Nerds…the August 10th, 2018 show at The Chesterfield Amphithteater might not be remembered as the set of the summer…after all, they played their first Bonnaroo and are gearing up for Lockn’. Peach Fest ushered in the mythically unforgettable whipping rains that caused Brian’s pedal to fart out, leaving Jordan to lead the rhythm section of All In jamming’. Surely it wouldn’t have the mystique of the Element Festival with the Cressman/Hartwick and Hann sit-ins and the best Lonely to date…in CANADA!!!! They used their PASSPORTS, for heaven’s sake!!! And I’m sure that for those lucky enough to catch the late night set at Hi-Fi in Indy, it couldn’t possibly touch THAT Nerdvaganza, not only for it being the lengthiest of the summer sets (1 hour and 45 minutes, I’m told), but for the sole fact that it was an opportunity for the Nerd faithful to gather, as they often do, to show appreciation with our own kind for our favorite jam quartet. It’s a Spafford late night set…need I say more? Actually, I think I will…
It MIGHT have even been forgotten except for one simple fact. I was in the audience…and I will certainly never forget the “Major Rager,” aptly named for it having occurred the same weekend as the PGA Championship Golf Tourney, which, if you’re not a golf fan, was also one for the ages. And any time I can unexpectedly snag a really cool print; when I have the opportunity to meet the man, the myth, the legend himself Chuck Johnson; and when, in the same evening, I can convert a new Nerd…well…it’s a memorable night.
And given the circumstances surrounding the security staff at the venue and the weather that had plagued the area all day, it MIGHT have been dubbed The Chesterfield Chafing (best I could do), The Missouri Uncompromise, the Show-Me State ShitShow, given how it began. Sheets of pouring rain battered my cousin’s white Infinity Mom-mobile as I drove 15 minutes north to the home of my college friend, musician/producer extraordinaire Lenny Mink. The entire drive I’m thinking, “Rain? Again? I JUST went through this at Peach…at least I was prepared for that.” Then again, it’s Spafford, so all I could think of was Bill Murray in Caddyshack. “I don’t think the heavy stuff’s gonna come down for quite a while.”
Lenny and I hung out at his place for a bit, hung out at his studio, a puff and vodka. Lenny is Russian, so vodka is always on tap…though this one was from Hawaii. Who knew?? At about 5:45, I’m so antsy to get to the venue but also to play him some Spafford in the car to warm him up. My jam du jour? ETS sammy from Terrapin Crossroads, of course! I was so frustrated because the Infinity wouldn’t connect to my phone via bluetooth, so I kept holding it up so he could hear exactly what they were doing as ETS gave way to Alternate Ending, then back to the reprise of ETS, those joyful climactic major changes kicking it just as we hit the seemingly sparse parking lot scene.
The Chesterfield intimate outdoor venue nestled conveniently in this midwestern suburb’s Central Park, in front of a small lake and around the corner from a YMCA.
The venue had one sidewalk on which the main line eventually formed but was completely empty when we arrived. I soon realized that because of the heavy rain, which had since slowed to a steady but harmless drizzle, most people stayed in their cars to party. When we finally made our way towards the entrance about 15 minutes later, a line had formed of couple of hundred people. Since Lenny and I had to pick up our tickets at Will Call, we left the line and headed over to the window. That was the first sign of trouble.
The ticket window peeps couldn’t seem to find anyone’s tix. I heard them ask at least 3 other parties in front of me “When did you buy your tickets?” Good God. Well, I got the same question and when she finally “found” mine, she handed me a paper ticket, saying to me, “Ok now I’m going to have to give you a paper ticket.” I’m thinking…okaaayyyy…how else would you have given it to me, on a sandstone tablet? Bar code tattoo?” Suffice to say these people had some issues to sort out.
We go back to the line…Spafford was set to take the stage at 6:30. 6:15, 6:20, no movement…6:25…we moved up maybe 15 feet. At 6:30 I’m thinking, “Well, they’re not going to take the stage with all these people standing out here. I mean, that would be ludicrous, right? Breeeeeaaathe….
I’m wearing my Spaffnerds on the Rocks shirt…yes, so the band can see that I will go anywhere, anytime to see them and for other Nerds to recognize me and maybe say hello. Heck, maybe Cam will see my shirt, recognize me as the guy who caught one of the sticks at Red Rocks and, like Mean Joe Green in the old Coca Cola commercial, walk through the crowd and hand me a stick, patting me on the shoulder, saying “To match the other one.” (Spoiler alert…that didn’t happen.)
Suddenly, the boys take the stage…opening chords of People…my blood is now on full boil.
Some backstory…3 days prior, Tuesday, was a travel nightmare. 14 hours from LA to Winston-Salem, up at 6 the next morning to work all day on my feet at a BMW dealership training people, then a 6 hour drive to Atlanta in the worst thunderstorms I’ve ever seen…and I mean EVER…then overnight at a friend’s house in Atlanta, then a flight Friday to St. Louis, so now I FINALLY get to relax…orrrrrr I am in the midst of yet another nightmare. W. T. F!!!!!
I walk past the patrons up front. I approach the security staff. I’m clearly upset, but keep telling myself “What would Buddy Pierce do?” (see Solana Beach 2/28/18) Well, Buddy ain’t here, so I am pleading w them without getting TOO angry, that it’s insane they can’t process us through any faster, that some of us are here JUST to see the band that is now playing one of my favorite songs. AND they’re only playing for an hour…or so I thought.
Long and short of it is…the security team just didn’t give a shit about expediting people into the venue. Regardless of whether the weather almost canceled the show and there were delays and a curfew, that’s all fine and good. But as a team, they should’ve adjusted to the situation. And THAT’s…one to grow on…
NOW…getting back to that paper ticket?…Yeah, I found out as we finally approached the entrance that they processed the e-tickets first and made those with the paper tickets wait, which seemed rather ludicrous, but I’m tired of talking about the staff, let’s get on to the music!!! I finally reach the entrance and, as an extra little F-U, the dude takes about 15 seconds to put my paper bracelet on my wrist. Try counting out 15 seconds while missing Spafford jamming out on People and see if your head doesn’t explode…(spoiler alert: it WILL!)
I dart into the venue , Lenny following close behind, looking on like I’m his unruly child run wild at an amusement park. This is what I love about Spafford…I make a Bee(jam)line right for the front middle…and within 30 seconds, I’m right behind the guy on the rail, Lenny behind me, my eyes locked on Brian (and he on mine, twinkle twinkle) as he is building towards the climax before lyric re-entry, Dunh duuuuuunnnhh…dunnnnhhhhhh….duuuunnnnhhh “People like me and youuuuuuuu…” It is, as it always is…a sublime opening number, the syncopated funk beckoning to the primarily Umphrey’s crowd to reconsider if they were only half listening to the boys from Prescott. A smile and a sigh washes over me. I feel awful for Lenny not having experienced the complete song, but it’s out of my control. I surrender, I breathe, all is well. It’s time to get funky.
It might have been serendipitous that we missed half of People because, apropos of a FB conversation last week about what song to play if one is introducing another to Spafford, they played what I consider to be the ultimate song in the Spafford starter kit…The Remedy!! In my opinion, it has all of the ingredients to make an instant Nerd. Great lyrics, a great hook, a great jam, a funky beat, a thrilling climax and, most importantly - and the reason why they set themselves apart from so many other jam bands - HEART!
Now mind you, I’ve seen The Remedy live 5 times (Bing, Spaffbase!) and it never disappoints…but there was something about this one that was different. I don’t recall Brian being this inventive up and down the neck as he was on this take and it reinforced why I stalk his fingers (that sounds so vile) throughout every show. You just never know what’s coming next. I remember throwing my hands up in disbelief several times during the jam thinking “I just…I can’t even…what is going ON and why can’t I have this every day?!?!?!” I turn to Lenny, a guitarist of 30 years, who says “These guys can JAM! And his tone is amazing…you just don’t hear that kind of tone from a lot of these bands.” I agree, of course.
Whenever the double tap of the opening chords of Backdoor Funk ring out with just enough space and just enough time to hear those “in the know” to cry out in delight, I am instantly reminded of the 7 I’ve heard live (Bing AGAIN, Spaffbase stats!) and the dozens on my phone that, wherever I am, transport me to another planet. When I hear those chords, my entire body is jolted into excitement and I am instantly excited not only to hear my 7th Backdoor live, but also for Lenny, who gets to hear another quintessential Spaff tune with yet another great hook and some killer funk. Lenny may have had accolades for Brian, but he was gaga over Cam on the kit. This one also never disappoints, but again, there seems to be some higher level that these jams are achieving this summer which is preparing us for fall tour of limitless exploration. Whether we will get more of these so-called Type 2 jams, I can’t say, but the freedom and inventiveness in their builds are reaching new heights of exploration.
Right in the middle of the jam, I had the first of two heartwarming moments for a dyed-in-the-wool Nerd. Guy BEHIND me...tall, dreads, we had exchanged a few knowing glances, he's checking out my shirt, finally he is right behind me, I can feel his breath in my ear and I’m thinking, “I’m either 1) being offered drugs, getting hit on or stabbed to death with a letter opener…slow, methodical, bloody, silent death. He whispers in my ear “Shhh…don't tell anyone, I’m leaving right after these guys, they're who I came to see.” I look at him. "Me too, though we’re gonna stay for a bit, my buddy wants to see a little Umph....but I hear ya, man!" He gives me the thumbs up. I turn back a moment later and say quietly (don't wanna be a chomper, after all!!) "They're the best." He yells "The BEST! I haven't been this excited about a band in 20 years!" I mouth back "Me too." Hey, its not a knock on the closing band, but I was there specifically for Spafford.
After Backdoor ends, Lenny is hooked. The guy in front of me…bald, mid-40’s, turns to his friend, lets out a sigh like he has just had the shit kicked out of him in the best possible way, then turns to me and says, "I haven't had my face melted like this in 15 years." I shed an invisible tear of pride and joy.
We all take a much needed breath…the crowd is all…in. The opening chords of Electric Taco Stand kick in, I am both elated and racked with guilt. I just played this for Lenny in the car!!! Doh!! Why didn’t I pick the Solana Windmill or one of 15 amazing In the Eyes of Thieves, that would have covered the entire 20 minute drive from his house!! I turn to Lenny, apologizing profusely. He doesn’t give a shit, he’s lovin’ it!!!
But what I thought would be a delicious taco sammy smothered with Alternate Ending demi glace or Dis Go in 5? aioli turns out to be a mere appetizer…but…like…a crab cake appetizer at the best seafood restaurant in America that you choose to eat for dessert because you like sweets, but you loooooove crab.
They bid us farewell…wait, it’s only 7:15! A 40 minute set?!?!? Guess the rain and the curfew forced their hands...![alt text](![image url](image url))But what a 40 minutes…
Epilogue: Lenny and I walk up to the mercy table. I introduce myself. “Hey, I’m Marc. How’s it goin’? What’s your name?” “I’m Chuck.” “Oh cool…Chuck…(as I’m trying to think of a way to basically ask “Why are you here?”) And he says “Chuck Johnson.” “Oh cool, great to meet you, Chuck.” And I start in on how amazing the set was and a quick debrief of the door situation and that’s when he says, “Up until 5:45, we didn’t think the show was going to happen at all.” That’s when the pre-show events started to create some kind of narrative in my mind. And every time he spoke about the band, he said “We…” Finally I realized, okay this guy is an integral part of this organization, I should probably know him. And then 30 seconds later, it hit me. I’m talking to THE Chuck Johnson! Chatted for a few more minutes, bought the Major Rager print and was on my way.
All in all, a fantastic set with a few hiccups pre-show, but what a tight, albeit short, set, with some surefire highlights. Please forgive the lack of band photos in this post, as I try not to take my phone out when Spafford takes the stage and I figure everyone else is taking pics for me. Guess I'm old-fashioned. :-)
See you in Chicago October 5th, Nerds!!!!!!
I want to start this review off by talking about the first venue for my 7th and 8th Spafford adventure. The Lawn at White River in Indianapolis is an open amphitheater with mainly a grass standing/seating area that is in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. It was the perfect setting for an evening filled with great music being delivered to us by Spafford and Umphrey’s McGee.
Spafford came out to a big, early crowd. Many of the people around me were seeing Spafford for their first time. I assured them they were in for a treat. As the openers, Spafford brought the heat with When It Falls to start their hour-long, four-song set.
Right into, what is becoming a classic, Ain’t That Wrong, to give the Spafford fans and new fans a taste of their musical prowess.
Another favorite of mine, All In, came in nicely as the sun was setting behind the stage and put Jordan’s vocals caressing across the lawn at White River. Red brought it with the keys on this one in the meat of the song along with Brian shredding on the guitar. Cam kept that tempo smooth and in the pocket.
To close the set they set off on America. A perfect song to get us Midwesteners dancing around around and ready for Umphrey’s set. My overall impression of this set was exactly what I expected: professionally sound and perfect for opening set and but a prelude of what was coming later at HI-FI!
After Party at The Hi-Fi:
This show had been sold out for weeks. You could feel the excitement and anticipation growing in the night while waiting in line to get in to the venue. As I walked through the door, the first thing I did was snag a @Jon-Rose print from the merch table, then found my spot in front of the stage between Brian and Jordan.
*Photo credit Aaron Bradley
They fellas came out to a resounding applause and atmosphere to a packed house.
Opening with a funky Funkadelic was a perfect way to continue that excitement from earlier. Right into Broken Wing> My Road. Red really slayed the keys on My Road along with his angelic vocals. They went on a spree of shredding this one out. I was in awe of the magic I was watching on stage. I couldn’t believe how tight these guys were. Their chemistry is off the charts! I’ve seen a lot of music and this is one of the VERY few times that I can remember where I was so excited from the first note to the last.
Leave The Light On was next and got EVERYONE singing back to the band. You could feel the room sending the energy back to the band which they feed off of really well. This was one of the best LTLO that I had seen. The way they brought it out of the main chorus and into a jam and back into the chorus and back out again.
Mad World, it’s a Maaaaaaad World, was up next (which I happened to call earlier in the day even!) I love their version of this Tears For Fears classic. Their spin on this instantly made it my favorite cover that they do. While every other song in the set is fast paced and shreds, this song, during the chorus anyway, slows it down for just the right amount of time to bring you back up again!
They ended the set with another Brian shred fest, The Postman. You can never go wrong with this pick as it is a favorite among just about everyone. Lots of jam and fast paced slaps from Jordan, Red on the keys tickled our ear buds with those highs, and Cam kept us grooving on the bottom end.
They encored with The Reprise. Probably my favorite of the whole evening and the cherry on top. Brian continued playing The Raven to remarkable speed and technicality. All-in-all, I feel that this set at The Hi-Fi in Indianapolis will go down as one of the best sets I have seen all year from any band.
Thank you, Brian Moss, for melting my face off multiple times.
*Photo credit Aaron Bradley
Special shout-out to Aaron Bradley for the incredible photos and to Mike Jacobson for the capturing video (link on the show page) of 3/4 of the opening set at The Lawn at White River. All you Nerds friggin rule!
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.