Review: 2017-09-27 - Charlottesville, VA & 2017-09-28 - Baltimore, MD
2017 has been a year full of changes for Spafford. The band started off with their first ever tour of the east coast and went through a lineup change soon after. Cameron Laforest took over on drums for long time member Nick Tkachyk and many fans, including myself, were worried about the ramifications of switching drummers at this point in the band’s development.
Cameron has truly made the position his own, and Wednesday night in Charlottesville was a great showcase of this.
The last time I had seen Spafford was at the Phish after show in August, which was also my first time seeing the band with Cameron behind the drums. Although the two shows were less than two months apart there was an obvious difference between the two performances. Even though the BB King’s show was very good, you could tell the band was still working on becoming comfortable with their new member and figuring out how he would affect their sound. It seems by now they have reached a comfort level that allows them to make some truly great music.
Wednesday’s show started off with the newest Spafford song Steak Sauce, and by the time they had transitioned into ETS, it seemed clear to me that this show and the rest of fall tour were going to be great.
Cameron is excellent at pushing the tempo in songs and is, in general, an aggressive drummer.
The Lonely from the second set is a great example of this. Brian seemed visibly amused at how quickly they were playing it, but the increased tempo seemed to suit them well and the following jam built off it beautifully.
Talking to people before the show, it seemed like most them were seeing Spafford for the first time, but were somewhat familiar with their music and very excited for the show. The Southern was noticeably fuller than the last time they played there, and the crowd was definitely more involved with the show. There were plenty of song requests called out, particularly Salamander Song, and by the end of the first set it was apparent they had matched or exceeded the expectations of most of the people in attendance, including my own.
Although I had seen them a few times before Wednesday night, something seems different about their playing compared to last tour, and besides having a new drummer, they seem more relaxed and in their comfort zone this time around. By bringing on some additional crew members for this tour, they have lessened their own responsibilities and can focus more on the music. Wednesday night saw very patient and consistent playing across the two sets, with my personal highlights being the Steak Sauce > ETS opener and the Lonely > Parody segment from the second set. After leaving The Southern a little past midnight, I walked to my car excited for the next night in Baltimore, and very optimistic for the future of this band.
The next night in Baltimore featured music just as good if not better as the band made their way north. Before the show started there was an obvious buzz in the air of the sold out 8x10 over what was about to take place, and the band was greeted eagerly as they took the cramped stage.
They once again opened with an instrumental, this time choosing the relatively new It’s a Bunch. The very solid first set featured the same tight and aggressive playing from the night before, with the highlight being the high energy Minds Unchained jam that transitioned perfectly into the ending of Ain’t That Wrong, which finished the version from the night before.
The band maintained their momentum into the second set, with a great Leave the Light On to start the second half of the show, before playing multiple fan favorites including a massive Virtual Bean Dip > The Reprise to the end the set.
A Beautiful Day encore is always a great way to the end the show, and this time was no exception.
I would not be surprised if this was the last time they played the 8x10, which is disappointing as it’s a great venue to see a show, but they have clearly established a fan base in Baltimore, and they may need a bigger venue the next time they come to town.
Both shows offered tight composed sections and patient, exploratory improv, and anyone who was at the shows or has listened to them online has hopefully realized that Spafford has not wasted anytime warming up, and have hit the ground running at full speed.
If you have not seen them this tour or at all, I highly suggest doing so if you can, as they probably won’t be playing in rooms this small for too much longer.
Special thanks to @ronskiiiii for sharing his photos for this review!
Great job Ryan! Thanks for sharing your experience with the rest of us. Just curious...if the 8x10 isn’t an option the next time around, what would be the most likely venue for a larger crowd?
@603Brett thats hard to say. Bands usually go from playing there to playing at either Rams Head or Soundstage. Soundstage holds around 1000 and Rams Head is 1500 or so. If they did a co-headline with someone I could see them playing Rams Head otherwise Soundstage makes alot more sense, but even then I'm not sure they have the draw in Baltimore to fill it up. I love the 8x10 though so I really wouldn't mind another show there
Nice review. Love the photos too. Thanks.
Thanks for the reviews, Ryan! I haven't listened to VA yet but MD sounded great! I was at BB Kings too and I fully agree that they sound way more comfortable and in synch now. And it's no surprise ... it takes time to build that chemistry. It's only been 5 months or so.. a blip. Imagine where they are going?? The future is so bright I have to put my shades on to look at it 😎
@mike photo credit goes to the very talented @ronskiiiii
Should be noted that all of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong was chomping with their Ping crew throughout most of the show in Baltimore. It was amazing to see a local band "supporting" Spafford by talking through the whole show.
Yeah I was standing a couple people in front of Greg so I was pretty annoyed by that. I was kind of surprised by it considering the two bands have played together before and know each other
@The-Postman Wow! I wouldn't expect them to talk through the show! Kind of disappointing!
I wouldn't read too much into it. I can only imagine how routine a show can become if you do it for work and you do it every night. I'm sure they meant no disrespect.
@damian That is very true! It's all about perspective I guess!