Review: 2018-01-18 - Iron Works - Buffalo, NY
So every review begins with a little backstory to the show - how you got there, what you did before, etc. This introduction will dig a little deeper into the backstory here at Buffalo Iron Works...
This story begins back in February of 2017. Spafford had just embarked on their first trip to the east coast supporting Umphrey's McGee, with a few headlining dates thrown in for good measure. I was a newly converted Nerd, joining around December 2016, but seeing the buzz and excitement in the Spaffnerds group made this tour all the more special. Evan even organized a fundraiser to raise money for the band to load up on frozen burritos while out on tour. These hometown fans had an unspeakable love for this band, one which I understand all too well now, and I couldn't wait to get to see these guys (in Rochester) after just recently discovering them. Well, as we know, Spafford didn't end up playing in Rochester with UM due to the place being too small. I was super bummed to say the least, but, luckily for me, they were playing a headlining show in Buffalo the next week. I had already decided I was going to the Buffalo show a few weeks before, I considered Spafford one of my top favorite bands by this point, and there was no way I would be satisfied by just an opening set! I had been preaching Spafford to my friend Kyle ever since I discovered them, and I managed to convince him to make the 4.5 hr trek from Albany to Buffalo with us, and he is definitely happy he did!
We drove out to Buffalo on a cold Wednesday night and made it into Iron Works just in time to see Mike & Dave from Aqueous opening the show. I already knew that I was buying both of the Jon Rose posters that were available (tour poster and show poster), so as soon as we walked in I was eyeing the merch booth - but there was nobody there! During the opening set, I finally saw someone at the table and ran over. I ended up up meeting Sashi there, and he seemed ecstatic that I was buying both posters - he even gave me a band signed tour poster, so I was pumped! The posters came to $50, I got $60 out of the ATM, and I was like - "is there anything else I can buy, I mean I've got this $10 left that isn't going to do me any good." He ended up giving me a shirt and 2 wristbands for that $10, and he even gave my girlfriend a wristband because she was jealous of mine! One thing that he said then will stick in my head - "It's nice to have fans!"
There were maybe 75 people at the show, and only a handful that had actually listened to Spafford before. It was awesome to see everyone reacting to the music, and I couldn't believe that I was actually seeing Spafford in Buffalo of all places! I'm pretty sure I shed a few tears throughout the night lol. Safe to say, this show will always be one of my favorites, for the music, and for the experience!
It was almost a year and 5 shows (at the time) since my first Spafford show at Buffalo Iron Works, and I couldn't help to think back on that experience here, because the stories run in parallel. This Thursday night was much like that Wednesday night a year back, Kyle was in tow yet again, and the energy around this tour was arguably greater than their first tour out east. They knocked their NYE run out of the park, and were tearing down a path of destruction across the midwest with a target on Buffalo, NY.
We missed the opener this time (but Goose is great, check them out), and alas I missed out on the Jon Rose Buffalo show print this time, but we did get there just in time to cozy up right behind the rail riders before Spafford went on. This place was PACKED tonight. There must have been over 400 people, just under the venue's capacity, and here's another reminder that we won't be seeing them in rooms this small for much longer! The word of Spaff has travelled far and wide since the year before, and it was impressive to see all of the nerds in the crowd. The crowd was buzzing with excitement, anxiously waiting for the band to take the stage.
On the car ride to the show I said "Ya know what, I'd really like to get The Postman tonight", and that's just what they gave us! They walked out on the stage and immediately commanded the room throughout the composition. As soon as a little room to stretch shows up, the band takes it by the reigns and shows everyone how this night is going to go. This Postman is one to take note of, even called "the best Postman I've ever heard" by George Reichardt (@crappygeorge) , the jam has a nice flavoring of untz from Cam, and gets the show rolling past the 20 minute mark.
A great version of Backdoor Funk comes next - I never get sick of this song, even though it's my most seen. The band is obviously comfortable up on the stage and the improvisation is flowing out of every member of the band throughout each song. To my delight, The Remedy was up next, and if you listen closely to Cam's playing during the lyrics, you'll see what I mean about the flow of improv. No song is safe, these guys are ready to take the ride with the crowd and go where the music wants to go. Now, this Remedy has been dubbed "the best ever" by Kyle Burbank. With the reigning Remedy being from The Wonder Bar in 2017, I'm inclined to agree with him.
Up next, Red starts to Feel Like A Stranger, and gets the whole crowd amped up singing along. "It's gonna be a long, long, crazy, crazy night" and they pull the Spafford chain and launch into their take on how this song should be jammed out.
Spafford is known for their willingness to honor fan requests, I decided to try my luck and ask for Diana tonight on Twitter. Looks like they got that request! I f*****g love this song. It's super catchy and I'm just waiting for them to take the song for a funky ride. The set closed out with a great performance of People, always featuring a band walk-off/Red piano solo ending.... "We'll be back in a few minutes." The crowd erupted in appreciation of that killer first set, obviously hungry for more Spafford!
Set 2 is where things get fun. The band comes back on stage and busts right into the near-peak of a jam. "What is this?" "What are they playing?" "Oh shit it's STILL PEOPLE!" That's how that went. The crowd loved it too. Awesome idea paired with Red's solo ending from the first set. Now warmed up from the set break, Plans is up next! This song has become a huge jam vehicle, combine that with an enjoyable upbeat composed section (I'm a sucker for Jordan songs) and it's up there as one of my favorites. Listen to this version! Now! The crowd was locked into the band (besides your typical chompers), and every soaring peak was met with cheers from the packed crowd. I get so locked in on the band that I rarely notice the crowd. Especially with earplugs (highly recommended). Even so, I could feel the energy in the room, even with my eyes closed. That energy helped to bring this plan to a level where I was left wondering what song we were even in. After the show, Jordan talked about it as throwing a ball back and forth with the crowd, building up the jam and winding the peaks and valleys through the interactions with the crowd. When they stopped playing I looked at Kyle and went "Was that still Plans?!" Yes. Yes it was.
Wondering how they would top that jam off, they broke into Virtual Bean Dip, another first-time-heard for me. Even with no lyrics, this song speaks volumes, and the crowd ate up every single word! Just when you thought they were done, the key changed and they shifted into another direction. This masterfully carved soundscape dropped us right into a high energy Galisteo Way. The whole crowd was jumping around chanting to the song's chorus with the band. It was crazy how many people knew the lyrics to that song, and so the band decided to gift us with a smoking version of Crazy. With an average show gap of 47 shows, this is a rare tune. I've sung along with the studio version of this one while road tripping across the country that it felt great to belt out the lyrics with Brian live for a change!
The show could have ended now and I would have been happy, but they weren't done yet. Plucking the feeling of a deep jam right out of thin air, we were off to rage-land! A few minutes into this jam I picked up on Brian's Mad World lick. This jam was excellent, and this cover choice was the perfect way to close out the set! Pretty much any song that Spafford chooses to cover takes on a life of it's own within the band, and this one is no different.
The crowd erupted as the band walked off the stage. High fives and "fuck yeahs!" all around, the love for Spafford had grown by hundreds tonight. You can't help but feel excitement for the future when you see shows like this one. The crowd knows it. The band knows it. We all know it. Spafford is fucking awesome. As if the band could read the crowd's mind, they came back out and sent us home with a whipped topping of Salamander Song. Buffalo does NOT know when to "Hey!" let that be known. This sing-along had everyone dancing the whole way home after a night of Grade A electro funk therapy. I am amazed at how much these guys keep improving, Buffalo and Syracuse were a pair of the best shows I've ever seen. The huge crowds and sold out shows are inspiring the band and the band is inspiring the crowd right back. This continues to be an exciting time to be a Spaffnerd, and I look forward to reliving these moments with all of you 20 years down the road. See you at the next one, right?
Great write up! I've been hearing that phrase a lot lately, 'they aren't going to be able to play these sized rooms anymore'. Glad it's being acknowledged around the country! As well as in less than tropical weather.
Great review. Similar experience in Raleigh last week. Best band in the world.