Review: 2018-10-16 - A & R Music Bar - Columbus, OH
The prospect of a weekday show is always an interesting experience for me – the excitement to get out and break up the mundanity of my typical flow, accompanied by the doubts of whether or not I actually want to drive multiple hours to and from my destination to be back at work the next morning. To go with that, I couldn’t wrangle any friends to make the trip and I’d be flying solo. After the inevitable back and forth, I always come to the realization that I’m never bummed that I went to the show, only bummed that I didn't! So at 5:15 PM I got in my trusty Subaru Outback, Blue Mountain, and made the trek down to Columbus to see my favorite band - Spafford! I pulled up to A and R Music Bar about 15 minutes until show time, parked in the garage across the street and hurried inside. The venue is fairly small and doesn’t have the most advantageous layout, with some support beams obscuring your view of the stage depending on where you are standing, but I easily made my way close to the front.
Before long they came out and lit right into It’s A Bunch. The band seemed to spend the composed portion of the song getting adjusted to the stage and Brian was signaling to the sound guy off and on to get his mix where he wanted it. Moving into the jam, they quickly settled into a nice groove and effortlessly made their way to the first peak of the night. At this point a sense of relief warmed over me as I got to spend the next few hours in my favorite space – live improvised music!
Cooling down, they segued on a dime into a jam space that led into Lonely. After melodically moving around an intro jam, Brian started teasing the call and response portion of All In, as Red followed him, providing a fun little moment. This is why we come to these things, right? When they kicked into the main groove and lyrical portion of the song, Brian started dancing around and was singing along the whole time. It’s moments like these where you can tell these guys really love playing their songs and it makes it such a joy to watch. Into the jam they developed a deep driving groove, led by the rhythm triumvirate, while Brian floated numerous pleasant melodies over the top. Jordan eventually shifted to a two chord vamp that allowed Brian to soar back into the progression, and bring it on home, to cap a solid 1-2 punch to start the show.
After a short pause, they kicked into Legend. This is a recent favorite of mine and ballads like these are one of the many reasons I love this band. The solo section provided a very poignant moment and it felt like the whole room was on pins and needles. The aforementioned rhythm section does such a phenomenal job of controlling the energy for Brian to build monumental solos over. This was on full display here as they patiently shifted the energy upwards and let Brian work his guitar magic to conjure a peak so high it would make Everest cower in it's shadow!
Coming out of the ballad, they kicked it up a bit with a tasty Virtual Bean Dip that saw Brian using his volume pedal for some really nice swells and Cam driving the beat like the motherfucking beast he is. The first set ended with a nice funky take on Catfish John that had the majority of the crowd singing along.
During set break I chatted with a few friends from the area, grabbed a water to hydrate (sober night - ya!) and re-positioned myself a little further back in the crowd as I like to get the best mix possible (and I can be pretty picky). As they ripped into All My Friends, I was immediately pleased with my relocation as the overall mix in my new spot was markedly better. This was perfectly timed as I had a little trouble hearing Red in the first set and he really ripped his solo here!
The transition into Bee Jam slayed as usual and queued up the musical highlight of the night for me. The jam started with a slick syncopated groove from all four members and saw them take their time exploring this theme for a while. Eventually, Cam brought in his hi-hat with a groove reminiscent of Walls (foreshadowing!), as Red textured with his clav to real nice effect, and Brian added those melodic leads he does so well. Brian explored a warm filtered tone for a bit before bringing on the overdrive for a little bite. I absolutely love the moments when Brian kicks in that first level of overdrive - we all know what’s coming! Patiently, they built up the energy to mountainous levels and Brian laid on the wah pedal to blast us off into the Promised Land.
Coming back down, they transitioned seamlessly into Walls (foreshadowing!). I am always amazed at their ability to explore a constant underlying groove for extended periods of time without ever getting boring or stale. That’s the mark of truly talented musicians in my eyes. Red stuck his organ perfectly into open space while Brian used heavily echoed tones for some different melodies. He has definitely added a few new sounds with his recent pedalboard update and it’s a pleasure to listen and geek out to as a fellow guitar ‘Nerd. They nimbly explored a single tonic for a bit until Jordan added some additional roots. This put a big smile on Brian’s face as he rung in another glorious peak before moving to the end of the song. You could tell the band was fired up about the preceding sequence as they played the composed ending of the song with a little extra gusto. Bee Jam > Walls was the highlight of the night for me and a perfect display of the bands improvisational prowess.
After a short pause they fired up Lovesick Melody and rocked it out right into Soil. This song is so aptly named because it lays down that dirty, filthy funk EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. and this was no exception.
To close out the set they treated us to a pleasant take on Parody, which is a song I am not too familiar with, but it was a nice change up after the filth of Soil and jam madness earlier in the set.
The boys left the stage and quickly returned to rip through Mad World and bless us with a few more beautiful peaks before sending us on our way. Having a 2.5 hour drive home, I did not stick around long, and left the venue feeling refreshed, inspired, and satisfied with my Tuesday night trip! Until next time y’all…