Review: 2018-09-22 - Blue Ridge Jam-Pisgah Brewing Company - Black Mountain, NC
Brewin’ Down the House
WOW!!!!! I feel this sums up the entire night at Leftover Salmon’s 3rd Annual Blue Ridge Jam, but I’ll try to convey it a bit better in some detail.
There were a lot of firsts for me on Saturday, first time seeing Salmon since their hiatus in 2004, first time my 3yr old son went to a concert, first time my entire family took a road trip specifically for a show, and first time at the Pisgah Brewery, to name a few. I would like to state on the record here that the Pisgah Brewery has done an amazing job at creating a friendly environment all around and their “backyard”, as I have affectionately dubbed their Outdoor Venue, is stunning!!! Quaint and intimate while still being rather large. They even have tree columns on stage to mimic the environment behind the stage. Really sweet spot I highly recommend checking out when you can!
The clan and I arrived about 30 min before the Jon Stickley Trio and posted up behind the soundboard and to the right. Side note, Jon Stickley Trio was a real treat as well and I’m really glad we got there early enough to see them. Anyway, in the break between the Trio and Spafford, I noticed a guy standing in the path with the same Spaffnerds/Star Wars shirt I was wearing, so I sent my daughter down to hand him some slaps. Indeed, the Spaffnerds had begun filtering to the outdoor space. Later, my new shirt twin would come up and introduce himself as Matt Smith. This is one thing I have not experienced in a long time. The immediate camaraderie between fans at a show is extremely uplifting. I know there are several of you I keep missing at shows, but we will meet, I have no doubt!!! Anyway, Matt and I chatted for a minute, I added to his starter pack of slaps, and gave him a bee jam sticker.
I eventually went back to my family and paced as I awaited the start of the set. First show back after a blistering summer festy tour. Another short set but they tend to make the most of those if recent history is any indication. Spafford takes the stage and I smile as I watch my daughter pause from playing with her new-found friend to cheer for Spafford!!
All My Friends rips out over the system. I had no idea gifting that bee jam sticker to someone would make the universe bless us with this opening sequence. There’s no doubt from this short song that they came to throw down. Brian looks jazzed to be there and is immediately dancing around. They absolutely attack the opener, Red lays down a hot key solo, keep it short and sweet, as it should be and slide right into…
>Bee Jam! The only thing that my notes say for this song is WOW!!! And here’s why: The one thing that drew me to Spafford’s music more than any other element, is their ability show peaks and valleys. To me, they show more variation in this realm than most of the “rising star” bands I have heard. This Bee Jam is a particularly good example of that. The way they move as a group, from those soft, transcendent moments, into the heavy, shred fest is a beautiful thing to witness. The older lady next to us, the one my son adopted as soon as she sat down, even began smiling and bouncing in her seat, dancing around with my son. Like the ancient, green, rolling landscape surrounding them, they eased from peak to valley and back again. Of course, part of me was quietly hoping for a 40-50 min jam, knowing full well that wasn’t likely, but you never know. Soon the tone of the jam changes, Brian and Cam purposefully drag the tempo down slightly and you can hear the transition clearly.
Really sweet, easy transition into People. The nice chill jam after the lyric section, was a great way to relax for a moment and catch your breath capped by a BEAUTIFUL piano solo by Red that evolved, effortlessly into the final build of the song. Again, I must remark on the ability to flow from peak to valley to peak. Stunning!!! Red gets my nod of appreciation in this opening sequence. Ripped a couple of sweet solos and provided amazing depth throughout the jam sections.
First break of the set. My son runs over, clapping and screaming “YAY!!!!” Red gets a shout out from Brian and they quickly jump into Leave The Light On. LTLO is always a fun song to hear. Everyone seems to like it, or at least have a fond appreciation for it, and it always seems to get people singing and dancing along. No exception here. This is one of the few songs even my wife, who is not a musicaholic like myself, knows. It also has the potential for huge jam options. They again show no signs of wanting to rush through a song. A nice instrumental stretch between verses and then they quickly settle into a spacey jam section. The build for this song was glorious. Slow and patient, it layered and built itself up so discreetly that about half way through it I thought, “How did they even get to this point without me noticing?” They end it strongly with everyone singing along to the chorus. Even my daughter has taken a break from her fantasy bubble to come over and dance and sing with me.
Another short break, this time with a Jordan shout out from Brian, then the soothing strut of Minds Unchained flows over the crowd. I can almost feel the smiles from across the yard. A nice easy, sustained intro led us into the verses. The tempo feels perfect, not too fast that it’s pushing you along but not so slow as to be left behind. Again, the jam starts off easy and feels as if it is just one long, well-crafted build. Super tight and Brian just destroys the jam section. I also have a moment here to take it all in. The environment, music, people, the beautiful nature surrounding us, the moon slowly creeping up behind the stage as if it too wanted to be a part of this moment.
Plans shows up next on the setlist. I was really excited to hear this song live again. The last time I heard it was at my second show almost a year ago, before I dug into their music like a starving fox in a packed hen house. The moment they dropped into that Latin-esque breakdown, folks in the back near us began dancing with each other, smiling wildly. Red catches me several times throughout this song with his cascading flurries breaking over the top and then floating back to add more depth to the heart of the soundscape. Peaks and Valleys…again!!! Patient yet deliberant switches from one to the other. I spend some time during Plans with my daughter, up by the soundboard. I’m not sure she was as ready for that as she thought honestly. She enjoyed her time up there but was quickly eager to head back when I asked if she was done.
Ain’t That Wrong was a perfect choice to end the set with. High energy, very danceable, and an overall fun tune. It felt like they wanted to leave an indelible stamp on their evening there. Really tight piano work by Red transitioning from rhythm to those graceful slides, Jordan and Cam just driving the song like Neal Cassady drove a stolen Cadillac, and Brian weaving in and out of it all!!! No frills, straight forward, shredding rock!! A really impressive way to end an amazingly tight, high energy set.
They may not have ripped off a two-song set, it was a festival type setting, but they played with a TON of enthusiasm and they were tight. They chose a great setlist, in my opinion, for the time they had as well as the crowd. Spafford was certainly the anomaly on the line-up for the day, but they fit right in to the more slam-grass eager crowd. Not surprising when you think of the place though. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot we were welcomed with friendly faces and kind smiles. Everyone we encountered, from those working to those there to see a show, were friendly, happy, and respectful, which made the whole experience one of those magical nights that you hope every show might be. Being able to share that experience with my whole clan there knocked it up another level for me. Spafford certainly made the most of their short time on stage…again. It left me super excited for what they are going to throw down this upcoming Fall Tour. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Hope to see you out there ‘nerds!!!
Well written man. Made me feel like I was right there. Pisgah is high on my list of places to check out one day. Thanks for the great review of your experience!
@603Brett Thank you! It's already up there with my favorite venues in the area after just 1 visit. It's gonna be hard to top the Orange Peel though.