At this point, I started to experience some technical difficulties with my body so I took a seat on a low wall at the back of the crowd and watched the rest of the show. I love Scissor Sister’s debut album so I was mightily pleased when Take Your Mama came up next. It was a perfect fit for the set too and the lyrics embodied the muddy messy after hours party going on at the Mushroom Stage.
It was twenty minutes or so till hard curfew and the boys had a long chat before they started the next and final song. Which, as everyone who has seen @PowPhan802 's photo of the originally planned set list now knows, this is because this wild set had gone off the rails into the mystic and there was no longer anytime for the Weasel>Palisades>Weasel, Lovesick Melody>Soil that was written on a piece of paper turned to mush in the rain. The opening notes of The Postman rang out instead and it was a solid choice to fill up the remaining time.
(Thanks @PowPhan802 for sharing this photo!)
The boys took their bows and vanished into the night as nerds embraced and tried to articulate the magnitude of what we had just taken part in before heading back to their wherevers. This particular nerd was extremely lucky to be able to tag along with @Cody, @Kyle-Burbank , and @jaredsusername back to their rental with Colin. I was content and prepared to curl up on the floor but the man, the myth, the legend @Cody had other Plans and blew me up an air mattress and gave me a blanket and pillow that were made out of unicorn wool and angel feathers. My mind slid into sleep with subtle scents and Spafford sounds as @jaredsusername and @Kyle-Burbank played Postman and ETS on acoustic guitar.
This was an incredible night of music and a performance of EPIC proportions from Spafford. The conditions could not have been more difficult and they came out and delivered a monster show. I had the privilege to take shelter in their green room for a little while before the show, courtesy of the good graces of some Spaffamily. Seeing the love and energy that the band and crew and their friends and family bring to this hustle is amazing. Combine that with the love and devotion of fans who raged through a storm to watch this show and it explains why we are on this magical ride through this magical terrain together. Love to everyone who was there and who helped bring this about. Thank you, Spafford!!!
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: