This was my first Spafford show. I’ve been looking forward to this for months as I have not listened to a band this obsessively before seeing them live since I started listening to Phish in high school. The deep dive has been strong the last 3-4 months and my excitation was peaking hard the morning of the show (pretty sure I was just pacing around my house for an hour waiting for my girlfriend to get off work so we could head to the festival). We arrived at the Werk Out with a few hours before Spafford was set to play and it is really just a beautiful, small festival. No waiting lines, beautiful venue, and laid back vibe. After we hiked all our stuff in and set up camp with a big group of our friends, I ran down to catch some music because the Thursday night lineup was absolutely killer. As I was enjoying Mungion’s set, I saw the boys pull up behind the stage and eventually Cam came over and sat down next to Rob Compa (who was about to shred with Mungion) and the dreams of a sit in started to float through my mind. I am a guitar player myself, and Brian and Rob are easily my favorite two players not named Trey Anastasio.
Alas, the sit in never happened, but just the thought of it was enough to keep me geeking until the set. After Mungion, Lettuce kept the tunes rolling and Michelle and I went over to camp out in front of the other stage to wait for Spafford to start. We set up 15-20 yards back as I usually like to be close enough to see well, but far enough back to get the best mix possible. The boys finished setting up and left the stage empty and utter excitement (and mild nervousness for my first show) was coursing through my entire body.
After a few more minutes of waiting and Michelle making fun of me for being a ‘Nerd and setting up a notepad on my phone so I could remember all this when I sat down to write the review, the boys took the stage. Jordan started up the opening bass line of All In and a sense of “I’ve made it” rushed over my body. This is the first song I became obsessed with, so it was a fitting start to my first show. Unfortunately, there were some sound issues at the beginning of the song with a very audible low end feedback smothering every other frequency. Moss made some gestures to the sound guy that the low end was causing issues and he seemed to fix it for the most part as they made it through the composed part of the song and I started to forget there was ever a problem. Right as they were finishing the ‘song’ and Brian was shredding away to head into the jam, the feedback (my buddy thought it could have been a grounding issue) reared its ugly head and came back with full force. My stomach immediately sunk, they only had an hour to play and it was bad, set ending bad. The guys faces were visibly upset and Moss eventually stopped playing all together with his hands up in a “what do we do” type frustration. As the sound guys kept working on the issue, the band, although obviously perturbed, kept chugging away with a groove. I cannot say how well they handled themselves in what was a terrible situation. After about 3-5 minutes it seemed the sound guys fixed the issue and the boys were still holding it down and grooving while Moss provided some sick jazz runs and Cam was adding tasty snare rolls. The sound issues may have been a blessing in disguise as it caused them to be very patient building up the jam. Once they felt comfortable they could play without issues they slowly built up the jam to its roaring finale that we all know and love. Moss shredding, the band flushing behind him, building into a glorious peak before returning to the composed ending to wrap up the song after about 25 minutes.
After this, it looked like they were going to go into a Red song, but there were issues with his microphone and they started up Broken Wing. Right away you can tell these guys love this song as there were smiles all around while they set the stage with a nice opening jam. I really enjoy this song and I always get a NASCAR-y vibe from the riff that leads into the vocals. Moss crushed the vocal portion of the song and they settled in for the jam. I often try and think of the reasons why this band is one that really grabbed me so tightly and there are many reasons, but a large part of it is how patient they are with their jamming. They are not afraid to take their time and it really makes the release at the end that much greater. Red was adding some very tasteful playing behind Brian’s leads, while Cam and Jordan were holding down the groove incredibly tight. They kept the energy low and light for a bit before slowly starting to build it up with Moss leading the way. This is what makes him such an incredible guitar player to me, he really knows how to craft a solo and build you up, taking you through little peaks and valleys while shifting the overall energy upward and finally releasing in a peak of joyful bliss.
Absolutely crushed and with the sound issues far behind them they started up It's A Bunch. I was really hoping to hear this song as it’s the one song that ‘For Amusement Only’ really turned me on to and is a top 10 song of mine. They played it to a T, with no extended jamming, which I was totally onboard with since the first two songs went close to 40 minutes.
After a brief pause, Moss started up the opening chords of Electric Taco Stand and with about 15 minutes left I figured this would be the last song of the night. ETS is such a great fucking song and they were funking around hard in the beginning. My notes are “percussive Moss, shuffle Cam, slap poppin’ Jordan, chordally tasteful Red” so I’ll leave it at that. During the vocal portion the crowd was singing along to the chorus and it really makes for a great live experience. Out of the vocals and coming into the jam they settled into a nice groove and kept with the theme of the night (every show?), PATIENCE! Again I was awed at their comfortability to be patient with a jam. Eventually, they moved into a new sonic arena and Moss was teasing a melody on his guitar while singing/scatting over it. I’m not sure what it was, it could also have just been a nice improv melody, but maybe some ‘Nerds can help out when the recording drops. After building this up to one final peak, they dropped back into the final chorus (with the crowd really singing their hearts out now) and concluded my first ever Spafford show.
Yes, there were issues in the beginning, but I couldn’t have asked for more and I was grinning like a Cheshire cat for at least ten minutes after. Spafford is my favorite band these days and I cannot wait to keep riding along this journey. Cheers!
P.S. JRAD played directly after and those guys are absolutely unbelievable. They may be the best improv band on the scene right now. My jaw dropped countless times.
Just thought it'd be fun to get something new going on around here and also have everyone listening to the same thing at the same time...so how about a show of the month thread open for discussion?
Should also be a cool way to find new favorite shows that you might not find otherwise, and as people continue to join the site, it gives them a way to jump right in.
So give it a listen and a review!
Albuquerque, NM @ Low Spirits
Funkadelic > Midnight Rider > Makisupa Policeman > Midnight Rider, Ain't That Wrong, People [ 1 ]
People [ 2 ], Leave The Light On, In The Eyes Of Thieves, Down Under, Parody
Electric Taco Stand > Alternate Ending
[ 1 ]: Unfinished[ 2 ]: Finished
Also, if you want to pick the show for September or October, leave a reply for that as well.
After the late night madness, Spafford moved from the barn to the main stage which has a beautiful background of mountains, a lake, and trees as far as the eye can see. Set time was 5:15pm and the weather gods provided cloud cover for the opening of the set. This allowed for maximum daytime dancing! The crowd was once again very intimate as this was the Sunday of the festival and many guests had left earlier in the day (still was basically under 100 people). As we approached the stage we noticed two extra microphones in the back left corner. Natalie Cressman and Jennifer Hartswick from Trey Anastasio Band were artists at large and immediately the wheels started turning in my head on what song would they bring out horns for? I was freaking STOKED!
I've read a lot of times on the forums and Facebook that a lot of people like Spafford because of their ability to open a set stronger than most bands we see, and man if you're one of those people wait till you listen to this. Lonely began the set in an un-freaking-believable 30 min performance that is Certified "Do not drive while listening to this song." Mr. Cameron Laforest puts on an absolute clinic laying down fantastic grooves that the band could create jams on top of. First time I can remember looking at my phone was around the 20 min mark in the midst of Red and Brian trading big sections of the jam and thinking to myself, "Are we still in Lonely?" Spafford continued on to the final peak and as Jordan sang the final verse I checked the clock and was amazed we were at the 30 min mark.
My Road (My Road) finally showed its head as the second song of the set. After the opening section by Red, the jam took a strong opening form grooving nicely along but sort of got jammed into the noodle infinity for a little bit before nicely switching gears and ending in a strong peak by Brian. The rocking opening of Ain't That Wrong continued the set. In the middle of ATW a bunch of kids and adults wearing costumes walked through the crowd and some of them were on stilts (the festival is very family friendly there was a whole kids area with bubbles and different activities to do). Ain't That Wrong's jam kept the foot on the gas pedal and featured a strong solo by Mr. Moss.
In an interesting decision a stand alone Reprise came next which i hoped meant it was going to get the royal jam treatment but just had a small jam section attached to it before going into the ending guitar rift (to complete the America from last night, I suppose). In the biggest "bust out" of the weekend Legend served as the lovely cooldown song after the 4-song smack down (clocking in about 1 hour and 10mins). Legend was last time played at Ullrs Tavern Winter Park, CO on March 17th. The crowd pleasing Leave the Light On came over the speakers next and the long jam theme continued. Jam one took on a couple different themes and we all floated along soaking in the sun that had come out of the clouds and cheers rang out as the band entered the middle vocal section. Spafford then plunged into the dark second jam and the daytime dance moves came out in full force and Jen and Natalie could be seen coming onto the back of the stage getting their instruments warmed up.
As Leave the Light On finished I looked at the clock: there were only 10 minutes left before the end of the set. I was guessing some sort of cover as to what they would play with the TAB horns. Much to my excitement the sound of Galisteo Way filled the mountain air. Jen and Natalie didn't start playing until the quick shuffle part after the 2nd chorus. Natalie took the first solo on trombone and everyone in the band got a huge infectious smile on their face. You couldn't help but smile and dance. Jen on trumpet took the next solo as the band ran through the same quick shuffle before going into the chorus once again. The jam continued the horny madness and added in Brian as the three of them traded solos back and forth. Red couldn't contain himself... he was just laughing and smiling. The set ended with the crowd and the band singing together and clocked in at a 2-hour-and-5-min 7 song magical afternoon set. I can't wait to hear all your comments when the recording drops and as happy as the band was with the horns I don't think it's the last we will see of some Spafford Horn Funk.
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.