2018-05-25 - Cameron Laforest: A Year in Review
A little intro to explain what this is about. A couple weeks ago @JohnnyLove approached me to write an article looking back at Cam’s first year with the band, pointing out some big moments and how his playing had been implemented to the band’s sound. I was more than happy to oblige, as my entire writing career spawned from a review I did of the 2017-10-07 Portland, ME show, and I felt it would be fun to discuss Cam’s incredible year with the band. This was a ton of fun to write, I hope you enjoy! Shoutout to @Cody for helping me pick these moments.
As of today- May 25th, 2018- Cameron Laforest has been the drummer of Spafford for a full year. The band has grown exponentially in that time, putting together two cross-country tours and releasing "For Amusement Only" their first studio album in 6 years (recorded mere months after Cam’s addition no less). The fans have come to know and love the newest and hopefully permanent drummer of our favorite Arizona jam band.
I think a lot of people’s first Cam experience came from the video of the famous Summer Camp ‘17 Mind’s Unchained, which was his first performance with the group. In the video you can see Brian already falling for Cam’s playing and the whole group making sure he felt welcome onstage by laying back and allowing him to make the song his own, only to find that he was already down for pushing the songs to their limits. That video showed that Cam wasn’t scared to already start adding his own flare to the band’s existing sound, which I think stuck with a lot of people that were both skeptical fans from the Nick-era and newcomers that had never heard or seen the band before.
Another big moment in Cam’s time with the group was the week that they released their hour-long improvisational studio record, Abaculus, and played a late night Phish after-party at the famed B.B. King’s club in NYC. Abaculus made big headlines in the jam scene, and for good reason, as it showed off just how impressive Spafford’s group improvisation abilities were with this new drummer. The session (recorded by Jordan Fairless w/o the band knowing) moves through so many splendid melodic themes and vibes, and Cam works effortlessly with Fairless to keep the whole thing going. Just a week after Abaculus was released, the group played an after show on Night 12 of Phish’s Baker’s Dozen run, which won them lots of fans as they tore through some exceptional versions of Leave the Light On and America > The Reprise, driven by Cam’s groovy yet aggressive drumming style.
The point where I really started appreciating Cam was their 2017 Fall Tour, which was their first tour with him. I caught them in Boston and Portland, which both happened to be absolutely amazing shows, but he consistently killed it that entire tour. The amount of times I must’ve heard “This new drummer is amazing!” throughout the shows was enormous, and there was a noticeable buzz online about how well he was fitting in with the band. The relentless schedule allowed for the band to really learn the ins and outs of his playing, and as they grew more and more comfortable they expanded their jams even more, notably jams such as the Dream Jam > All My Friends > Bee Jam > Alternate Ending > Ain't That Wrong from Albany and the Columbia Bee Jam.
All of this led up to the ultra-legendary Old Town Jam, a 57-minute monstrosity the band threw down to kick off their Steamboat Springs show in March. The Old Town Jam took all the aspects we loved about Abaculus (many different musical themes, complete improvisation, all members’ abilities showcased, I could go on) and used them to form a jam masterpiece. Again, Cam was the driving force behind the entire jam. He and Jordan had gotten to know each other’s playing so well that they could keep it tight no matter where the music took them. Cam had become fully immersed into the group’s improvisational oneness, and solidified himself as the perfect drummer for the group.
The past year with Cam has been exceptional, and the band has grown exponentially in that time. Cam’s playing has changed the sound of Spafford for the better, and helped them explore some new, uncharted jam territory. I know I speak for most Spaffnerds when I say this: I hope he stays in the band for the long run. He has been a wonderful addition to the group.
It should be noted that the band’s wonderful resident poster wizard @Jon-Rose did something very clever with the Summer Camp posters this year and last. As last year was Cam’s first show, the poster depicted a giant seed, which has grown into a big blooming tree for this year’s Scamp poster, representing Cam’s growth as a member of the band.