Review: 2017-10-15 - The Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids, MI
Driving into Michigan it is apparent that the State makes a point of not spoiling the sheer beauty of its natural surroundings. It was “Pure Michigan” indeed as the mid-October fall colors were on full display! My wife and I were in awe as mile after mile of reds, yellows, and oranges, streaked passed us welcoming us from the gray cityscape of Chicago all the way into Grand Rapids itself.
Like most of us, half the reason I love traveling to see bands is exploring the cities themselves, and Grand Rapids did NOT disappoint. We checked in to our hotel and immediately took to the streets hoping to find some good food, good beer, and hopefully a few Nerds along the way. Let me tell you, if you’re a fan of the food/drink scenes going on in places like Asheville, NC and Fort Collins, CO… Grand Rapids is for you! This town is absolutely one of the gems of the Midwest! With limited time between arriving and the show itself we decided we would check out Grand Rapids Brewing and Founders Brewing before heading over to the Pyramid Scheme.
At Grand Rapids brewing while enjoying a DELICIOUS barrel-aged golden sour ale called Sur La Lune (v2) we learned that The Pyramid Scheme had AGAIN been voted “best in the west” for music venues by Revue Magazine, a local Michigan publication. As expected, this only added to our anticipation of what was to come later. Between the quality of the food, incredible beers, and hospitality of the staff, we could have stayed at GR Brewing all night and had a blast, but tonight there was only one goal. So off we went, but not before sharing some “I’m Killing It” stickers with the staff and ensuring one made it on their fridge!
It’s immediately apparent why Founders has a reputation as a “must see” brewery. From the stage that uses their brewing facility as a backdrop, to the beer list that screams “you’ll never leave”, this place was flat out awesome! I can tell why Founder’s Fest is getting the buzz it is in the Midwest and I won’t be missing it in 2018 (cough SPAFFORD cough). Still feeling the pull of the approaching show I decided to scan the beer list and just randomly pick whatever spoke out to me… and lo and behold what do I see? RED’S Rye IPA. Red’s NEVER let me down before… and this day was no different! Several tastings and another pint later I could tell it was time to either get to the venue or reserve a cot behind the bar. So after sharing more stickers, including one for their fridge too, we headed off towards our ultimate goal.
After a short ride in the most Michigan Uber ever, a Dodge Ram quad cab, we arrived at The Pyramid Scheme. I noticed someone exiting the bar as we were walking in so I held the door open and it turned out to be Brian Moss. We got to shake his hand and share how excited we were for the show… a GREAT way to arrive! The Pyramid Scheme is a pretty small bar packed with awesome pinball machine classics like KISS, ROBOCOP, JURASSIC PARK, and more. So after a short trip through my childhood we decided to be the first in line for doors. Jon Rose was releasing the V3 Fall Tour print this night and I NEEDED that in my life. As usual the print was even better in person and #02/75 will soon be on my wall! Shout out to my wife Sam for keeping track of it all show while I danced like a fool!
Now any review of this show MUST start with Hayley Jane and the Primates! Any time a band comes out and the lead singer steps past her mic to high-five us for showing up early, they deserve some love! That kind of energy would be a theme throughout their set. From Hayley’s smile that seemed to stretch from one side of the stage to the other, to her running in place for what seemed like an entire song (while singing!?), to Moss coming out to jam with the band for their closer, this set loosened the crowd up just right! If you have a chance to see these guys play I’d highly recommend it. I thoroughly enjoyed their set!
It was finally time for what we all came for. As Spafford took the stage the giddy anticipation I’d had all day was now at it’s highest point. A “FUCK YEAH SPAFFORD!” rang out from the back of the venue and I couldn’t have agreed more, I just can’t see these guys enough right now!
The synth-y tones of Red’s keys broke the silence starting the always groovy In the Eyes of Thieves. Even though the entire crowd was to my back I felt everyone settle in right along with Jordan’s groove. Moss and Cam worked together perfectly throughout an uplifting peak which lead to all four of the guys coming together in one glorious blend. As the song ended Moss hopped around in the sort of “boxer warm-up” hops he does from time to time, and I for one love seeing this. It always makes me feel as though he’s ready to go 12 rounds, just as we are in the crowd!
Next the crowd let out a roar as the first notes of The Remedy filled the air. The hard times certainly were letting go as the crowd was really feeling it and the energy was starting to build throughout the room. This wasn’t lost on the band either as evidenced by the smiles on their faces.
The best jam bands know exactly when to chill their crowds out and Spafford is no exception. The timing for Sweet was perfect! As Moss serenaded us I looked around the crowd and was greeted with smile after smile as love seemed to pulse through the entire room. Even though this is a cover it’s one of my favorite songs they play, the hall IS clear and the music’s LOUD!
The smiles continued as Jordan took the lead for Catfish John next. This song is always a great time and it’s made even better when Spafford adds their distinct touches to it.
Now that we’d had our fun the crowd was ready to get rowdy, and Ain’t That Wrong was happy to oblige! This is where the band really started to hit their stride, with Moss’ guitar absolutely soaring throughout the room. The crowd was really moving now and it was evident that the band was feeding on this energy!
Set 1 closed out with People which contains some of my favorite lyrics in the entire Spafford library. I’m also a sucker for anything Red sings! As someone who’s first show was also Cam’s first show with the band (https://spaffnerds.com/shows/2017-05-25) I was a fan of his from the start. During People, and really all set long, it has been apparent that he’s more comfortable as a member of the band and now confidently taking the driver’s seat at times. His skills are really starting to shine and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here. The band left to a deafening roar from the crowd as everyone tried to absorb what we had just heard.
As the band came back out for their second set Moss’ sinister smile told us all we needed to know about what was to come. The set opened with Palisades > Weasel which was a nice little twist on the more common Weasel>Palisades>Weasel. Again Cam was on point changing tempo during a long seamless transition into the almost 90’s alternative riffs of Weasel. I felt sorry for anyone within 6 feet of me, I’m not the most graceful dancer and this one made me throw caution to the wind!
A dark psychedelic jam out of Weasel switched gears and gave way to Red’s voice perfectly soaring through another favorite cover, Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand. Matched with Jordan’s on-point crooning, I honestly prefer their version to the original. It’ll break your heart in the best way possible.
Now Moss took over for another deserved fan favorite, Mind’s Unchained. I just love the opening lick to this song with Moss and Red playing around each other to create a really fun open. Another slow build led to a soaring Moss solo. In my opinion he’s as precise as any guitar player out there right now yet at times he makes it look entirely effortless. It’s almost a drawback... almost.
Yet another smooth transition led to what I consider the highlight of the set, as Jordan’s groove signaled the start of It’s a Bunch. You know those moments at a show where the crowd couldn’t possibly be dancing any harder? That was now, as this two-faced monster of an IAB played between sheer beauty and Moss absolutely shredding the jam throughout. Now I’m not one to compare bands to each other, I prefer to avoid it honestly, but at some point someone behind me yelled out “That’s some Umphrey’s $h&% right there!” While I’d contend that that’s some Spafford $h&% right there, this WAS the heaviest It’s a Bunch I’ve ever heard and I loved every second of it. Oh, and \mm/
I knew we had to be approaching the end of the set and as IAB perfectly gave way to Leave the Light On it was absolute LIFTOFF! The guys couldn’t help but smile at the HUGE crowd response to the first notes of the song. This was the song that started my love of Spafford and it NEVER disappoints, especially to end a set. The energy in the crowd carried through both jams and as the song ended the guys again walked off the stage to a roar that sounded as if it belonged to crowd triple the size it was.
After only a brief moment off stage the guys came back out for the encore. From the moment I got to know this song I’ve felt it would be a perfect stand along encore, and that’s been at the top of my Spafford “chasing” list ever since. So predictably I lost it when Salamander Song started. The happy melody and fun lyrics were made even better when (most of) the crowd got their “HEY!” part right (It’s with the band guys, not in response to the band). I finally got to finish a Spafford show “dancing the whole way home” which is exactly what my wife and I did…
As short as it was, this was an amazing day and one of my favorite shows ever. There’s just something about Spafford right now that makes me happy to my core. Until next time!
Great review brother!!
Awesome review!! You did a great job of capturing the show in the pictures. That one of Brian smiling is perfect!
@Geoff thanks man!
@Cody haha yeah the photography part comes naturally. Can’t wait for more shows!