TL;DR - Spafford played an awesome 3.5 song, 1 hour fest set, and introduced the mainstream kids to what it means to jam.
I never expected to be “from Delaware.” My wife and I moved here from the Philly burbs in 2008 to be closer to her new NICU position. Rather than have her die from falling asleep at the wheel during her 1.5 hour commute each way to her 12 hour shifts, I decided to find a job in Wilmington and we’d “temporarily” move down here. Alas here we are, 10 years later, still in the Red-Headed Stepchild State.
On the plus side, it is cheap. The cost of living is pretty low for our proximity to Philly -- I live closer to the city now in DE than I did growing up in the PA Philly burbs. Property taxes are about 20% of what they would be just 5 miles north in PA, and there is no sales tax. And Delawareans are generally very nice people. The negatives though are that Wilmington, where I live, is sometimes referred to as “Murdertown USA,” and the public schools rank extremely low for an east coast city.
And, well, culturally it’s pretty boring here. In this regard Delaware definitely earns its reputation as perhaps the most uninteresting state. Bands do not come through here, especially south of Wilmington to “lower, slower Delaware.” We did get UM once at the Grand about 8 years ago, and miraculously Trey Anastasio made a stop at that same theater a few months ago during his solo acoustic tour. But typically if we want to see great bands play it requires a trip to Philadelphia to places like the Fillmore (home of The Foundry) or out to my second home, the legendary Ardmore Music Hall. That’s why it was such a big deal for the state-formerly-known-as-the-Small-Wonder when it was announced that the largest music festival on the east coast would occur right here in our forgettable state.
Unfortunately for me, but rather fitting for Delaware, Firefly is as commercial and mainstream a festival as it gets. Each year I look at the lineup and it’s the same thing every time. Dozens of hipster/indie bands whose names could easily have been generated by an algorithm (optimized for irony), some DJ and hip hop sets (meh), and huge mainstream headlining acts (yawn). This year was no exception. Their lineup graphic says it all:
Except… wait… is… is that a jam band in the lineup? To say I was surprised by Spafford booking the festival would be a gross understatement. I mean, I know Spafford is all about the festivals during the summer -- and rightfully so. Nowhere else can they introduce large groups of new people to what we already know: Spafford jams. And really, really damn well. But that makes total sense at High Sierra, Peach, and even Bonnaroo, where the hett set can most often be found. But Firefly? A chad fest? Huh. But hey, I enjoy weird situations and it did sound like an interesting experiment, and since it’s only an hour south of me - well within my “attendance required for any Spafford show within a 2 hour radius” rule - I decided I needed to witness this go down.
Fast forward to Saturday night of the fest weekend, 8:30 pm. I get the kids to bed, kiss the wife gnite, and me and my OG buddy Boy Don (aka Domey (aka Dirt Boy)) head down to Dover. After a very disconcerting 30 minutes trying to find where we’re supposed to park we finally board the rented school bus that will shuttle us to the farm where the fest is held. It was fun being on a school bus with Don, as we first met on one in 7th grade. I felt like we should be vandalizing the thing or smoking cigarettes in the back seats or something. Instead (and for the best), this maybe-21-year-old kid chatted us up. It was his first music fest ever and he was very excited to be experiencing it. When I asked him what bands he was most interested in seeing he named the big ones - Eminem and Kendrick Lamar - and few indie bands I’d naturally never heard of. He asked for any pro-tips I could give him. Stay hydrated, wear sunblock, and if at all possible, pitch your tent next to a vehicle that will block the morning sun. There’s nothing worse than waking up at 8 am, a few short hours after you fell asleep (if you’re doing it right) as the sun heats your tent to temperatures usually only measured in degrees kelvin. Oh, and come see Spafford at 1am.
Don and I finally get in the fest, grab a beer (it was all Anheuser-Busch brands, obviously), and a few minutes later Eminem takes the stage. It was exactly what I expected. Big, expensive production value, lots of people on stage pretending to play instruments to a pre-recorded backing track (you know, cymbals are pretty loud, so it’s surprising that they make zero sound whatsoever when the “drummer” “plays” them), an of course Eminem - who I do recognize as an extraordinarily talented rapper - pacing the stage, spraying the crowd with profane, very clever lyrics.
We watched about 30 minutes of Eminem before leaving the main Firefly Stage area for the Pavilion Stage next to it, where there were already a dozen people watching Spafford soundcheck. The Pavilion was a giant, temporary metal tent, with a gravel floor, littered with hundreds of empty plastic bottles, glow sticks, broken sunglasses, shredded, empty iPhone cases, and just about anything else if you looked close enough. Baloo, Spafford’s tour manager, even said he ground scored some birth control pills, so there had undoubtedly been some serious partying going on in this pav before we got there. The big question though, was how many people will come here after Eminem’s set?
While Spafford was the last band scheduled for the night, the beginning of their set overlapped with the Portugal. the Man DJ set (just typing that name gives me flashbacks to the Chameleon Club stream) and Martin Garrix, a Dutch DJ. So yeah I could see why many of the mainstream kids in attendance would skip some unknown rock band from a red state out west for the promise of sweaty, gyrating people (read: girls) rolling tits at a euro EDM set. I set my hopes and expectations low, accordingly.
Spafford loves what they do, and they love each other. Like a true, Platonic, deeply cosmic love. I see it on their faces when they are playing, and it is apparent in their music. It’s also apparent because even though Eminem’s insanely loud set is going on right next door, the technical reasons for their soundcheck are long finished, and only they can hear themselves play through their monitors, they are absolutely crushing a no-holds-barred improv jam. As I stood there chatting up the lurkers, I kept having to stop in mid-sentence to listen to Cam play some polyrhythmic, several-bar fills with the whole band resolving on 1 at the height of Brian peaking a solo. Just fucking magical. I’m always appreciative when I get to see a soundcheck because it’s as close to seeing the band at their most relaxed and natural state possible; what I imagine their post-tour rehearsals are like. They’re free to take chances and make mistakes without repercussion, and as we all know with high risk comes high reward. Always a treat, these soundchecks. They wrap up and leave the stage as Eminem is doing his encore. Some people are now trickling in, and I run into Doug M, his brother Keith and his lovely wife Michelle, who are diehard Spafford fans. Always great seeing them, which I do at every Spafford show from DC to NY. We stake our claim on the rail and get ready to rage.
At 1:00 am on the dot Spafford takes the stage to probably 500 people. Not bad! That’s probably the average attendance these days at random tour stops outside of the bigger s’nerd strongholds. And those are headlining gigs where people came to see Spafford, so having 500 pairs of virgin ears is pretty exciting.
The band kicks it off with JJ Grey’s On Fire, which I thought was an extremely appropriate tune for the time and place. Brian seems to play it with a crunchier distortion than normal, but that might be due to the Gibson taking place of the Raven for the fest. His solo is shreddy but very melodic as always, and the band breaks down into a really funky groove. Red’s playing soulful Hammond funk, and Cam and Jordan are in lock step. Red transitions to a crunchy, almost pornographic clavinet rhythm and the band hangs there for a spell before Brian takes over again, building to an excellent first peak that earned the first audible feedback from the audience (at least from my vantage point). I looked back to see everyone dancing and having a great time, with more and more people filing in, just as the jam resolves to a quiet but dynamic, lumbering groove. Cheers from the attendees. They’re getting it.
This groove continues and deepens, with Brian repeating an untzy monophonic melody while Red mans several synths, playing a staccato beat-repeater pattern with one and accenting nicely with the other. The energy picks up as Brian builds back into a solo around the show’s 10 minute mark, raging for a minute or two before taking us back into the last verse of On Fire.
The communication these guys have is just uncanny. I’m pretty convinced that Spafford is a single, telepathic, hive mind. While I’m nowhere near a pro-level musician, I have been playing drums in jam bands off and on since the mid 1990s so I have a pretty trained ear. And unfortunately I have experienced, many times, on stage, in front of actual people, what poor communication when jamming leads to. It is not pretty. But Spafford’s transitions are simply gorgeous. They can turn on a dime without it being awkward, or even most people realizing that it just happened.
Take for example the key change that Jordan leads Red into just after the 17 minute mark in On Fire, and the almost imperceptible tempo increase to a precisely 102 BPM, setting the stage for their second song of the set. Cam introduces the untzy beat and they glide right into a perfectly landed and very well placed Walls. Fuckin A, Peter. Fuckin A.
They do the first verse and settle into a very comfortable untz jam, sticking with Wall’s 102 BPM tempo. 102 BPM is a pretty chill tempo for the untz, which typically ranges from around 115 BPM up to the 160 BPM range. The band has an exceptional ability to build and add energy to their jams without increasing the tempo at all. This Walls jam is no exception, and should be used in music school textbooks discussing the very subject.
After the perfect amount of time in the groove they complete the composed double-time section of Walls, into my favorite part where Brian’s guitar sounds like a European ambulance (I’m reminded of one every time), back into the verse and then settling into a long, bluesy, Rhodes filled untz jam lead by Red. Cam slowly introduces the edrum pad, and they ride this groove out for a good stretch. They transition from a familiar Walls chord progression to one I can best describe as having a flamenco or latin feel to it. If I were a real musician I could tell you what scale and mode it was but all I got is that there may be a bit of Carlos Santana in the solo. They finish the jam and Brian leads them into Leave the Light On.
LTLO is another good choice here as it’s very accessible to new ears. It was chosen as the first track to release from For Amusement Only for good reason. As always, Jordan delivers passionate and soulful vocals. The crowd was definitely digging this one. The band takes the LTLO jam out of the station with Red’s synth solo on top of an ethereal pad, before he moves it to the piano adding depth and space for a delicate but fast solo by Brian while Cam is keeping a great pendulum-like, backbeat groove. They start building it up layer by layer to a huge peak back into the chorus and wrap up the tune as normal.
Immediately following the final note of LTLO the band vamps on a similar groove as Brian starts talking to each member, explaining where they’re going next. A time check shows it’s only a few minutes before the scheduled 2:00 am end time, so I’m very curious where he could be taking them with only a half dozen minutes left. Brian starts playing 16th notes in faster and faster succession, pulling the band from LTLOs 90ish BPM up to 125 or so. Firmly in untz territory, the jam sits on a deep quarter-note thump by Jordan and Red and Brian shred as Cam delivers the familiar 4-on-the-floor dance groove. One big peak and the band pauses while Brian picks the notes to the… ending? ...of Weasel? Ok! Unorthodox, but I love it.
Clearly Brian wanted to send these kids back to their tents with something to remember Spafford by and called the audible. Always a barn burner and spectacular set closer, this abbreviated Weasel delivers the goods. Huge energy in the room, everybody thoroughly into it, and the crowd explodes into applause after the closing notes.
It is without question that Spafford triumphed tonight. Everyone in the pavilion was cheering, fist pumping, high-fiving, and begging the band for more as they took a bow and said goodnight. My guess is by the end about 1,000 to 1,500 attended, though from the rail it’s very hard to see where the crowd ends so I could be severely underestimating.
As we are ushered out of the pav by security mere moments after the band leaves the stage, I hear many people talking about how great the show was. “Best set of Firefly by far! BY FAR!” one guy exclaims to whomever will listen. Shouts of “so fucking good!” “amazing!” “that was SICK!” fill the air as we walk out, and I hand out some IKIS before being stopped by some very young dudes; maybe 18 or 20 years old. “Hey man, do you know where these guys are playing next?” “You liked the set?” I ask, knowing damn well they got bit hard. He proceeded to explain how blown his mind was before imploring once more “so where are they playing next??” We have an instant s’nerd on our hands. I tell him about the other fests for the summer, the inevitable fall tour to be announced real soon now (right Spafford?!) and give them each a stack of the Poe/Raven IKISs - pointing out this domain’s URL - as well as Cody’s spaffhands stickers for good measure. I really hope we see them on here, but honestly I’d be more surprised if I didn’t.
Noob show-glow is a wonderful thing to witness. I have no doubt that those kids’ lives were changed tonight. I will never forget the first time that happened to me, seeing Garcia Band and learning that there is a limitless, unbounded force out there as powerful as anything else in the universe, that we earthlings like to call “live music.” I saw that same look in those kids’ eyes as my own so many years ago. They’re on their way. Firefly was the catalyst to get them out and seeing live music, but it was Spafford that showed them truly how deep and powerful an experience that can be. It truly warms the cockles of my heart.
While I may never get back to another Firefly I’m certainly glad I went. I now totally get the booking. It was genius level strategery, and one that likely converted more new s’nerds than any hetty ass hippie fest. These kids were hungry for what Spafford had to offer, without the years of baked on, caked on jam band fan jade and prejudice.
Welcome aboard. We’re happy you’re here.
Back on the Farm for the first time!
Living in Nashville, it’s no surprise that ever year I look forward to the Bonnaroo lineup announcement. Not because they ALWAYS have the best lineup but because it’s just soooooo close to home. This year I was, like so many, disappointed in the overall lineup. But then, the saving grace, there was at least one band I would not be going to miss…Spafford. Many firsts for the band recently and after witnessing the Red Rocks glory I was super happy to be here to witness this first and write my first review...So let’s get to it.
10:30 p.m. - I stroll straight up to the soundboard and settle in. Plenty of dance space around me but the center of This Tent is packed with eager ‘nerds ready for the getdown. Space around me slowly starts to fill up as I overhear the two guys next to me talking about this being their first time seeing Spafford and that they hope the hype is real. “My friends,” I said, “come chat with me after.” They laugh.
10:45 p.m. – They bounce on stage, all beaming from ear to ear. “Bonnaroo! I never thought I’d say that!” Brian says… Another first begins.
10:46 p.m. – Electric Taco Stand - Immediately the boys drop into a hard-driving, very danceable groove. Brian shows us right away that just because this is a festy set it doesn’t mean they won’t be playing around a little by doing a fun little scat section after the verse break and an extended scat section to transition into the breakdown. I’ve always secretly wondered what a quick vocal jam in this song would sound like so imagine my happiness when I heard a taste of it. The jam had immediate legs and everyone seems to be ready to get into it. Cam in particular seems to be driving tempo and changes and the interplay between he and Brian would be fun to watch all night. I look around and everyone has a mash up look of surprise and wonder on their faces. I think they might like it.
10:59 p.m. - Mind's Unchained – At first this song seems slow, especially compared to the ETS funk drive that came right before. However, it was the perfect tempo to let the crowd gather our collective breath. The verses settle out and the boys drop back into a nice, easy groove, almost like they are asking the jam gods to guide their way. Maybe I’ve just never noticed it before, or maybe it was just more pronounced this time after the driving ETS, but Mind's gets spacey. Spacey enough for me to think, "Are they just going to throw down a ridiculous jam from here to the end of this set?" It has the feel of a possible “Bonnaroo Jam”. A gentle build built with care that leads us to a bright ending would answer that question though. At this point, I look around and see the two virgin ‘nerds smiling and dancing. One comes up and exclaims, “Holy Shit!”... Indeed, my new friends, indeed!
11:10 p.m. – Mad World – A jam begins. My immediate thought is Down Under and I start thinking about how this crowd might react. But then I hear it, deep down in the individual phrases of the music. Nope, not Down Under. Could it be…yeah, that's it…(build continues)…maybe a tease and fake out…(more build)…the crowd can feel the energy from the ETS creeping back in…(more build)…is this the drop in?...nope not yet…here?...nope…BAM! They drop into Mad World and the crowd burst open, matching the band’s intensity. Everyone around me is smiling and shaking their heads in blissful disbelief at what is happening. This was a really tight version of this cover and perfect for the crowd which is a good mix of older heads who miss the jam at the ‘roo and the youngins who have never even seen that world. Everyone has a familiarity with this song. This was the jam that did it. Anyone who was unsure about whether this band’s hype was real, anyone who was standing there thinking that this might just be another overhyped summer blockbuster, began to dance like no one was watching. Everyone was now aware of just what it is that Spafford does…JAM!! Brain builds this song to a peak several times. I feel they did an exceptional job in building the improv sections all night but this one in particular. Brian and Cam, as they have all night so far, are playing off each other like kids on a playground. Jordan laying down serious grooves all lovely swaddled in Red's etheric keys. Tight!!!! A side note, the younger of the two virgin ‘nerds next to me exclaimed many times “What is going on right now?”
11:21 p.m. – Beautiful Day - Finally, a moment to relax and enjoy. Anytime I catch a Beautiful Day it makes my heart swell with happiness. It was one of the first songs that really grabbed me. So I am ecstatic, of course, but I’m thinking this might let the crowd back out a little. No fear there. It’s such a beautiful rendition that no one seems to mind the dance party had taken a momentary break. At this point the chompers weren’t even talking that much. Red smashed this song. He was in beautiful voice and was serenading us. Unfortunately, the "Old school Bonnaroo T" was lost on most of the crowd but that's okay. This is one of those songs that whenever I hear it, it feels like Red is singing just for me. I might have shed a tear of joy at this point. Indeed, Red, it is a beautiful day.
11:28 p.m. – All In – As soon as Beautiful Day ends they hit it. This will carry us to the end of the set, no doubt. The orchestrated sections of the song are clean and tight. My new friend next to me exclaims how blown away he is…again. The orchestrated section ends and a patient jam opens up. These are the builds I love. Especially in Spafford style. It’s smooth and sexy with Jordan laying down a groove that would make even Barry White say “Oooooohhhhh Baby!”. Once again Cam's drumming grabs me. It amazes me how easy he makes his job look. His face just looks like it’s another day at the office but his hands are flying all over. Quick high hat flourishes that encourage Brian to play along and make Red stand up behind his keys. The jam slowly and patiently builds, using several peaks to tease us with an ending until you can taste the final surge. Heavy ending!!! Solid way to leave our now slightly stunned crowd wanting more.
Even though this was a short festy set, it was a hard-driving show. The energy was up, even in the more laid back songs. The big standout to me was Cam's drumming. We have all been aware of it and watching it grow, but the Bonnaroo set will forever be the one that made me stand up and say “DAYUM!” He was so tight and he had these flourishes that were the perfect cue to drop into the next section or to bring it back to the main song. Throughout the show Brian would turn and look at Cam jumping around as the two of them played with melody and form while Jordan and Red added brackets that capped the music into a tidy little, easily swallowed pill. Short festival sets can sometimes seem like throwaways but I really feel they used as much of it as they could. The jams felt patient yet purposeful, the playing was energetic, and the timing was spot on.
As the crowd began dispersing my new friend turns to me…"I totally understand why this is your favorite band now. The hype is definitely for real!!! I’ll be seeing them again soon.” “What’s your name?” I ask. “My name’s Donkey!”…………………....Of course it is!
Ah summer festival season how I love you so! My summer continued at the Purple Hatters Ball down in Live Oak Florida which had our boys Spafford as a headliner Friday night. Purple Hatters was easily the smallest festival I think I've ever attended at Spirit of Suwanee Music Park (SOSMP for later). I'm gonna take a rough guess and say I don’t think it was over 3,000 people (and Hulaween was 20k for those who were there last year). Needless to say I was excited to get back to the intimate crowd setting after seeing them at Red Rocks the week before! I also had the fortune of running into the band right after an interview earlier in the day where the guys said the sound was sounding great during soundcheck which added to the hype even more! The band came on stage at about 11:40pm.
*Photo credit Tanya Russi
Purple Hatters marked my 17th Spafford show and I literally always want John Hiatt's Memphis in the Meantime but had never gotten it, so when the very familiar shuffle beat from cam started my heart jumped out of my chest from excitement. Spafford traveled very well through the composition and got locked into a rocking opening jam but the special moments came after the first peak as they transitioned deep into the psychedelic realm but still kept the pace of the song going leaving jaws and faces on the floor right off the rip. Memphis in the Meantime ended at about the 21 min mark with a super clean transition straight into People. People clocked in around the normal 9ish min mark but still featured a strong solo by Brian.
Ain't That Wrong continued the show after the roar of the Florida crowd. This song proved to be an untz dance fest as the band locked into the first part of the jam led by an epic solo from Red and pumping bass drum from Cam. The dance beat continued as the solo spotlight turned to Brian and he took the song to its peak before plunging back into the chorus. Red's opening piano lines of Todd's Tots filled the air for the next song of the show. The 2nd jam off Todd's was really well played, even though it was a little short Brian was able to really put the energy of the crowd into a good spot. Todd's clocked in close to the 15 min mark. Lonely was next in line for Purple Hatters which has really become one of Cam's best songs. The jam goes through so many different sections that Cam always gets to show off some crazy stuff. Lonely started off fast and funky with quick fills from Cam, then digressed down to just bass drum and a block sound beat before coming back to a rocking peak full of cymbals and craziness... I loved it.
*Photo credit Tanya Russi
The always welcome opening keyboard sounds of The Remedy started the last portion of the set. The composition portion went well for Spafford, but the opening jam got to a little bit of a noodly section that felt like the band kinda jammed into the abyss but could be treated as a "breakdown" type jam as well. It was soon forgotten as Brian scooped us out of the abyss for an epic first peak followed by a good transition jam into America. America's first jam dove into a great trippy section led by Red's keyboards. As the jam progressed and Brian started to take over the song climbed from the deep trippy world into the rage heavy peak full of Ben Factor's red, white, and blue lights to end the epic set.
After an absolutely rocking from top to bottom show the band came out and encored with the soft sounds of Van Morrison's Into the Mystic which was sang beautifully by Red. Even though I knew The Reprise was coming I was super interested to see how the transition would feel from a song like Into the Mystic and I was pleasantly surprised. The Reprise ended us in style like it always does with wild fills and funky riffs from everyone and a special shout out from Brian talking about how it has been a year of Cam in the band! I hope all of you have fun at whatever festival you are seeing Spafford at this summer, I will see you guys at Element Festival in British Columbia next!
*Photo credit Tanya Russi
Big shout-out to Tanya Russi for the photographs!
"If you will it, Dude, it is no Dream."
I’ve been wanting to write that headline for awhile, and I feel pretty confident that it fits after Spafford's debut performance at Red Rocks on Sunday. I’m sure that everyone reading this always thought this was going to eventually happen and that in the future, Spafford will headline this venue.
But on May 27th, 2018, they got to perform as openers for the first time, supporting the Disco Biscuits. Organ Freeman started the party right on time at 5pm and the Los Angeles based duo brought along a killer guitar to help them warm up the crowd before Spafford and tDB. Spafford hit right at 6:15pm sharp for their 75-minute set, nay make that 90 minutes. They walked out to a roar of applause, grinning from ear to ear, ready to jump into their first song of the afternoon …
But before I jump into the show let me talk about the previous couple of hours. It wouldn’t be a Nerd Party or a Red Rocks Party without a pre-show hang and we had perfect conditions. The earliest of the nerds made it to the venue before me and I rolled in right around 3pm, which got me into the second row of the South Upper lot. There was a Spaffnerds Flag hanging from some signage in the parking lot indicating where to met and where the front of the line was to walk up the hill. Spafford was bumping out of the back of a van, coolers were stocked, and people were meeting new and old nerds. @Phokus was on hand to deliver non- Arizona residents shirts that he had designed for those that wanted. (Huge thanks to @Phokus for putting it all together, we were immediately recognizable as Nerds and I’m pretty sure the band noticed as well). It was cool to talk to people that were seeing Spafford for the first time ever or those that showed up for their 3rd set of the weekend, having just flown in from Summer Camp. There were even a few Nerds that were making the trek to Red Rocks for the first time. Remember: get there early and park in the Upper South Lot, not the Lower South Lot-- also don’t let anyone tell you it’s part of the experience to hike from one to the other. Somewhere during the pre-party in the lot we found out that we were getting a 90 minute set thanks to the Disco Biscuits' Marc Brownstein via Twitter. Just before 5 we started up the ramp in time to hear Organ Freeman greet us as we went through security. I really dig Organ and if you haven’t heard them start with "Go by Richard, Not by Dick”.
6:00p I’m anxious, I don’t want to leave my seat for anything. Chatting about what kind of show we will get. ATL afterhours was epic and I was hoping for something like that. Perhaps they would play their new album and jam out a bit where appropriate. Or maybe they would give us an opening Red Rocks Jam and then segue into something else and back into Red Rocks jam giving their first performance a theme sort of like hometown shows in the past. Still sitting on pins and needles, I checked the Facebook feed and there were still people debating what Spafford will open with.
6:10p Ok, everyone is kind of settling into their seats, time to make sure I have enough room to dance, beverages are topped off, shift from side to side in anticipation, ohhh and take some photos commemorating the experience. I'm going to write a review, can’t have a review without pictures.
6:13p From my vantage point somewhere in the 10th row I can see the guys behind the stage grinning from ear to ear waiting to walk out... It’s happening!! I suddenly remember everyone talking about how playing Red Rocks was on their list of goals, people talking about the Sail Inn days and open mics in Prescott to my first show at the Rhythm Room almost 4 years ago and how we all knew they would play Red Rocks soon. It’s been said before and I was thinking it right before they walked on stage: we are going to miss those shows with $10 covers standing in a room with 75-100 people. I am secretly looking forward to when I can say, I saw them way back when.
6:14:43p The boys walk onto the hallowed ground that is the stage of the Red Rocks Amphitheater and the Nerds in attendance loose their collective minds. From where I am sitting it looks like Cam, Jordan, Brian, and Red are doing their best to control themselves.
6:15p This is where I stop keeping track of time because it stands still for the next 90 minutes and I just wanted to soak it all in.
Broken Wing starts us off. Cameron takes the lead as Brian, Jordan, and Red fall into place. A groovy jam to start the show, easing everyone into the set, that I mistakenly thought was a new song. Technically it is a new song, only having made its debut a little over a month ago in Atlanta. I notice tDB fans taking notice that there is something special happening. It’s been said in the forums, and I was told that tDB never have this many people show up for an opener, so they know that Spafford is about to ignite the place.
The Postman follows and just doesn’t stop to give anyone a chance to catch their breath. It seems that Red almost doesn’t want the rest of the band to segue into the vocals of the song but once that is over the jamming starts. And it hits me, they are not going to do a normal opener set, they are not going to do this song like it is on the album, they are not going to do something like the ATL after show. Rather they are going to do it their own way. They are going to jam and jam hard while using every second of the 90 minutes.
Weasel needed no introduction and they segued effortlessly into this. It was at this point that I was reminded of how great of musicians they are and how they will take risks and push themselves musically in any environment. I was so blown away that they just jammed out. I’m starting to think that they are doing this for themselves, we only get to witness it.
In my mind I realize that Spafford had reached another level, during All My Friends > Bee Jam, I’m getting nothing like I ever expected. I am getting a Jam session of original old school songs. The gents looked at what got me hooked and then showed me how much they had grown as a band right in front of me over the last 4 years. I’m not a parent but I imagine showing pictures to unsuspecting family members of children is what I did to my dad after this show, playing him older recordings compared to what they put down at Red Rocks expanding on what got me hooked in the first place.
Speaking of what got me hooked, Leave the Light On was probable the first set of lyrics that I had committed to memory after The Postman. LTLO is always a crowd favorite and one of those songs that even though it has been played live 140+ times it always sounds unique. It’s honestly a perfect song, jams that swing into vocals/sing-alongs back into jams. On the rocks I just sort of closed my eyes and let the jams hang me in the wind that had picked up in intensity before jumping back in to serenade those unfortunate enough to be standing next to me during the vocals.
I know I said I was going to stop looking at the clock but with 17 minutes or so to go we were wondering what we were going to get as a closer. Everyone around me was dancing, losing their minds, and just soaking it in. The boys took what seemed to be their first breather all set when Cam and Red dropped into Slip and Squander. The lyrics “Bet they Dream of Home” (taken out of context for the purpose of this review) got me all in the feels and I imagined all the hard work that these guys had put in to get here. You don’t pick up an instrument and play Red Rocks in a few weeks. You put in work and Spafford has done just that, I’m just glad I have been able to see their rise over the last few years, make some amazing friends and get to see some cool venues in the process. When Brian said ‘Let's go Red Rocks!’ I was sure that they were going to leave me with these goosebumps whilst I wiped a single tear from my eye (strong men also cry), as they jammed the rest of Slip and Squander.
But, wait, is that Brian giving signals? Could it be another song?! Wait, we had at least 7 more minutes (totally not looking at my phone)! We will definitely get another song! And then one of my favorites and longtime show closer spoke from the Raven with everyone driving the vocals!!!!!! Galisteo WAY! “Come on let's hear you RED ROCKS” was Brian's cry and the entire crowd lost their minds! It was something amazing, nerds new and old were singing, dancing and just losing their minds. The band couldn’t contain their happiness any longer, grins from ear to ear and Brian challenging the crowd to ‘move their feet’. Somewhere in this song I saw Brian giving everyone the 3 minute signal... I deflated for a second knowing that I only had 3 more minutes to enjoy this, the first Spaffnerds on the Rocks. But then Brian found the time to Jam about 5 minutes worth of a solo into 2 minutes before he led us on through the OhhhOhhhhhhOhhhhOhhhh’s of Galisteo Way. You know how it goes.
Love you Nerds, thanks for reading. Now go listen to the show. Again if you have already done that.
Nerds! We're extremely excited to offer you the chance to win (2) weekend passes to the Element Music Festival in British Columbia, CA. You'll get to see Spafford play 3 sets, including one without a curfew. So hold onto your butts for a wild ride.
Tickets are available here but as mentioned you can win a pair of weekend passes. Here's how it works. Share this post to social media (Facebook and Twitter are our favs). When you do tag your friends and then come back here and post a comment. Please let us know how many of your friends you tagged and/or how many times you shared. We really want to help Element get the word out, so the more you share, the more times you'll be entered in the drawing. We'll go on the honor system but if it turns out you won and you lied... you're gonna have a bad time. Oh also, we want to get entrants who are not already in BC. If you're local, go support your local festival. Our goal is to help get Nerds from the states to head up to see this amazing place.
It's hard for me to describe how beautiful this place is, so I'll just show you with some of the pics that the team provided to me. Check this out:
And the stage is absolutely gorgeous too.
With collaboration and sit-ins being an encouraged activity:
You should go to this festival. The location is serene, private, and absolutely divine. The bands are top notch, and the promoters are super cool people. If the circumstances of my present were a little different we would be headed up there to escape the heat of the AZ summer and breathe in a bit of fresh, Canadian air.