Review: 2018-08-10 Chesterfield Amphitheater, Chesterfield, MO
Nerds…the August 10th, 2018 show at The Chesterfield Amphithteater might not be remembered as the set of the summer…after all, they played their first Bonnaroo and are gearing up for Lockn’. Peach Fest ushered in the mythically unforgettable whipping rains that caused Brian’s pedal to fart out, leaving Jordan to lead the rhythm section of All In jamming’. Surely it wouldn’t have the mystique of the Element Festival with the Cressman/Hartwick and Hann sit-ins and the best Lonely to date…in CANADA!!!! They used their PASSPORTS, for heaven’s sake!!! And I’m sure that for those lucky enough to catch the late night set at Hi-Fi in Indy, it couldn’t possibly touch THAT Nerdvaganza, not only for it being the lengthiest of the summer sets (1 hour and 45 minutes, I’m told), but for the sole fact that it was an opportunity for the Nerd faithful to gather, as they often do, to show appreciation with our own kind for our favorite jam quartet. It’s a Spafford late night set…need I say more? Actually, I think I will…
It MIGHT have even been forgotten except for one simple fact. I was in the audience…and I will certainly never forget the “Major Rager,” aptly named for it having occurred the same weekend as the PGA Championship Golf Tourney, which, if you’re not a golf fan, was also one for the ages. And any time I can unexpectedly snag a really cool print; when I have the opportunity to meet the man, the myth, the legend himself Chuck Johnson; and when, in the same evening, I can convert a new Nerd…well…it’s a memorable night.
And given the circumstances surrounding the security staff at the venue and the weather that had plagued the area all day, it MIGHT have been dubbed The Chesterfield Chafing (best I could do), The Missouri Uncompromise, the Show-Me State ShitShow, given how it began. Sheets of pouring rain battered my cousin’s white Infinity Mom-mobile as I drove 15 minutes north to the home of my college friend, musician/producer extraordinaire Lenny Mink. The entire drive I’m thinking, “Rain? Again? I JUST went through this at Peach…at least I was prepared for that.” Then again, it’s Spafford, so all I could think of was Bill Murray in Caddyshack. “I don’t think the heavy stuff’s gonna come down for quite a while.”
Lenny and I hung out at his place for a bit, hung out at his studio, a puff and vodka. Lenny is Russian, so vodka is always on tap…though this one was from Hawaii. Who knew?? At about 5:45, I’m so antsy to get to the venue but also to play him some Spafford in the car to warm him up. My jam du jour? ETS sammy from Terrapin Crossroads, of course! I was so frustrated because the Infinity wouldn’t connect to my phone via bluetooth, so I kept holding it up so he could hear exactly what they were doing as ETS gave way to Alternate Ending, then back to the reprise of ETS, those joyful climactic major changes kicking it just as we hit the seemingly sparse parking lot scene.
The Chesterfield intimate outdoor venue nestled conveniently in this midwestern suburb’s Central Park, in front of a small lake and around the corner from a YMCA.
The venue had one sidewalk on which the main line eventually formed but was completely empty when we arrived. I soon realized that because of the heavy rain, which had since slowed to a steady but harmless drizzle, most people stayed in their cars to party. When we finally made our way towards the entrance about 15 minutes later, a line had formed of couple of hundred people. Since Lenny and I had to pick up our tickets at Will Call, we left the line and headed over to the window. That was the first sign of trouble.
The ticket window peeps couldn’t seem to find anyone’s tix. I heard them ask at least 3 other parties in front of me “When did you buy your tickets?” Good God. Well, I got the same question and when she finally “found” mine, she handed me a paper ticket, saying to me, “Ok now I’m going to have to give you a paper ticket.” I’m thinking…okaaayyyy…how else would you have given it to me, on a sandstone tablet? Bar code tattoo?” Suffice to say these people had some issues to sort out.
We go back to the line…Spafford was set to take the stage at 6:30. 6:15, 6:20, no movement…6:25…we moved up maybe 15 feet. At 6:30 I’m thinking, “Well, they’re not going to take the stage with all these people standing out here. I mean, that would be ludicrous, right? Breeeeeaaathe….
I’m wearing my Spaffnerds on the Rocks shirt…yes, so the band can see that I will go anywhere, anytime to see them and for other Nerds to recognize me and maybe say hello. Heck, maybe Cam will see my shirt, recognize me as the guy who caught one of the sticks at Red Rocks and, like Mean Joe Green in the old Coca Cola commercial, walk through the crowd and hand me a stick, patting me on the shoulder, saying “To match the other one.” (Spoiler alert…that didn’t happen.)
Suddenly, the boys take the stage…opening chords of People…my blood is now on full boil.
Some backstory…3 days prior, Tuesday, was a travel nightmare. 14 hours from LA to Winston-Salem, up at 6 the next morning to work all day on my feet at a BMW dealership training people, then a 6 hour drive to Atlanta in the worst thunderstorms I’ve ever seen…and I mean EVER…then overnight at a friend’s house in Atlanta, then a flight Friday to St. Louis, so now I FINALLY get to relax…orrrrrr I am in the midst of yet another nightmare. W. T. F!!!!!
I walk past the patrons up front. I approach the security staff. I’m clearly upset, but keep telling myself “What would Buddy Pierce do?” (see Solana Beach 2/28/18) Well, Buddy ain’t here, so I am pleading w them without getting TOO angry, that it’s insane they can’t process us through any faster, that some of us are here JUST to see the band that is now playing one of my favorite songs. AND they’re only playing for an hour…or so I thought.
Long and short of it is…the security team just didn’t give a shit about expediting people into the venue. Regardless of whether the weather almost canceled the show and there were delays and a curfew, that’s all fine and good. But as a team, they should’ve adjusted to the situation. And THAT’s…one to grow on…
NOW…getting back to that paper ticket?…Yeah, I found out as we finally approached the entrance that they processed the e-tickets first and made those with the paper tickets wait, which seemed rather ludicrous, but I’m tired of talking about the staff, let’s get on to the music!!! I finally reach the entrance and, as an extra little F-U, the dude takes about 15 seconds to put my paper bracelet on my wrist. Try counting out 15 seconds while missing Spafford jamming out on People and see if your head doesn’t explode…(spoiler alert: it WILL!)
I dart into the venue , Lenny following close behind, looking on like I’m his unruly child run wild at an amusement park. This is what I love about Spafford…I make a Bee(jam)line right for the front middle…and within 30 seconds, I’m right behind the guy on the rail, Lenny behind me, my eyes locked on Brian (and he on mine, twinkle twinkle) as he is building towards the climax before lyric re-entry, Dunh duuuuuunnnhh…dunnnnhhhhhh….duuuunnnnhhh “People like me and youuuuuuuu…” It is, as it always is…a sublime opening number, the syncopated funk beckoning to the primarily Umphrey’s crowd to reconsider if they were only half listening to the boys from Prescott. A smile and a sigh washes over me. I feel awful for Lenny not having experienced the complete song, but it’s out of my control. I surrender, I breathe, all is well. It’s time to get funky.
It might have been serendipitous that we missed half of People because, apropos of a FB conversation last week about what song to play if one is introducing another to Spafford, they played what I consider to be the ultimate song in the Spafford starter kit…The Remedy!! In my opinion, it has all of the ingredients to make an instant Nerd. Great lyrics, a great hook, a great jam, a funky beat, a thrilling climax and, most importantly - and the reason why they set themselves apart from so many other jam bands - HEART!
Now mind you, I’ve seen The Remedy live 5 times (Bing, Spaffbase!) and it never disappoints…but there was something about this one that was different. I don’t recall Brian being this inventive up and down the neck as he was on this take and it reinforced why I stalk his fingers (that sounds so vile) throughout every show. You just never know what’s coming next. I remember throwing my hands up in disbelief several times during the jam thinking “I just…I can’t even…what is going ON and why can’t I have this every day?!?!?!” I turn to Lenny, a guitarist of 30 years, who says “These guys can JAM! And his tone is amazing…you just don’t hear that kind of tone from a lot of these bands.” I agree, of course.
Whenever the double tap of the opening chords of Backdoor Funk ring out with just enough space and just enough time to hear those “in the know” to cry out in delight, I am instantly reminded of the 7 I’ve heard live (Bing AGAIN, Spaffbase stats!) and the dozens on my phone that, wherever I am, transport me to another planet. When I hear those chords, my entire body is jolted into excitement and I am instantly excited not only to hear my 7th Backdoor live, but also for Lenny, who gets to hear another quintessential Spaff tune with yet another great hook and some killer funk. Lenny may have had accolades for Brian, but he was gaga over Cam on the kit. This one also never disappoints, but again, there seems to be some higher level that these jams are achieving this summer which is preparing us for fall tour of limitless exploration. Whether we will get more of these so-called Type 2 jams, I can’t say, but the freedom and inventiveness in their builds are reaching new heights of exploration.
Right in the middle of the jam, I had the first of two heartwarming moments for a dyed-in-the-wool Nerd. Guy BEHIND me...tall, dreads, we had exchanged a few knowing glances, he's checking out my shirt, finally he is right behind me, I can feel his breath in my ear and I’m thinking, “I’m either 1) being offered drugs, getting hit on or stabbed to death with a letter opener…slow, methodical, bloody, silent death. He whispers in my ear “Shhh…don't tell anyone, I’m leaving right after these guys, they're who I came to see.” I look at him. "Me too, though we’re gonna stay for a bit, my buddy wants to see a little Umph....but I hear ya, man!" He gives me the thumbs up. I turn back a moment later and say quietly (don't wanna be a chomper, after all!!) "They're the best." He yells "The BEST! I haven't been this excited about a band in 20 years!" I mouth back "Me too." Hey, its not a knock on the closing band, but I was there specifically for Spafford.
After Backdoor ends, Lenny is hooked. The guy in front of me…bald, mid-40’s, turns to his friend, lets out a sigh like he has just had the shit kicked out of him in the best possible way, then turns to me and says, "I haven't had my face melted like this in 15 years." I shed an invisible tear of pride and joy.
We all take a much needed breath…the crowd is all…in. The opening chords of Electric Taco Stand kick in, I am both elated and racked with guilt. I just played this for Lenny in the car!!! Doh!! Why didn’t I pick the Solana Windmill or one of 15 amazing In the Eyes of Thieves, that would have covered the entire 20 minute drive from his house!! I turn to Lenny, apologizing profusely. He doesn’t give a shit, he’s lovin’ it!!!
But what I thought would be a delicious taco sammy smothered with Alternate Ending demi glace or Dis Go in 5? aioli turns out to be a mere appetizer…but…like…a crab cake appetizer at the best seafood restaurant in America that you choose to eat for dessert because you like sweets, but you loooooove crab.
They bid us farewell…wait, it’s only 7:15! A 40 minute set?!?!? Guess the rain and the curfew forced their hands...![alt text](![image url](image url))But what a 40 minutes…
Epilogue: Lenny and I walk up to the mercy table. I introduce myself. “Hey, I’m Marc. How’s it goin’? What’s your name?” “I’m Chuck.” “Oh cool…Chuck…(as I’m trying to think of a way to basically ask “Why are you here?”) And he says “Chuck Johnson.” “Oh cool, great to meet you, Chuck.” And I start in on how amazing the set was and a quick debrief of the door situation and that’s when he says, “Up until 5:45, we didn’t think the show was going to happen at all.” That’s when the pre-show events started to create some kind of narrative in my mind. And every time he spoke about the band, he said “We…” Finally I realized, okay this guy is an integral part of this organization, I should probably know him. And then 30 seconds later, it hit me. I’m talking to THE Chuck Johnson! Chatted for a few more minutes, bought the Major Rager print and was on my way.
All in all, a fantastic set with a few hiccups pre-show, but what a tight, albeit short, set, with some surefire highlights. Please forgive the lack of band photos in this post, as I try not to take my phone out when Spafford takes the stage and I figure everyone else is taking pics for me. Guess I'm old-fashioned. :-)
See you in Chicago October 5th, Nerds!!!!!!