Review: 2017-10-11 - State Theater, State College, PA
Wednesday, October 11th, marked the first time Spafford played the State Theatre, a former movie theatre located in State College, PA, home of Penn State. This was my 9th and final show of the year and I was eagerly looking forward to it as I made my way up the scenic US-22, which has some really great views of the Susquehanna River this time of year.
And you get to see this, because why not put a replica of the Statue of Liberty in the middle of the Susquehanna river:
After checking into my hotel room, I made my way over to the venue, which is located as close to the Penn State campus as possible while still being off-campus. This was my first time at the venue and I spent some time looking around before I went into the show. From the popcorn machine at the concession stand to the cinema-esque ticket checkers, the State Theatre had a very cool, old-timey feel to it, and I was very excited to see my first Spafford show that wasn’t in a bar or club.
I made my way into the theatre and walked into the second half of Hayley Jane and the Primates set. I had never seen them before and had only listened to a little bit of their music before the show, but I was definitely impressed by their performance. After their set, I made my way up to the stage and talked to some of the other people patiently, but eagerly, waiting for the concert to begin. There seemed to be an even mix of first timers and people who had seen the band at least once before. I also encountered multiple people who had seen more than one show on this tour alone.
The band came onto the stage at 9:30 and opened up with what was in my opinion the best segment of the night, a 27 minute It’s A Bunch > Backdoor Funk, which contained some very patient and smooth jamming. Less than halfway through It’s A Bunch, Jordan began to experience technical difficulties which seemed to be related to one his cables and he was forced to play plugged directly into his amp until Backdoor Funk was finished. If the malfunction affected his playing it seemed to do it positively as he was probably the MVP of the jam even without any of his effects.
After replacing what seemed to be the problem cable, the band went into what is probably my favorite ballad of theirs, Diana. This was only the 20th time the song had been played. After wrapping up a standard but solid version of it, Jordan’s pedalboard was removed from the stage entirely as he had experienced more issues during Diana and played the rest of the first set effect-less. Virtual Bean Dip was up next, and was the other jam highlight of the night. They finished up the set with a short, but high-energy rendition of The Remedy that sent us into set break very happy and curious what they had in store for the second set.
Jordan without his pedals and Brian without Raven
The second set opener, You Don’t Know How It Feels, was a welcome surprise to me as I had assumed most of the songs played during the 2017-10-03 encore in honor of Tom Petty’s passing would be one-offs, but two of the three have made a second appearance and hopefully will remain in the band’s rotation. The band then launched into a good but standard version of Todd’s Tots and Slip and Squander before ending the set with Mad World and Electric Taco Stand. Mad World is one of my favorite Spafford covers because it’s a great example of how they completely transform a song into their own. Unless you already knew the Spafford version, you would have no idea what they were about to play until the lyrics started. Played less than 20 times total since its debut in 2013, Mad World has fortunately made its way back into somewhat steady rotation after being only played twice in 2016. This high-energy version was a good warm-up for the set closer and highlight of the second half of the show: Electric Taco Stand.
I have been fortunate to hear four different versions of ETS, which is awesome since it's one of my favorite songs and the one I usually play when first introducing people to the band. This particular version continued the musical theme introduced during Mad World with a jam that has a very discho-ish/jamtronica sound. Although only clocking in at 11 minutes the band covers a relatively large amount of territory in that time span, with some of my favorite playing of the night from Cam starting around 6:00 minutes or so. The band ended their performance with Plans, one of their more unique songs that always leaves everyone smiling. Although it wasn’t the additional set that was chanted for after ETS, it was a great way to end the show and set us out to the mild October night.
Even though the show was short compared to most of the other ones I had seen them play, it still contained everything that I want at a show and that made me a fan of the band in the first place. 2017 has been one of the most, if not the most important year in the band’s existence and the way they grown both musically and in popularity bodes very well for their future. I personally can’t wait to see how they finish up the year and to see what they have in store 2018.
Thanks for the killer review, Ryan! Love your vivid descriptions of your trip and the venue. I went to college in Binghamton NY so the Susquehanna is an old friend of mine! I loved the first set of this show... when it came out on Nugs I listened to it several times in a row. (I don't know what I'm going to do when my trial expires!). It's A Bunch into BDF was such a juicy start and loved the VBD... the playing is so clean and I hear what you say about Jordan rocking despite the cable malfunction, which I wouldn't have realized without your review.. thanks for deepening my knowledge of a set that really hooked me!
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@myanruth Enjoyed your review mucho. Excellent work Simpson!
@myanruth fun fact, the bridge just east of there on the Susq is the longest, consecutive arch span bridge in the world! I love that part of 322, it really opens up past Harrisburg. def brings back the nostalgia of college every time I make that trek again
where'd you goto school @Johnny-Love
@PhillySpaffnerd State University of NY Binghamton - straight up 81 from the PA parts, about 45 min north of Scranton.