Review: 2019-12-31 - Great American Music Hall - San Francisco, CA



  • New Years Eve, 12/31/2019, the end of a decade and Spafford’s 10th anniversary show. This year’s four-night New Year’s run began in LA at The Roxy and culminated in San Francisco at The Great American Music Hall (GAMH). The 12/30 show was a burner, as reported by @mccuem’s review and evidenced by a crisp Nugs recording. 12/31/19 would be @mccuem and I’s 10th show together in 2019 and our first anniversary since meeting 12/31/2018 at The Van Buren.

    I stayed at the Nob Hill Hotel, it was a perfect spot for these shows. @mccuem stayed at The Civic Center Inn, long story. The Tenderloin District had a reputation. Prior to arriving @mccuem and I delighted in reading the Civic Center Inn Google reviews, here is my favorite, “This place is a nightmare! Absolutely DO NOT STAY THERE! The room was a disgusting mess, the smell of urine and the homeless camps was over whelming! The street is full of open drug use and intoxicated bums. If you want to end up on the evening news, then this is your place. Run away! Better to sleep in your car.” I am happy to report not only did @mccuem survive his two-night stay, he reported no incidents!

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    Following the 12/30/19 show I walked grinning ear to ear back to my hotel. @mccuem and I met around 11am, on 12/31, to meet my mother for lunch, she was in town for the Dead and Co shows. We walked about a mile to Café de la Presse, I ate a fried chicken sandwich and @mccuem had something equally delicious. We exchanged respective 12/30 show stories with my mother and eventually headed back to our rooms for some pre show rest. The VIP check in was at 4:30pm, and all VIP’s were allowed into GAMH at 5pm for the VIP soundcheck jam. I absolutely love the set up for Spafford’s VIP experience. These jams are unique and the Q and A that follows provides laughs and insight into the band. Next up show time.

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    Spafford kicked things right into high gear with Midnight Rider. Midnight Rider was a song played several times exactly ten years to the day at Spafford’s first show, 12/31/2009. During a previous VIP Q and A the band explained they played the song several times that night because it was one of only a few songs in their repertoire. Epic. It was perfect, what a way to start the 10th anniversary show. Surprisingly, Midnight Rider morphed into Nelly’s Hot in Here, it only lasted 57 seconds, but the crowd loved it. As the final “It’s getting fucking hot in here rang out” the band cut right back into Midnight Rider. After a brief pause the opening notes of Windmill rang out. This was a spacey version of Windmill which accentuated the jams. Continuing the spacey theme started by Windmill, next up was Champagne Supernova, originally by Oasis. This tune had had been played once before at the 8/15/15 show. As Jordan sang out the first words I could hear, and see, most in the crowd singing along. The feeling in the room was happy, joyous, and free, good vibes permeated the GAMH. Following Champagne Supernova was the super funky Sly and Family Stone song Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). This song was last played exactly five years ago, 12/31/2015, the crowd bounced up and down to the funky rhythm and Spafford was all smiles. Dirtbath, in my opinion the song of 2019, fittingly closed out an epic set one. This versions intro seemed slightly extended. I am not sure what happened, but I remember the band looking at one another laughing. I want to believe it was because they knew what was coming next. Next was Red busting out a Melodica again, an instrument I do not recall having seen or heard on Spafford’s stage prior to this evening’s Champagne Supernova. Following Red’s Melodica solo, the band looked amused and Red out of breath. It felt special to me.

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    As many of you know I run the All My Friends table at the shows I attend. During set break, my table partner, Nina Rose and I ran a set break meeting. If you are not familiar with the group, All My Friends, please familiarize yourself. This group is very special to me and an important cog within the Spafford community. The group can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/300848294047777/?ref=share. Please join the group and sign up to run a table at a show near you!

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    Set 2 began with a song teased on 12/30/19, Wolfman’s Brother. A Phish cover which Brian describes as his favorite cover to play. Wolfman’s was last played on 9/30/16 and many Nerds believed Spafford wouldn’t play a Phish cover again. It ripped and everyone in the room was left grinning all the way into Electric Taco Stand, a fan and personal favorite. This version of ETS was leading the crowd, and band, toward 2020 and approximately five minutes before midnight Spafford smoothly transitioned into Aliens, a spacey tune that has now been played the past three NYE shows. Aliens is the perfect segue way into a New Year. It felt like aliens were landing among us while the countdown into 2020 began. At zero the familiar notes of Auld Lang Syne rang out, confetti showered down upon the crowd, and the vibes of the room exploded into bliss. Next up was Franklin’s Tower, Red’s favorite cover to play, and a fitting song for the GAMH. GAMH where the Grateful Dead recorded One from the Vault on 8/13/1975. This was Spafford’s third playing of Franklin’s, the last being on 7/5/2012, and the crowd was ecstatically bouncing up and down as Red soulfully belted out the lyrics. I don’t know who was smiling more, me or Red, but I do know how much Red loves the Grateful Dead and I am certain this version, in this room, put a smile on Jerry’s face. Franklin’s was incredible and it jammed out right back into Electric Taco Stand, wow what a show, starting a new decade with an ETS>Aliens>Auld Lang Syne>Franklin’s Tower> ETS, it was perfect. The final notes of ETS rang out and the crowd never stopped moving. Set 2 closed out with two relatively new songs, Doghouse>Part II, these were on the setlist for 12/30/19 but got scratched due to time constraints. Doghouse is a perfect Jordan song and Part II jams, so it was good to finally get these two during my four-day run.

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    The encore consisted of The Reprise and Runaway. Reprise always pleases, I love the buildup within this song. Runaway is a song that nerds have been asking to get added back into the mix for years. Like Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin), Runaway was last played exactly five years ago, on 12/31/2014, and it is a fun, funky tune. I am giggling as I write this as memories of @Lopez bouncing around from Nerd to Nerd screaming “She was running………” come back to me. I hope to hear more Runaway. 2019, what a year and what a show. I cannot express enough gratitude for this band and the surrounding community. I believe both are second to none. See you at the next show!

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