Review: 2017-10-20 - The Mercy Lounge, Nashville, TN
My good friend, Lance, and I both got off work early on this beautiful day so we met at his place for a 90 Minute IPA and then arrived at The Mercy Lounge around 4:00. We circled the lot next to the venue in search of parking and saw the band's bus already there. I spotted Brian and Red heading to the venue from the bus and really wanted to "fanboy" out by yelling their names from the car but I stopped myself. This was the right decision.
We parked across 8th Avenue and wandered over to The Flying Saucer for a couple beers. It was a bit of a walk as I am currently in a walking boot from a terrible ankle sprain I suffered nearly two months ago but no big deal. If you ever have time to kill in Nashville, The Flying Saucer is a good bet with over 80 taps. From there we met up with some other friends at The Pub Nashville and enjoyed a light meal of Irish staples and a couple more drinks. Then on to the show!
I had won a couple guest list spots and gave them to my good friends, Chig and Gretchen, as payback for my miracle ticket to Night 2 of Phish 2016 in Nashville. Also, they had maybe heard about 30 minutes of Spafford prior to the show and I knew they would love it. All in, I convinced seven friends with minimal Spafford experience to come to the show. We hung outside the venue on the "smoking porch" while waiting for the show to start. I spotted Red and his wife out there but didn't want to cause a scene so just creepily glanced their way occasionally before I wandered back inside.
Southern Avenue was a pleasant surprise. Their lead vocalist can wail. She and the drummer have a beautiful harmony. I wonder if they are sisters. They have a bluesy soul sound that fit my mood very well to start the evening.
I have been listening to Spafford for just over a year now but this was my first time seeing them in action. My expectations were very high because I know what they are capable of and wanted my friends to be impressed. All expectations were exceeded.
Set I: My Road (My Road), Todd's Tots, Ain't That Wrong, Simon & Lily, Mad World, The Postman
My Road (My Road):
First time I've heard this song as it was just debuted a couple shows prior. Cool, fat bass riff leads the way. Red's soulful vocals are a good start to the show. It wasn't very memorable but my first Spafford show was under way.
Now we're cooking. I love this song. I have 2 daughters (Cassidy MaeRose, 8 and Stella BlueLily, 4) so I can easily identify with the brief lyrics. The quiet, contemplative jam in this song is one of the things I love about Spafford. Such a patient build so early in the show is a sign of great things to come on this night.
Ain't That Wrong:
Two of my friends, at different times during Ain't That Wrong, came to me and said they were hooked. We are only 3 songs in. I love that feeling. I introduced one of those friends to Phish 17 years ago and he then accompanied me to Big Cypress. Watching someone's face melt for the first time is a very beautiful thing. Ain't That Wrong is one of my favorites. Love the funky high energy blues rock.
Simon and Lily:
I honestly missed this one and was shocked to see it on the setlist before I went to bed after the show. No recollection whatsoever that it was played. Not a knock on the song. I like this song. Maybe I blacked out for a minute. Honestly not sure what happened but my brain must've had to reboot after Ain't That Wrong or something.
All of my friend's eyes lit up when they recognized this one. Big grins. They were all very shocked and then getting down. This was the highlight of the night for a few of them. Good, long, electronic jam. This jam hooked those in my group that hadn't already melted after Ain't That Wrong.
What a set closer! This is another personal favorite of mine. I remember another patient build to that magical release. Spafford is so fucking good at the tension and release jamming. Wish I could give specifics but the recording will eventually surface to remind me. I just remember being very happy with this one and feeling it was a perfect set closer.
Set II: It's a Bunch > On Fire > Leave The Light On, In The Eyes Of Thieves, The Fireman
Leave The Light On:
JAM OF THE NIGHT! I'm not sure how long LTLO was but they kept layering and building the jam only to let it slowly unravel so they could patiently build it again. Several times this occurred. At one point, I thought we were headed into Catfish John and a buddy told me it sounded like Fire on the Mountain. A lot of that was just the effect Brian was using. That sort of Autowah/MuTron thing. His playing really did sound very Garcia-esque during parts of this jam though. Again, can't wait to hear the recording.
In the Eyes of Thieves:
Perfect next song. More patient tension and release funky ass jamming.
Kind of left scratching my head on this one. Seemed like an afterthought. This was very short and an abrupt ending to an amazing second set.
E: Beautiful Day > Salamander Song
Red came out, by himself, to start the encore with a beautiful piano solo. The audience was not attentive. Lots of loud talking and yelling. Several people trying to shhhh the crowd. One of the friends I brought to the show bellowed over the crowd: "That means shut the fuck up!" I wanted to give him a big hug. Red sure is swell. He has such beautiful taste in the notes he chooses to play. The rest of the band slowly came back on stage and we were treated to the perfect encore for this day. Red had the aural stage to himself to close the song and the rest of the band just watched him play. As it wound down, I noticed Brian and Jordan tuning so knew we were gonna get another song. My soul knew exactly what that song was gonna be. And then.....
Yep. Could not have asked for a better encore. The Nashville crowd doesn't understand when to "Hey!" but that's ok. Most of them had never heard Salamander before let alone heard Spafford before. We danced the whole way home for sure.
Personal highlight for me. While waiting for my friends to close out their tabs at the bar, I spotted Red and his wife heading for the stairs to leave. I quickly approached him, shook his hand, and thanked him for a great show. As I mentioned before, I'm not one to generally do something like this but I would've regretted not taking advantage of the opportunity. Wish I could've said hello to the rest of the members. Maybe next time!
Big thanks to Spafford for coming to Nashville. Hope they make us a regular tour stop because I'll go every time. Nerd for life.
~ Elliot Smith (@BushCow)
Special thanks to Jared Harvey for contributing some of the photos
Thanks for the awesome review, @BushCow! Brian has been playing some amazing Garcia-tinted licks this tour... toss Mayer off stage and give the people Moss!
Thanks for the review!
I've listened to the show once through and revisited bits and pieces.. solid from bottom to top, really good playing throughout .. Jordan is a monster in that second set ... i personally don't think Spaff ever disappoints but you definitely picked a fine show for a first
Great review man! Love the "brain needing a reboot after Ain't That Wrong" ... certainly been there!