Wake up 4am. New Durham, NH. The Live Free or Die State. Responsibly head off to work and achieve for 3 hours. Leave instructions for coverage and proceed to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts so that I may board the Aluminum Albatross and ferry passage to the Big Easy...New Orleans, Louisiana. Apply lubrication to the mind and soul. So far, we are off to a splendid beginning.
The Spafford of Arizona is performing two late night shows to close out Jazzfest and today is the release of their album, “For Amusement Only.” Months ago, when the shows were announced, I was offered room and board from Team IkoIko and I could not refuse the opportunity to bear witness and experience Nola for the first time.
I won’t bore you with my exploits leading up to the Spafford show, but there were beverages and another unnamed show to get prepared for what lay in store. We arrived at Nola Republic a little before midnight and were the second folks in line. There was a show just finishing up inside the venue so we watched as that crowd filed out and we mingled with some anxious Nerds and a few Nerds-to-be. We were granted entry and I quickly made a beeline to the merch table to procure and thank @Jon-Rose for the incredible print that he did to commemorate the two night stand in the heart of Nola Jazzfest. We were all pleasantly surprised to enjoy the band’s soundcheck, as they were literally getting set up as we came in. A few people quickly noticed that Joel Cummins from Umphrey’s McGee was in attendance and the whispers began, hoping for a sit-in...more on that later.
The show opened with an energetic Dis Go in 5?. I was honestly shocked to hear this in the opening slot, but immediately questioned why? Dis Go makes an incredible opener! Despite having to deal with a canceled flight and driving in from Dallas...the band was in high spirits and full of vitriol. The sonic keyboard opening of In The Eyes of Thieves filled the heavy rafters of Nola Republic and the crowd responded in kind. This was the second inkling that the evening would be special. Following the structured and vocal portion of the song, the band launched into a deep, spatial jam that was accompanied by some spectacular work on the lighting board from LD Ben Factor. As much as Spafford would rule the evening, Factor also showcased his ability to drape music visually in improvisational, expressive fashion.
The first song of the evening off of the freshly released album came in the form of a wonderfully jammed out Leave The Light On. My quick notes from this simply state, “first jam: experimental, second jam: epic psychedelia.” This is where I tell you to go straight to the media player and listen for yourself, because words will honestly fall short of accurately portraying how these jams were crafted.
Fuel made its live debut following LTLO and stuck to the frame of the album. As this song goes into rotation I’ll be curious to see how the band works it up.
The myths became truth when Brian welcomed Joel Cummins to the stage to do work with Red on his expansive rig of keys for Ain’t That Wrong. The two did get right down to business making a funky, groovy double-helix together. Cameron and Jordan added some bump and Untz to the mix before Brian set the Raven free to soar above the rustic timbers.
I could not place why the next tune sounded so damn familiar and I begrudgingly put it down as a question mark. When I awoke this morning(afternoon) I double “doh’d” when I saw that it was Steve Kimock’s Tongue N' Groove. As a long time lover of Zero, KVHW and all things Kimock, I was bummed that I failed to identify it in the moment. I’ll do better, I promise.
It was Red’s turn next as he took us down My Road(My Road) Always a great jam vehicle this offering did not disappoint either. Again, Factor injected his visual enhancements with some phenomenal work on the projection screen directly behind the band. There were many, many smiles and knowing looks exchanged as Red’s haunting vocals brought My Road to a close.
Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man brought the show to a close as members of the band took turns laying down solos on their respective instruments. I will admit I am still very new to the Spafford scene, but this was my first experience seeing Jordan and Cameron take an extended solo. I have it down as “Jordan bass solo, Red key solo, Cam drum solo, Red organ solo."
At almost 4am the band left the stage for a brief break and came back out and opened up the Electric Taco Stand for a blistering encore.
After a few hugs, smiles, and high-fives we made our way out into the early morning streets of New Orleans. It had been a long glorious day and some zzz’s were in order. For all of the trials the band went through to make that show go on, they didn’t let it show. Spafford delivered a spectacular performance in their return to the Big Easy and left it all out there on the stage.
So Spafford dropped the latest single off of For Amusement Only today-- Ain't That Wrong. It's linked up through an article on Relix. It's so difficult, and perhaps meaningless, to pick a favorite Spafford tune but gun to head (as @603Brett likes to say) ATW is my boo. So needless to say my expectations were high for this studio treatment. And needless to say I'm a Spafford LIVE fan first, Spafford RECORD fan second. But, wow, they really really really did a nice job with this one. The sax section fits perfectly and gives it enough flair for 4:30 minutes to channel some of that upbeat energy that the 10-20 minute live versions supercharge the crowd with. Read the Relix article to find out how the sax section came about and then ask yourself, "Do I believe in Canine Angels?" I DO.
When Terminal West sold out in under two minutes it was obvious this show would be special. Then Variety Playhouse sold out in under a minute. I got lucky and got my ticket the first go ‘round and was stoked for a solo trip down from Massachusetts, just for this show.
I ended up expanding the trip a little with a three-day 420 wristband. Caught their day set and the full day Saturday. I have never been to the Playhouse and time spent in Atlanta has been minimal to this point. I had a room in Castleberry close by the 3-28 Atlanta Falcons stadium. I’ll give it up for the city. Almost everyone I met was pleasant and friendly. I was a $6 Uber from the venue, and a 20 minute walk to the festival. There is something so liberating about doing something like this solo. My only commitments were the music. The only belly I had to make happy was my own.
The Variety Playhouse is a beautiful old theater we don’t see around much these days. There was a bit of a line at 11:30p to get in but it moved quickly. I was nervous getting a spot up front, but after breezing through, hitting the bar for a couple beers and couple waters, I walked down front to a wide open floor and set up right in front of Brian. The venue never felt “packed” and when the band hit the stage right around midnight it didn’t seem to fill in much more.
Brian was hopping around getting us juiced before launching off with Electric Taco Stand. High expectations kicking off a highly anticipated show with one of their biggest jam songs. And they did not disappoint. “How you feeling, Atlanta? Let’s get funky.” Yes, please. Jam kicked right off into a sweet highly melodic Jordan-led groove, and Brian's signature chord shuffles. The jam shifted a bit as they found a new groove which had Jordan and Cam filling space and just like that we’re locked into a new dirty groove. Then Brian gets on his Wah. It’s six minutes into the show and we already need a heat check. Red shows up to the party laying on the pipes and we’re peaking now. Sound in this room is close to perfect as Brian's high notes rip through my skull during the peak. They drop right into breakdown as Red gets on the synth. Jam picks up tempo with Cam shining, as he would all night. It was hard not to just watch him. This new build-up was a monster taking us right back into the ending refrain.
I’m glad they took a few seconds between songs for some water because this guy was winded already and we were only one song in. When All My Friends started I was happy I wore my big boy pants, because it was gonna be “one of those nights”. Fuck it. Dance now. Pay for it later.
Is there a riff Brian loves more than Bee Jam? The funk got thick with that magical Brian/Cam chemistry holding it down as they both brought us into another build up with Brian really gettin after it. He has a way of playing notes with his entire body that just kills me. We slid from that peak into a major key jam that had soaring written all over it off the rip. They were patient all night with jams and I think this is the best example of that kind of confidence. It felt so organic, like the jam came to them. The jam didn’t take off the way I thought it would, instead they rested on what I was sure was gonna be Lonely, eventually. It’s one of those jams if you isolate all of them they are all playing near perfect. By the smiles on their faces they knew it too.
Salamander Song took me completely by surprise coming out of that jam. It was the one song I’d bet the house on tonight, but I expected it later in the show. I took a second to look around the room. Yup. We’re in full-on dance party mode now. This was a shorter Salamander Song than most, with no Brian solo. I thought Red was a little low in the mix all night, or it just could have been my spot. Even his part here didn’t dominate the jam like it should. It’s a shame I couldn’t really hear him all night. Red always kills it and the color he adds is a big part of my Spafford experience.
We dance all the way Into All In, which in retrospect feels like the anchor of the show. When someone asks what the late night Playhouse show was like just have them listen to this. Sums up the night. All fat no filler, fan favorite kinda night. And, most importantly, they were having a blast. Unfortunately, Jordan was having some technical trouble during the composed section. Looked like he got a handle on it as they went into the heavy section at the end, then Brian went off. If there is a riff he likes playing more than Bee Jam it has to be All In. He's up there jumping around, playing on one leg, and never misses a note. This funk jam is as filthy as it gets. The kind of funk jam you skip the pregnancy test and just get the Plan B. Maybe I’ll start selling it to pay for Spafford tour. They gently laid us into this spacey groove, again patiently moving upwards to a roof-blasting peak. I heard a few “wow”s and the chompers settled, which is always a sign of a good jam. The build-up in this jam was so clean. Then the blue balls happened. Whatever technical issues Jordan was having came back right at the peak. Literally, the peak. He was pissed. True professionals, they dropped out of the peak into yet another filthy groove and we rode that for a while as Brian and Red construct another build. Technical issues didn’t even phase them as this got heavy fast and we were back in action. Brian's solo was like two solos in one ripping back into the All In riff.
With all the great musical highlights this night has the “meat” of the show, All In, Todds Tots, and Plans, might be the most impressive. All highly composed songs with regular monster jams. You get any one of them at a show you’re happy. Back-to-back-to-back is next level. Next level is also Brian's solo during Tots. When I hear something like this I’m convinced there isn’t a sound that comes out of The Raven that isn’t intentional. The way he uses sustains and bends to accent his solo is why he’s my favorite guitarist around now... and moving fast towards all-time status. I actually ended up to the side a bit by this point in the night and was in front of Cam. If you get the opportunity to just watch him during Tots, do it. He's busy back there. As I’m watching this technically proficient kid kill the drums, Brian is buckling my knees with his final solo. I remember looking around at everyone around me at this point and everyone had a smile, to varying degrees, on their face. Which made me smile. It was that kind of night.
I’m sure I heard my leg muscles cry when Plans started because they knew there are not going to be “breather songs” tonight. Brian's first solo was definitely short and not the raging peak it usually is. I foolishly thought maybe this will be a mellow Plans. Maybe even closer. Felt so good to be so wrong. This isn’t a monster 18:00 Plans but holy shit, it was thick and meaty. Whatever technical problems we had before were in the past because Jordan fucking OWNED this jam. Wasn’t long before we were in a faster tempo, every single person in that room locked in. All four of them filled the others' space while maintaining a progressive groove. Cam basically took a drum solo for the entirety of the jam, even when they went to a breakdown he was still changing his fills. Brian locked into a funky little groove, and we knew this would take us up again. Long day. Long night. This is the jam I lost my shit on and just left it on the field. Whatever gas I had left in me burned when Brian hit that peak. At one point he was legit running in place while ripping Plans chords to end the song.
I thought Plans was closer so when Down Under started I was stoked. I got the sense right away this would be blistering. They settled on a groove that went high-speed dance hall level quick. It was the only time of the night I wanted to be further back because the lights looked awesome. The peak was high energy but a little short due to time.
Cam came out first and started a funky groove for us. I immediately thought I heard a Lion King beat in there, Hakuna Matata? Maybe he teased it. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe there are only so many beats and some sound similar. The world may never know. Brian led Jordan and Red out with a little Brian dance. And the fan boi I am of Brian, I admit, I got a little smitten. They got into a solid Bluesy honky tonk like groove. I didn’t know the song, asked everyone around me, no one knew. Turns out Broken Wing is a killer encore. Has that Blues appeal you just know Brian wants to slay over. Given the slot here, and the night, I knew this was gonna be good. Also, one of the few times during the night Red was higher in the mix. Added a different depth to the jam than we heard through the night. Brian's solo was so thoughtful and deliberate without sounding forced. The kind of solo you would put on the album in one take. You got it. It’s good. The fun honky tonk riff at the end was a fun way to end an incredible night.
A bow was taken. Picks and drumsticks were tossed. Love was given.
Nerds! Today is the 1 year anniversary of the launch of Spaffnerds.com. And so we begin the next chapter. We've completely rewritten the web application from the ground up to provide a better experience for you and to ease development for us. We have also spun up a much anticipated and requested Spaffnerds Store where you can get your official Spaffnerds gear.
A Year, by the Numbers
This infographic by @Cody pretty much says it all. When we hit 1000 users this past week I nearly fainted.
New Logos and Tagline
You may have noticed our new "Spaffhands" logo floating around. We finally have an icon that we think will be instantly recognizable inside and outside of the community. And with it we've updated our tagline to be:
Of Nerds, By Nerds, and For Nerds
The Merch Store
You've asked, we've listened. We now have a storefront where you can get official Spaffnerds merch. We've got a few things in there to get us started, but stay tuned as we roll out some cool stuff that you can custie up and drop some cash on. Profits will go to support the site and will be reinvested into building out more merch for you.
The New App
Warning: inbound nerd info: fun for engineers and coders
We get a TON of requests for new features for the app. Our standard response has been that the code base just wasn't in a position where building new stuff was all that easy. It is now. In software we have a concept called the "MVP" or Minimally Viable Product. That's what you've been using for the last year. When we build MVPs we seek to prove out an idea and show that it has value. But we don't intend to leave them in place forever.
This past year you've given us feedback, both through your words and actions, about what features were most valuable to you. We added a Forum, built Stat tracking, changed what was seen on the homepage, and worked with the ideas that you all inspired. We did so to balance what you wanted with what we could deliver.
Back in November we began the ground up rewrite of the app using React and Redux. It follows standards, implements design patterns, has excellent test coverage, and makes it all around easier to build. This is our stable version. It's not perfect but Spaffnerds 2.0 is no longer an MVP. We hope this makes it easier to give you guys more of what you want.
Most of all, I want to say thank you to each and every one of you. You guys make this labor of love worth it. This community is second to none, and my experiences in it over the past year have been second to none. As year two begins, and the band keeps on trucking, we hope to see more of you join us and be a part of everything we're doing. We'll see you around, same nerd time, same nerd channel.
I'd be remiss not to give a shoutout to a few people without whom none of this would have been possible.
- My incredibly patient wife @lmwsongbird. If you see her at a show, make sure you say thank you to her. Her sacrifices are second to none.
And most importantly, Spafford. You guys fucking crush it every time you get up there on stage. There's no better advertising for this site than the music you guys produce night after night.
Nerds! In celebration of the anniversary of the launch of spaffnerds.com we are giving away a pair of 1 year nugs subscriptions! Next Friday 4/20 marks the 1 year anniversary of the day I took a deep breath and hit "go" on this amazing experience.
I built the initial site in about 3 months time. It was barely more than a database with a web UI on top of it. There was no forum, there was no show tracking, let alone stats. There was, however, a solid collection of shows from the Archive and YouTube, and a community that I knew would want what I had to offer. In the year since, thanks to your input, we've added some cool features and developed what I think is a pretty solid offering for the best jam band community around. I'm grateful to all of you for helping to make this site, and this community, what it is.
Okay, enough of my pointless reminiscing. Let's get you some free stuff. This time around we're offering (2) lucky winners a free, (1) year subscription to nugs.net. We've done this before and you guys know how it's done. But for clarity the rules are below. One caveat... My daughter is due to be born in the coming days. It's possible that I will be unable to do the drawing should she come early. In that case I'll ask @robAF or @Cody to take care of business. If that happens we may not be able to have video posted of the drawing. If that bothers you, don't enter the drawing. This is a freebee and we're honest people, you may just have to trust us.
- There will be a total of (2) prizes given away.
- (2) lucky winners will each receive a 1 year subscription to nugs.net
- The drawing will take place on Friday, April 20th at 7:00PM Arizona Time
- (This is subject to change if real life interferes. You will be notified ahead of time should the time of the drawing change.)
- The drawing will be live streamed on the Spaffbase Facebook page
- As soon as the live stream is completed we will post the video to our youtube channel and make it available on this thread.
- The birth of my daughter may interfere with this. I'm not going to feel remotely bad about that. You'll just have to trust us if there's no video
- Names will be placed in a list which will be randomized and numbered. A random number will be generated and the name which matches that number will be chosen as a winner.
- This is not a fundraiser but you are always welcome to make a donation
- Donation is not required to participate in the drawing. If you decide to donate, please post your donations to our paypal account. https://paypal.me/spaffnerds/5
- You are ineligible to win if you have won one of these drawings within the last year.
- You must claim your prize within one week of the drawing or it is forfeited.
How Do I Enter?
- Like the Spaffbase Facebook page and/or follow us on twitter.
- Maybe even subscribe to our youtube channel
- Come back to this thread and add your name to the list and say something like "I'm in" (but feel free be more creative).
- Share this thread with your friends who are into the scene, bonus (worthless internet) points if you turn somebody new on to Spafford.
Thank You Nerds!
It's been an amazing year. I've launched this site, the band is skyrocketing to the top, and this community is growing. It is truly a place that I'm proud to call home and I love working with all of you, the best fans on the jam band scene. Here's to an awesome first year and to many more. Stay tuned... we've got a lot more to come. We're all in for the ride, it ain't that wrong, and love's the common binding, for people like me and you.