Review: 2020-01-24 - The Culture Room - Fort Lauderdale, FL

  • Setlist, Attendance, and Recordings for: 2020-01-24 - The Culture Room - Fort Lauderdale, FL

    In no rush to get to tonight’s venue, I savor the last morsels of my delicious dinner at a nearby seafood spot, Even Keel. Stick Figure playlist at the bar, lovely vibes to kick this night off. After the previous evening’s late start time, I feel no need to get to the venue anytime before 9pm for this one. And a special one it is for me: number 10 since discovering this too-good-to-be-true band on July 5th. Time for one more cocktail… and time to read a review or two of tonight’s venue. Never been to the Culture Room. This review stands out: “Keep expectations low and you won’t be disappointed… You’re going to a concert in a very small venue. You will be squeezed in like sardines. You’ll get pushed around, compressed against people, and endure body odor, flatulence, and an obstructed view… bring small bill to the restroom or else the restroom attendant will curse at you for not giving you a buck…”. Let’s do this!

    Scoop ticket at “box office will call”, a.k.a. an unfriendly man standing outside the front door with a list. I am immediately excited as I see layout of venue. Quick bathroom trip, wash my hands and observe the spread of 15 different colognes scattered across that ugly sink… a little confused as bathroom attendant stares me down for a tip as I depart. Say hi to bartender, tab started. Let’s do this, baby. Life is short.

    Room entirely different from the night before… energy immediately hits me over the head. Perfect, intimate setup and vibes for Spafford liftoff. It’s undeniable, you can’t miss it. I flash back to the music dropped in previous years at Culture Room, loaded with goodness. Set up shop maybe 2nd or 3rd row equivalent in front of Brian.

    As lights go down, band walks out to the Beach Boys' Kokomo on PA system. Impossible to not notice Brian’s glow and complete comfort as he wiggles in delight to “Aruba… Jamaica… oh I want to take you…” He shakes those shoulders a little, dances for the crowd. He looks utterly content, already in the pocket before his first note of the night is even played. He is just so, so… comfortable. Relaxed and happy. Engages the crowd as he wiggles a little for oh, say, 45 seconds. I have only one thought: we are getting the very best version of Brian Moss tonight.

    A well-played Lovesick Melody turns into Soil… As we approach the 8 minute mark, band locks in. 9:01 let’s slow this down and get a little sleazy. 10:06 we are locked into Soil groove. Nick and Jordan so dialed in. 10:45 Moss adding color on top. This is now driving, full steam ahead. 12:34 and we are rolling baby, heading towards one hell of a peak. 13:18 the expressive Moss peak, soloing over this groovy madness. Listen to that guitar sing!

    Funkadelic starts up. Minute 9:20 and this is heading to a beautiful pasture. Red enters with some beautiful playing, Nick starts the snap. HERE WE GO. 10:30 and we have that slow, perfectly dialed in Spafford funk trance. Dance party, the room taking off. Red playing filthy synth sounds, Nick and Jordan laying the foundation. Moss and Red start going off. 11:46 full blown dance party. Side note: how good has Nick been lately? Just keeps getting better and better. 13:20 jam quiets down, Moss some tasteful noodling. Minute 14 and Nick lays the foundation, Moss with some staccato quick plucking to enter phase 2 of this jam. 14:50 is gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. The interplay here with everyone is just beautiful. WOW! 16 jam is getting a little more… confident, muscular. Tempo increases a tick. Gosh this is f’ing amazing Spafford. So controlled, so disciplined, so patient, so absolutely connected. I can write about this now, but make no mistake about it – in the moment I am dancing my ass off along with the folks all around me. 18ish we start to hear Funkadelic notes again. 19… it’s like we have an extended outro that is leading back into Funkadelic notes and chorus. Wow. Minute 20 and the guitar is just singing with joy, expressing with all sorts of happy color, extension, glow. This is patient and glorious. They reach a natural climax and then seamlessly transition into one of my favorites:

    Hollywood. Oh how perfect this might be, coming out of the extended heat of Soil and Funkadelic. Red sounds so full, so confident, right out of the gate. What a great song for him to show off his chops. The opening lyrics: “Well I told myself… these WALLS are for you”. One of Brian’s best songs vocally – and he crushes this one. Minute 6:20 and we are immediately heading to a special, ambient, sweet place. All 4. 6:50 Brian is dropping some of the sweetest phrasing from him you’ll ever get. The interplay between all here is just achingly sweet. Red playing notes that feel so whole, so full, so emotive. Red for MVP of winter tour? Sign me up. 8:15 Moss and his tone. Jordan pulling it all together underneath as we hit the 9 minute mark, Red and Moss making musical love to each other here. One of the more beautiful sections of Nick 2.0 music I have heard here. Rolling and rolling, so beautiful. Minute 11 a slight shift. 11:50 we are emerging out of this with a real direction. We are heading somewhere, building steam and confidently adding energy by the note. 12:45! What Is this here? Oh my. This is freaking awesome! One of my favorite sections of the show, the room captivated by the band here.

    Gold Glittered Hat. Such a perfect change of tempo, coming out of that Hollywood ambient beauty with the riff and bluesy grip of this number. Composed section crushed. Minute 5ish killer, they are just so spot on here. They have the audience on a string tonight. This is patient Spafford, disciplined Spafford. They can do no wrong. It is clear. 7:10 just bubbling with energy and ready to explode. At 8:10 or so, we have the shift to type II. Tempo slowed a bit, Nick and Jordan laying the foundation. At 9:00 we are already heading somewhere very special. This next section truly one of my favorites of the night. Brian’s phrasing at 10:27 – glorious! What is that theme he’s playing with? At minute 11 this is ethereal, it’s in our fingertips right now to capture and savor and celebrate. We are heading to the most special of places. Jordan is spectacular here, pulling all the emotion in this jam together. 11:55 and the POWER of Spafford asserts itself. 12:15 and RED enters with synth notes. Brian playing a repeating theme, this is spectacular shit. This is next level folks.

    13:00 and we technically go into Dirty Laundry on the recording. [Side note: it was around here that the first wave of flatulence blew into my section. Google review was spot on.] This opening couple minutes is a Spaff slow, patient… trance. Wow wow wow. What is happening. The sheer control that these guys have, in steering this sequence of songs and jams together is astounding. Minute 2:10 and the groove is still humming. 2:18 Red enters with a new tone, 2:40 and this is about the hottest Spafford I have heard all year. This is nasty, filthy, get down and dirty and tell the bathroom attendant to F off Spafford. 3:40 and it’s clear we are in Dirty Laundry. Red crushes the vocals. Band crushes the song. Crowd is absolutely blown away. What the hell just happened? Spafford just strung together a set with something for everyone: dance party funk, groove, ambient beauty, rock and roll glory, segues, a perfect cover to end it all.

    Backdoor Funk 2nd set opener has me excited. The last version on 1/17 Austin was nothing short of spectacular. Minute 7ish they are entering a really patient and sweet pasture. Moss strumming along, so tasteful what he is adding here. I’m following Jordan around 8:30 and he’s laying down a fat groove. 9:05 things picking up a touch… 10:40 and the pace picks up, Moss is starting to play with some fire. Here we go… minute 11:20 and we are taking off. So patient and sweet to get here. 11:45 is fantastic Spafford, full band interplay at its finest. WOW! Minute 12 WOW. We could be knee deep in Spafford’s equivalent of a thick 97-98 Tweezer here. But this is Spafford through and through. Wow! Minute 13 and the muscles flex. Time to get a little nasty and forceful. Build to a somewhat typical but great peak.

    Electric Taco Stand. One of the highlights if not the highlight of the night. Minute 4 and we are already there. One of my very favorite things about Spafford? There are absolutely moments throughout every show where you hear influences from other bands… Phish, Talking Heads, Disco Biscuits, the Dead… and on and on. But it NEVER feels ripped off to me, it never feels like a cover band. It is always Spafford DNA! A friend of mine has a term for this: GUTS. “Grand Unified Theory of Spafford”. Somehow they manage to pull so many influences together, but the music is so perfectly and wholly Spafford. It’s just brilliant.

    To this point, minutes 5-8 have the spirit of a classic Weekapaug Groove… minute 8:45 and we are entering something different. Minute 9:10 and we enter maybe the most poignant, emotional segment of the show. We come out of that blistering heat just now and we enter this sweet-as-could-be segment. I absolutely love what Brian is doing here with his effect, tastefully adding the decay around the others. Nick steps up around 11:30, another gear we enter. Steady. This brilliantly picks up steam as we head to…

    Walls. How fitting that the anchor of this 2nd set is a jumbo sized Walls? First set highlight with “These walls are for you”…. 2nd set highlight “Walls are coming down…” Maybe, just maybe, it’s the walls in this joint that make this room a lovable cube for the band to enter their favorite dimension. I think when Brian walked onstage, some of that joy was getting reunited with a room he and his boys absolutely love playing in. That back wall… that ceiling… this cube… it traps us all in this perfect little sound box. We are all in this cube together for a night of insanity. And what a Walls it is! Dance party at the Culture Room at minute 3. Really, this got filthy on the packed Culture Room dance floor. Minute 4:30 and F yeah. Brian so dirty with his expressive phrasing. The band is both stirring the dance party of the night and also so calm and relaxed here. It’s fantastic! 5:47 the theme comes back in but with more vigor, more muscle. We are picking up steam. LET’S GO!!! 2nd jam starts up around 12 or so. Minute 14:45 getting dark and spooky. So good. 15:20 RED!!! And here we are, another showstopping highlight. This closing section is next level Spafford insanity.. Minute 16:10 and we have the room about to explode. Doesn’t get much better folks. This band is NOT for the faint of heart. 17:30 and this is absolutely mesmerizing. Brian strumming rhythm cords, the band winds this down flawlessly.

    Simon and Lily… such a great tune. Back to ETS. The rest is great stuff, but enough is enough. I will end it here.

    Show eventually ends. Need some time to just digest what happened here. Head to the bar against the back wall, grab a beer. A few others in the same boat, just want to soak it in.

    A few takeaways: I thought this was the most complete of the 10 shows I have seen. An absolute gem of a show and one defined in some ways by the flow… the perfect navigation through an evening of exploration. Flawless execution. A dance party with so much complexity and such an interesting and captivating ride. The band in complete control of the journey, from the opening notes.

    I think the Culture Room might be my favorite venue so far for this band. Sure, it’s grimy… but it’s just perfect for a communal takeoff. Band and audience packed in tight, with the right dimensions for the spaceship to lift off.

    I have been known to vehemently argue with a friend about Spafford setlists. My position? Their setlists don’t matter, they just jam from the start and it’s a nonstop party. His take? The right flow is critical to maximizing the night. After this show, I fully accept that I am wrong. At least for tonight, ha.

    Also: the band is getting better by the week. They are surging. Since this show, Birmingham and Oxford and Knoxville have continued the upward trend.

    Spafford, you have me and my crew of 10+ obsessed. Keep doing what you’re doing. This tour has been pure gas. Can’t wait to see you guys in Boston.

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    Awesome review @SpaffedInBoston! I loved the details of your time-stamped descriptions as well as your macrolens perceptions of the energy, the room, the band and its evolution. I subscribe to GUTS, 100%. And this is spot on: "A dance party with so much complexity and an interesting and captivating ride." That is the reason I am All In it for this ride :)

  • Thanks, Johnny. Spafford, in 2020. What could possibly be better. Enjoy every minute of this - it's here to be cherished.

  • Noobie gets it!!!! Great review right there. Hometown venue. So true about that bathroom attendant and someone was definitely gassing it up on the rail. Like Shaggy wasn’t me

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