Review: 2019-02-9 - 9:30 Club - Washington DC
Coming off the Philly show, which was an absolute HEATER, I thought I was prepared for DC. I was wrong. I am not sure what, if anything, could have prepared me for the energy and intensity that was about to unfold.
The 9:30 Club has a rich history within our community and this being my first visit, I was impressed. The layout of the club is comfortable for its size and the sound quality was very good. I could see right away why it is considered DC’s go-to venue for both artists and fans alike. There is plenty of floor space and a very spacious balcony. I am usually a Red side floor guy (about 20 feet back so that I can take in the lights), but my show buddy, Amanda, convinced me that this would be a balcony worthy performance and she was correct! We settled in on the balcony rail, Red side, ready to take flight.
The opening band, Of Tomorrow, attracted an early crowd with their high-energy funk-driven set which turned out to be a great warm up as the crowd filled in. I spoke to the head of security 15 minutes before Spafford took the stage about the club’s capacity and he told me that they were close to their limit of 1200 and that he expected that they would have to stop selling tickets before too long. I’m not sure that Spafford’s rise within the scene can be described as meteoric, and I am not sure that I want it to be (selfishly), but I do know that this is BIG. In less than a year the band has doubled the size of their venue in a city known for appreciation of good jams and it was a PACKED HOUSE!
Double Time opened the show and it was a BIG hitter out of the gates. True to its name, this tune sped up and I found myself squinting to make sure that Spafford hadn’t added a drummer or two since I last saw them perform the night before in Philly….Cam was destroying that kit and Brian’s playing was reflecting all of that percussive energy while building into a heated rage.
Lovesick Melody was up next and Jordan took the mic ready to impress. It was fun to watch the crowd join in on the sing a long “whoa oh oh”. Red and Brian played off of one another perfectly as Jordan stretched his pipes in a direction that made it clear that he was ready to have fun. It was in the slow jam two thirds of the way into the song that the lights hit me for the first time that night. This club was built for sick-ass lighting design and this tour is bringing lighting production to a new level.
The transition into Soil was smooth and funky and the beginning minutes of the jam were placed on a silver platter for Red to really open up for the first time in the show. As the momentum built the lights went white (and who doesn’t LOVE it when the lights go white?!?) for the first time and not only was the size of the crowd made cleared, but it’s energy as well. The final minutes of Soil were home to some blistering guitar playing and the fans ate it up!
One of the prettiest songs that Red sings (in my humble opinion) was up to set a new groove. I am so glad that they brought Too Close back. This right here is baby making music folks and I felt justified in my opinion that you’d be hard-pressed to find a prettier voice in our scene than that of Andrew “Red” Johnson. Soulful and patient, the overall vibe of this one fit perfectly. It isn’t often that a down tempo song hits the highlight reel on the first set for me but this thing melted me!
What happened next can only be described as defying written description (but I’ll try). Debuts are fun. I love debuts. Hell, I got one of the hottest debuts I’ve ever heard in Philly with Comfortable. What came to be was a debut for the ages. Dirt Bath is the reason I have attached myself to this approach to live music for the decades that I have. With about 37 separate and distinct parts as near as I could tell (if that is an exaggeration, it’s not a big one), this thing took on a life of its own with all 4 members of the band shining brightly throughout. Dirt Bath has a very bright future and is a very worthy way to spend about 25 minutes of your life. Your future self will thank you.
Set break was full of chatter about that closer and genuine attempts at figuring out what the hell had just happened in Washington DC. As we poured ourselves out into the chill air to try and catch our breaths there were high fives, hugs, and smiles abound. THAT was a good time! Hineys were shakin’ and we were ready to be pushed harder still before night's end.
Jordan jumped to the lead for Lonely. I love a good dancer to open the second set and this is a fun one to dance to. I love the breakdowns in this song. Lights were getting even better as though the plan was to create total visual intensity and the plan was working! The 9:30 Club was breathing and it felt GOOD! From my balcony position that place was moving and the energy, both on stage and off, was amazing.
Second set staple All My Friends took off strong and….
Turned into Bee Jam. Even a small dose of AMF is better than no dose at all and the transition into Bee Jam was so good! Red got extra weird in the final moments and it went so hard! As it built and built until it could be taken no further safely...
WEASEL!!!!! One of my favorite second set Spafford songs and this thing definitely had the attention of the crowd. Brian’s playing was exceptional and he and Red were playing off each other perfectly. Two thirds into the song, when it really starts to rage again the lights went a step further with the background lighting going crazy!
At the first notes from Red on Longview, I looked to my right and told my friend that as soon as the place realizes what’s happening, its gonna take off! And it did….BIG TIME. Familiarity often brings another level to a crowd and this crowd went nutty. They kill this song and tonight was no exception…110% rocker dissected and reassembled into pure Spaffy goodness. It got weird and rocked out all at the same time…A thing this band does VERY well.
Home (One Place I’ll Never be) was a brave call after a face melter like they just played. It was unique and I’d only ever heard the 12/30/18 version a couple of times but I had a lot of fun with it. And it made the shift in energy right away into Salamander Song that much more exciting…I will NEVER EVER complain about seeing this song live. I get DOWN with my sick-ass dance moves to Salamander every time I hear it…and it always inspires singing and dancing the whole way home. The DC crowd was clearly matching the energy from the stage as Brian got deep into rock star mode. The entire band was having a great time and it translated right out into that massive dance party of an audience.
What a way to end that second set. Massive energy had that club anxious for just a little bit more. It was getting late but I was hoping for a heater of an encore. I was expecting maybe a little 6 minute ditty.
What Spafford delivered was a 25 minute one-two punch of It’s A Bunch>Mind’s Unchained. There was so much going on during this amazing take on these two songs. This beast ROCKED and I loved seeing and hearing it in that kick ass venue. They RAGED that encore with total abandon. There was big space in this and some of the finest improvisation and musical communication I’ve heard and seen these guys play.
There are amazing musical adventures yet to come on this tour but I hope this early stand out doesn’t get lost as these guys continue to get better and better. One thing is for sure…Washington DC got an honest taste of what Spafford is all about. You can always turn people on to a highlight real if that’s your thing… but if you want to share what we love about this band on a stronger level than that, share this show!!! The Aud recordings of this show are excellent in addition to its availability on Nugs.net. It is well worth a serious listen.
Thank you all who were there and those that weren’t for sharing in this incredible band with me! It’s always a hoot!
P.S. I’d like to formally apologize for fan-boying all over Brian’s face as he slipped into the back stage area just before the show. Containing my excitement about the previous nights show was not an option. Do yourself a favor and go listen to the debut original Red song Comfortable as soon as possible. Thanks for being cool to a total NERD.
Photo Credits: Philip Nohe & Amanda Anderson
@Philthy amazing review and sick photos taboot! What a two-night run you enjoyed :)
@Johnny-Love it was a fantastic run...thanks mang!
I thought I was prepared for DC. I was wrong.
You ain't kidding. After Philly, which was my brother @V-man's first show, I expected us to get somewhat of a cooldown show especially given it was their 5th night in a row playing. NOPE. Dead wrong. Rager for the ages.
Sadly, my Spaffventure ended in Philly, but what an epic evening of music DC was blessed with! Great review man!
@603Brett thanks brother