Review: 2018-05-27- Red Rocks, Morrison, CO
"If you will it, Dude, it is no Dream."
I’ve been wanting to write that headline for awhile, and I feel pretty confident that it fits after Spafford's debut performance at Red Rocks on Sunday. I’m sure that everyone reading this always thought this was going to eventually happen and that in the future, Spafford will headline this venue.
But on May 27th, 2018, they got to perform as openers for the first time, supporting the Disco Biscuits. Organ Freeman started the party right on time at 5pm and the Los Angeles based duo brought along a killer guitar to help them warm up the crowd before Spafford and tDB. Spafford hit right at 6:15pm sharp for their 75-minute set, nay make that 90 minutes. They walked out to a roar of applause, grinning from ear to ear, ready to jump into their first song of the afternoon …
But before I jump into the show let me talk about the previous couple of hours. It wouldn’t be a Nerd Party or a Red Rocks Party without a pre-show hang and we had perfect conditions. The earliest of the nerds made it to the venue before me and I rolled in right around 3pm, which got me into the second row of the South Upper lot. There was a Spaffnerds Flag hanging from some signage in the parking lot indicating where to met and where the front of the line was to walk up the hill. Spafford was bumping out of the back of a van, coolers were stocked, and people were meeting new and old nerds. @Phokus was on hand to deliver non- Arizona residents shirts that he had designed for those that wanted. (Huge thanks to @Phokus for putting it all together, we were immediately recognizable as Nerds and I’m pretty sure the band noticed as well). It was cool to talk to people that were seeing Spafford for the first time ever or those that showed up for their 3rd set of the weekend, having just flown in from Summer Camp. There were even a few Nerds that were making the trek to Red Rocks for the first time. Remember: get there early and park in the Upper South Lot, not the Lower South Lot-- also don’t let anyone tell you it’s part of the experience to hike from one to the other. Somewhere during the pre-party in the lot we found out that we were getting a 90 minute set thanks to the Disco Biscuits' Marc Brownstein via Twitter. Just before 5 we started up the ramp in time to hear Organ Freeman greet us as we went through security. I really dig Organ and if you haven’t heard them start with "Go by Richard, Not by Dick”.
6:00p I’m anxious, I don’t want to leave my seat for anything. Chatting about what kind of show we will get. ATL afterhours was epic and I was hoping for something like that. Perhaps they would play their new album and jam out a bit where appropriate. Or maybe they would give us an opening Red Rocks Jam and then segue into something else and back into Red Rocks jam giving their first performance a theme sort of like hometown shows in the past. Still sitting on pins and needles, I checked the Facebook feed and there were still people debating what Spafford will open with.
6:10p Ok, everyone is kind of settling into their seats, time to make sure I have enough room to dance, beverages are topped off, shift from side to side in anticipation, ohhh and take some photos commemorating the experience. I'm going to write a review, can’t have a review without pictures.
6:13p From my vantage point somewhere in the 10th row I can see the guys behind the stage grinning from ear to ear waiting to walk out... It’s happening!! I suddenly remember everyone talking about how playing Red Rocks was on their list of goals, people talking about the Sail Inn days and open mics in Prescott to my first show at the Rhythm Room almost 4 years ago and how we all knew they would play Red Rocks soon. It’s been said before and I was thinking it right before they walked on stage: we are going to miss those shows with $10 covers standing in a room with 75-100 people. I am secretly looking forward to when I can say, I saw them way back when.
6:14:43p The boys walk onto the hallowed ground that is the stage of the Red Rocks Amphitheater and the Nerds in attendance loose their collective minds. From where I am sitting it looks like Cam, Jordan, Brian, and Red are doing their best to control themselves.
6:15p This is where I stop keeping track of time because it stands still for the next 90 minutes and I just wanted to soak it all in.
Broken Wing starts us off. Cameron takes the lead as Brian, Jordan, and Red fall into place. A groovy jam to start the show, easing everyone into the set, that I mistakenly thought was a new song. Technically it is a new song, only having made its debut a little over a month ago in Atlanta. I notice tDB fans taking notice that there is something special happening. It’s been said in the forums, and I was told that tDB never have this many people show up for an opener, so they know that Spafford is about to ignite the place.
The Postman follows and just doesn’t stop to give anyone a chance to catch their breath. It seems that Red almost doesn’t want the rest of the band to segue into the vocals of the song but once that is over the jamming starts. And it hits me, they are not going to do a normal opener set, they are not going to do this song like it is on the album, they are not going to do something like the ATL after show. Rather they are going to do it their own way. They are going to jam and jam hard while using every second of the 90 minutes.
Weasel needed no introduction and they segued effortlessly into this. It was at this point that I was reminded of how great of musicians they are and how they will take risks and push themselves musically in any environment. I was so blown away that they just jammed out. I’m starting to think that they are doing this for themselves, we only get to witness it.
In my mind I realize that Spafford had reached another level, during All My Friends > Bee Jam, I’m getting nothing like I ever expected. I am getting a Jam session of original old school songs. The gents looked at what got me hooked and then showed me how much they had grown as a band right in front of me over the last 4 years. I’m not a parent but I imagine showing pictures to unsuspecting family members of children is what I did to my dad after this show, playing him older recordings compared to what they put down at Red Rocks expanding on what got me hooked in the first place.
Speaking of what got me hooked, Leave the Light On was probable the first set of lyrics that I had committed to memory after The Postman. LTLO is always a crowd favorite and one of those songs that even though it has been played live 140+ times it always sounds unique. It’s honestly a perfect song, jams that swing into vocals/sing-alongs back into jams. On the rocks I just sort of closed my eyes and let the jams hang me in the wind that had picked up in intensity before jumping back in to serenade those unfortunate enough to be standing next to me during the vocals.
I know I said I was going to stop looking at the clock but with 17 minutes or so to go we were wondering what we were going to get as a closer. Everyone around me was dancing, losing their minds, and just soaking it in. The boys took what seemed to be their first breather all set when Cam and Red dropped into Slip and Squander. The lyrics “Bet they Dream of Home” (taken out of context for the purpose of this review) got me all in the feels and I imagined all the hard work that these guys had put in to get here. You don’t pick up an instrument and play Red Rocks in a few weeks. You put in work and Spafford has done just that, I’m just glad I have been able to see their rise over the last few years, make some amazing friends and get to see some cool venues in the process. When Brian said ‘Let's go Red Rocks!’ I was sure that they were going to leave me with these goosebumps whilst I wiped a single tear from my eye (strong men also cry), as they jammed the rest of Slip and Squander.
But, wait, is that Brian giving signals? Could it be another song?! Wait, we had at least 7 more minutes (totally not looking at my phone)! We will definitely get another song! And then one of my favorites and longtime show closer spoke from the Raven with everyone driving the vocals!!!!!! Galisteo WAY! “Come on let's hear you RED ROCKS” was Brian's cry and the entire crowd lost their minds! It was something amazing, nerds new and old were singing, dancing and just losing their minds. The band couldn’t contain their happiness any longer, grins from ear to ear and Brian challenging the crowd to ‘move their feet’. Somewhere in this song I saw Brian giving everyone the 3 minute signal... I deflated for a second knowing that I only had 3 more minutes to enjoy this, the first Spaffnerds on the Rocks. But then Brian found the time to Jam about 5 minutes worth of a solo into 2 minutes before he led us on through the OhhhOhhhhhhOhhhhOhhhh’s of Galisteo Way. You know how it goes.
Love you Nerds, thanks for reading. Now go listen to the show. Again if you have already done that.
"6:15p This is where I stop keeping track of time because it stands still for the next 90 minutes and I just wanted to soak it all in."
All the feels! Perfect, Martin. Thank you!
Loved every miniute of it! @2muchmichele and myself were holding doen the front row party and raging! Cant wait to go back when they headline!
Well written @mccuem! Wish I could have been there to live the words I just read.