Another day, and another adventure - but this was one that I have been looking forward to since the fall tour announcement. We pulled into our campsite at Buttermilk Falls State Park (less than 5 miles from the venue) on a chilly fall day in western New York after a 3.5 hour drive from Canton, NY where we saw Aqueous the night before. I get to see two of my favorite bands in the same weekend? Unbelievable!
Delaney got a fire going, and we hung out in the hammock and relaxed until it was time to get ready for the show. @Kyle-Burbank arrived just in the nick of time to head down to the venue (he drank way too much Jameson at Aqueous), so with Delaney laying down in the bed in the back of our car, and Kyle riding shotgun, we drove out of the campground and only a few minutes down the road to get to the venue.
We pulled down a side street where "The Haunt" appeared out of nowhere, with the band's giant RV sitting precariously out front. There were maybe 10 cars there, with just about 10 people outside waiting for the doors to open up. We were let in just as Space Bacon was wrapping up their soundcheck. I had been listening to these guys for a while and was pumped to get to see them opening up for Spafford of all people! They finished their soundcheck, so we went outside on the deck to "get fresh" as my aunt calls it. We were surprised to see that the venue was located directly on the inlet to Cayuga Lake, with little docks for people to pull up to on their boats and everything!
While we were getting prepared for the Space Bacon set, Brian happened to wander outside right where we were! We introduced ourselves all as Brian, something we did after the BB Kings show for whatever reason, and reminded him that we were those same people. He was happy to talk to us, and we had a great conversation with him to start off the night. Brian wasn't familiar with the geography of the Finger Lakes Area and claimed that had only seen Cayuga Lake on the map. He called it the Noodle Lake!
Anyway, we headed inside for the Space Bacon set and got down with a very small crowd (~30 people or so) for a great opening performance that featured a continuous flow of music. I'll definitely be going to see these guys again, and I recommend you do too! With the opening set over, the anticipation was even greater - we passed the wait by sparking up conversations with others there and handed out a bunch of "I'm Killing It" stickers. There was a sense of excitement in the air, I think that only 1 or 2 people that I talked to had seen Spafford before.
Everyone knew that they were the real deal, but I don't think they were fully prepared for what they saw this night! Right as the band took the stage, I gave the guy behind me a sticker and he was both amazed and confused with the message that it carried - he loudly said "I'm Killing It?" - everyone laughed and the band kicked in, a perfect way to start the show.
The Mind's Unchained opener set the tone for the rest of the night with patient, focused, and inspired improvisation... we were in for a special performance. The jam that evolved mimicked the feeling of being there. With less than 100 people in attendance, this was a HUGE change of pace from the sold-out 600 person crowd at Brooklyn Bowl the night before, and certainly had an intimate vibe. As early as it was in the show, I looked around at everyone else and could see that they already grasped why Spafford has so much hype.
I'm 3/3 with Backdoor Funk and I totally love it. This version is no slouch, a Brian solo turns into a sick jam that shows how well these guys are communicating right now and I definitely recommend giving it a listen. Hollywood has come to be one of my favorite Spafford songs, and I was so happy to hear it tonight! They didn't take this one for a ride, but check out this one and this one where they do and you'll appreciate it a little more.
Windmill was up next, and at this point, I knew that everyone in the room had completed their spaffnerd transformation with hoots and hollers jumping out of the crowd throughout the song! I only heard one negative thing all night, which was some drunk woman saying something about steam and harry hood... I'm not so sure that has any relevance to the performance, but some people have to realize the awesomeness of Spafford in their own way.
I'll take this moment to point out and fully appreciate Cam's skills on the drums - he puts a special touch on all of these songs and really drives the jams to some interesting places. His interactions with Brian, Jordan, and Red are exciting to watch and show that they really are having a great time up there! Brian in particular seems to be entranced with Cam and his abilities. He watches Cam almost as much as the crowd does and gives subtle cues in his playing that lead to some magical moments. After Windmill, I could hear some murmurs in the crowd for requests... Salamander Song and Sweet among the few being shouted out and I couldn't blame them. Then someone yelled Tweezer Reprise - Jordan shook his head, definitely not going to happen anytime soon! Instead, they broke into Soul to Squeeze, which had only been played 7 times at this point, featuring some awesome Jordan vocals with the crowd and the whole band singing along and smiling. I thought the band was reading my mind when Red broke into The Remedy. An already amazing set just got pushed over the top with one of my favorite songs. Could this have been inspired by a friend gifting Cam one of my Remedy pins at Brooklyn Bowl the night before? We'll never know! Regardless, I recommend checking this version out. This band fucking rocks!
Set break featured some great conversations with many newly converted nerds who were pumped to receive some "I'm Killing It" stickers. The great thing about these small venues is that they allow reentry! Going back to the car to refuel is an opportunity that I will never take for granted!
The band walked out onstage for set 2 to a crowd that was hungry for some more Spafford! Parody was one of the last songs I was expecting to hear as the set opener, but I was surely happy to hear it! This version features a great jam that gives birth to It's A Bunch out of seemingly nowhere. I really love Cam's approach to this song. The jam out of It's A Bunch is excellent, with the band in no hurry to get anywhere anytime soon - eventually we find our way back into Parody to finish off the song. What a start to the second set!
In The Eyes of Thieves is another one of the many great Spafford originals, it even has a studio version from the self-titled Spafford album, along with Parody, which I've given a lot of play time lately. The band jumps off after the lyrics into a nice little Jordan-fueled jam that had all four of them firing on all cylinders for yet another time in the night. We heard the opening notes of America, and knew we were about to get into some deep jam territory. The LD even threw on red, white, and blue lights for the full effect during the lyrics! The Reprise was the icing on the cake of this show, and the Plans encore was the other piece of cake that you know you needed to eat. This Plans featured a nice jam that sent us dancing the whole way home!
We stuck around after the show had ended and surprisingly enough, Kyle and I were the only two in the building who were interested in getting a setlist! That goes to show just how small this crowd was - in comparison. The guys on Spafford's crew told us that at Brooklyn Bowl the previous night, people were jumping on stage trying to grab setlists! I sent back a few of my Remedy pins with him as well to give to the band, so hopefully they received and liked them! It's the least I can do for these guys as thanks for creating such amazing music.
Overall, this was a kick-ass show - my first Spafford two setter, and the first of three shows I'll be seeing on this Fall Tour.
Catch them while you can at these small venues, because I'm telling you, it's not going to stay this way for very long!
First off, hats off to the venue. Everything about Brooklyn Bowl works and flows, the staff are uber friendly, and the room can be packed without feeling crowded. I only caught the tail end of Space Bacon, but what I heard sounded good. I will check them out for sure. Maybe someone who caught their full act can say more.
The boys came out and started us off with Shake You Loose. Man, I have to say one of the things I really love about Spafford that I think sets them apart is how well they blues. Jordan delivered the vocals beautifully and the whole song was smooth as smoke- great opener to get people moving and grooving.
Ain’t That Wrong kept it bluesy but sped it up several notches into the funk space, as it does so well. The song charged ahead with all of us chasing before breaking out into the first of many heady jams for the night. Whoaaa. The second or so movement of the jam is utterly joyful. The dancing took off and never looked back.
ON FIRE! I’ll say it, and I’ll mean it, until I somewhat contradict myself later, this is Spafford’s numero uno cover. I’ve never heard the original but this song is so blistering, funky, red-hot, and crushing. Red’s keys ripped through the air, Cam’s drumming was snappy and crisp, and Brian and Jordan drove the funk home with a sledgehammer. I don’t mean this in any derivative way, but during the first half of the ensuing jam I felt like I was lost in a funky alternate universe somewhere between “Shakedown Street” and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”
The transition back to ATW was smooth and organic and emerged from the jam with a great climbing energy. The crowd went wild with recognition like a dog jumping in circles when their family pulls in the driveway.
The ever beautiful and uplifting Slip and Squander came next and was clearly greeted as a crowd favorite. Where heads were banging for ATW-ON FIRE, SnS summoned different body movements from the crowd, hearts were opening, heart strings were bending, kindness was emanating. I swear you could feel a collective relaxation and disinhibition taking hold. (Side note: When they opened Music Hall of Williamsburg on 2017-04-13 with SnS, I felt it had the same magical, liberating effect on the crowd setting off a feel-good, dance-fest kind of show. This song is special.)
It looked like the band was getting ready to break for the set, but Jordan quickly spoke with Brian and Red then the opening notes of Leave The Light On got the crowd stoked. Everyone swayed to the reggae rhythms before the happy little “doota doot-doots” lit the fuse on a groovy, low-end jam. I can say this for the whole show, but let me highlight here how incredible the lights were at creating a visual space to compliment the vibes. By the end when the song was going full supernova on the crowd with the final cries of “Leave the light on for me, lady / so in the darkness I can find my way home”, I thought to myself: my god, she left the light on but does she have any idea what kind of intensity is about to come crashing through her door??
The crowd resumes its position, with some new faces and bodies moving closer to stage, and the boys start it off with People. I can’t say enough how much I LOVE THIS SONG. The magic in the words (“So love’s the common binding of PEOPLE LIKE ME AND YOU”) comes through in the music and I felt this song picked up and finished off the liberating project that SnS began in Set 1. Looking around me, more and more people were moving with increased freedom, bopping in unison while experimenting with their own unique gestures to embody the music.
Well, if the room wasn’t hyped already, the opening chords of Electric Taco Stand saw everyone get down and dirty. So fast, so good. Everybody on stage shined and gave the crowd a lot of funk for the figuring. Around seven minutes in the band drops the tempo and starts building toward the indescribably beautiful gem of a sonic experience known as Alternate Ending. This song has been played 16 times, with 5 of those happening in 2017 and it’s only October. I hope this trend continues. Beautiful slide back into a raucous ETS conclusion—pure party music, people.
And speaking of parties… whereas ETS announced itself instantly, the next song snaked slowly into the room all smoky and mysterious. My mind was racing with possibilities and as soon as I heard IT I knew we were in for a treat. Earlier I said ON FIRE is Spaff’s blistering numero uno cover, and I meant it, but Down Under is ON FIRE’s wild art school friend who makes every party crazier. This song was beyond fun to dance. I think its return to the lineup is a sign of very good things. The jam here is incredible. I swore I heard an Alternate Ending tease from Brian at the show but can’t find it on relisten.
Encore (I think Brian goosed Cam on the walk back to his kit.. this felt important to share)
Beautiful Day, as always, touched the crowd and the room sang its heart out when invited by Red. You can feel the song resonating with everyone in the room and how could it not. In the midst of an incredible concert, with Red singing his heart out and everyone feeling on top of the world, we can look back on our day—the good the bad the ugly and amazing parts—and recognize it for what it is and nothing more-- a beautiful, fleeting miracle. I’m 5-for-5 with this song… will the streak continue at Hamden??
I had a feeling the show would end on a more rocking note and they couldn’t have chosen better than All In. This was one of my first favorite Spafford tunes. Red lights drenched the stage during the heavier sections and the sheer amount of head banging, fist pumping, arm waving, and jumping around was the perfect send off to a solid show.
Thank you Spafford, thank you crew, thank you Nerds. That was good soul food.
I’m sorry this is so long already but I have a couple more things I need to get off my chest:
How much longer will we live in this magical world where any night you can get as close to the stage as you want and connect with these amazing musicians???
My detailed notes on each individual band member’s performance:
> Jordan: killed it
> Red: killed it
> Brian: killed it
> Cam: killed it
Leaving the 8x10 on Thursday night in Baltimore after Red & Co’s lovely rendition of Beautiful Day and waking up to a perfect autumn morning really set the tone for what would be a SpaffTastic evening. My excitement had been mounting all week. It was an opportunity to see a sellout show in my home town with many friends old and new.
Everyone had a great time at the pre-show meetup and I got to meet several s’nerds before the show. Around 8pm we headed into the venue and I snagged a bunch of new merch including the Philly print by Brian Bojo, which is so cool!
The stage was set, the house music bumping, and the “I’m Killing It!” stickers were being passed out all around me. It was certainly an amped up crowd eagerly awaiting an Evening with Spafford.
What better way to start off the show but with Dream Jam. The slow melodic buildup with Brian and Red exchanging jams throughout played right into the anticipation of the sell-out crowd. The peak was right on point and Cameron helped carry the smooth transition into Catfish John. Always a crowd pleaser, tonight’s version did not disappoint. As soon as I heard the opening notes of Walls I knew we were in for a special night. The energy level was fantastic and jams were tight with Brian taking the early lead guided by the tight rhythm delivered by Cam. Legend was a delicious change of pace before they unleashed a masterful version of Backdoor Funk. Cam and Jordan handled the song with precision and power that really helped guide several solos by both Red and Brian. A slow and dirty groove ultimately erupted into a Moss solo that had veteran fans and newcomers in awe. As if that wasn’t enough of a first set, they busted out Take Your Mama, the hard rocking cover by the Scissor Sisters that closed things out with bang.
(Photo by Kirsch)
Being just steps away from Independence Hall must have been on their minds as they ripped into the second set opener America. All four members totally in lockstep with each other brought the 500+ Foundry crowd along with them every step of the way. Space Gadget was a very pleasant surprise, the first one of the Cam era, and it had the crowd cheering and singing along before Brian stretched his go go gadget fingers to finish it out. Red’s Jam took center stage. Fast paced yet extremely patient, the jam that ensued was one of the best of the tour. The high octane continued right into a Weasel which gradually calmed into an ambient bliss before building back up to the goose bump inducing peak that you can only get from Weasel.
(Photo by Kirsch)
Philly is officially home to cheesesteaks, Rocky, and monster Postman jams. After the much loved cover Sweet, the band delivered The Postman for the ages and the second one the City of Brotherly Love has witnessed this year (see 01/24/2017).
It was a great night filled with amazing friends and amazing music. I can’t wait to see what more this fall tour will bring for the band as every night they seem to be getting better and better. The community of fans is becoming one of the most dedicated I’ve ever seen with live streams, social media posts, and of course a dedicated fan site. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of music and it’s an exceptionally incredible time to be following Spafford. They are truly great guys with incredible talent and a dedication to delivering great jams night after night. See you all on tour somewhere soon!
(Photo by Kirsch)
2017 has been a year full of changes for Spafford. The band started off with their first ever tour of the east coast and went through a lineup change soon after. Cameron Laforest took over on drums for long time member Nick Tkachyk and many fans, including myself, were worried about the ramifications of switching drummers at this point in the band’s development.
Cameron has truly made the position his own, and Wednesday night in Charlottesville was a great showcase of this.
The last time I had seen Spafford was at the Phish after show in August, which was also my first time seeing the band with Cameron behind the drums. Although the two shows were less than two months apart there was an obvious difference between the two performances. Even though the BB King’s show was very good, you could tell the band was still working on becoming comfortable with their new member and figuring out how he would affect their sound. It seems by now they have reached a comfort level that allows them to make some truly great music.
Wednesday’s show started off with the newest Spafford song Steak Sauce, and by the time they had transitioned into ETS, it seemed clear to me that this show and the rest of fall tour were going to be great.
Cameron is excellent at pushing the tempo in songs and is, in general, an aggressive drummer.
The Lonely from the second set is a great example of this. Brian seemed visibly amused at how quickly they were playing it, but the increased tempo seemed to suit them well and the following jam built off it beautifully.
Talking to people before the show, it seemed like most them were seeing Spafford for the first time, but were somewhat familiar with their music and very excited for the show. The Southern was noticeably fuller than the last time they played there, and the crowd was definitely more involved with the show. There were plenty of song requests called out, particularly Salamander Song, and by the end of the first set it was apparent they had matched or exceeded the expectations of most of the people in attendance, including my own.
Although I had seen them a few times before Wednesday night, something seems different about their playing compared to last tour, and besides having a new drummer, they seem more relaxed and in their comfort zone this time around. By bringing on some additional crew members for this tour, they have lessened their own responsibilities and can focus more on the music. Wednesday night saw very patient and consistent playing across the two sets, with my personal highlights being the Steak Sauce > ETS opener and the Lonely > Parody segment from the second set. After leaving The Southern a little past midnight, I walked to my car excited for the next night in Baltimore, and very optimistic for the future of this band.
The next night in Baltimore featured music just as good if not better as the band made their way north. Before the show started there was an obvious buzz in the air of the sold out 8x10 over what was about to take place, and the band was greeted eagerly as they took the cramped stage.
They once again opened with an instrumental, this time choosing the relatively new It’s a Bunch. The very solid first set featured the same tight and aggressive playing from the night before, with the highlight being the high energy Minds Unchained jam that transitioned perfectly into the ending of Ain’t That Wrong, which finished the version from the night before.
The band maintained their momentum into the second set, with a great Leave the Light On to start the second half of the show, before playing multiple fan favorites including a massive Virtual Bean Dip > The Reprise to the end the set.
A Beautiful Day encore is always a great way to the end the show, and this time was no exception.
I would not be surprised if this was the last time they played the 8x10, which is disappointing as it’s a great venue to see a show, but they have clearly established a fan base in Baltimore, and they may need a bigger venue the next time they come to town.
Both shows offered tight composed sections and patient, exploratory improv, and anyone who was at the shows or has listened to them online has hopefully realized that Spafford has not wasted anytime warming up, and have hit the ground running at full speed.
If you have not seen them this tour or at all, I highly suggest doing so if you can, as they probably won’t be playing in rooms this small for too much longer.
Special thanks to @ronskiiiii for sharing his photos for this review!
I first discovered my new favorite jam band, Spafford, back in February of this year. They came to Octave in Covington, KY. I was unable to attend the show but was interested in them as I am always looking for new bands to listen to. I was so ecstatic when I first turned on Electric Taco Stand.
Leading into festival season in Ohio I was on the search for where they might pop up and here came Resonance Music and Arts Festival. With an already stacked lineup, Resonance became the go to festival of the year for this mid westerner. But as a new Spaffnerd on the scene, I patiently waited all summer for their 2 sets at Resonance. I told my best friend, Michele, about them and we couldn't wait to see them live for the first time together.
They opened with Mind's Unchained to set the late night festival mood right. It was a hot and humid setting underneath the Woodlands Stage tent. As my first ever Spafford experience, I could tell right away this was not your ordinary jam band. I had my trusty air guitar out for the entire hour and a half set.
Brian with his intriguing technical prowess on the fret board of his guitar kept me more entertained for that set then I was the entire weekend COMBINED.
Red and Jordan kept the groove and funk progression going and had their own spots throughout the night. They kept the big, sweaty crowd moving and dancing on their feet while everyone kept the beat with Cameron manning the drums. Having our traditional front row party, Michele and I danced and grooved to every song.
The hour an a half set included, Leave The Light On, It's A Bunch, Ain't That Wrong, Backdoor Funk, and The Postman to close out the set. They left us all cheering and wanting more. Well, for us lucky ones that caught their first set, we had one more night of Spafford ahead of us.
Awaiting this set since the last one ended, Resonance had a TON of good bands for Saturday. Like, The Motet, The Main Squeeze, Yonder Mountain String Band, just to name a few. But Spafford was the band of the weekend for me personally and I was jokingly renaming Resonance, "Spaffordfest".
As I was walking around the festival I was informing everyone I came across about Spafford. I reminded everyone they had a 2nd chance to witness history later that night back at the Woodlands Tent for their 2nd set.
They opened the show with an exciting Dream Jam that kept everyone piling in the tent once again for another moment none of us wanted to miss. I started seeing the "I'm Killing It" stickers dance around me. My best friend Michele, was approached and given a cherished sticker.
With more groovy beats from Cameron and Jordan to keep our feet moving plus the mind blowing, shred master Brian, and Red dancing his fingers along every key stroke, this 2nd, hour long set, woke everyone back up after a long 3 day festival. It shook us to the core as they closed the night off with America and The Reprise.
All in all it was a great weekend of music and entertainment. Spafford is the new hottness on the rise and I can't wait for those Fall tour dates!