From Day 1 this turned out to be one of my favorite festivals of all time. Caribbean beach destination. Check. All-inclusive resort. Check. Jam royalty in attendance. Check. F***king Spafford is playing a late night after a day of face melting from the classics? Cheeeeck!
This the second time now Spafford has essentially forced me to follow through with a dream run, (last year was Phish MSG for New Year’s). This time was even better. Albeit a completely different Spafford experience (especially for a festival).
The late-nights before Spafford were pretty epic: SunSquabi tearing up the room the first night and TAUK with a massive sit-in set ft. members from The Motet. The boys were going to have to do something really special for their show and I believe they did just that:
Mind's Unchained: Perfect intro to the show. Easy and leads into a huge jam. I am positive I was hearing China Cat teases in the beginning but who knows. A really solid, unsuspecting build for anyone that wasn’t ready for the heat. Jam ends flawlessly and the boys are only getting started.
Side-note: Lyrics about being out of one’s element and having to soak it all in were quite fitting in my opinion.
Todd’s Tots: One of their strangest songs in their catalogue chosen for the 2nd slot. A bold move that basically slapped everyone in the face with a defining composition early on. Good old silly lyrics paired with a monster piece with lots of curveballs. It raged and so did everyone else.
I like toys and I DON’T LIKE SLEEPING AT NIGHT. Duh. Perfect. Moving on.
Catfish John: A jam standard if you will. Everyone loves raging to some good ol Jerry classics after a long night of some modern jams. Spafford thought so too, everyone else agreed. It was a splendid time.
Red’s Jam > Electric Taco Stand: Very squishy stuff here folks. Is it just me or has Red’s Jam sped up significantly in the last year? No complaints! Anyways, some brilliant keyboard work as always from El Rojo (as the locals would have said). I will say it definitely sounds like hanging out with Magner and Cummins lately has been good for us all, given the levels of melt this jam reaches.
ETS needed to happen given the popularity of the song as of now. But why not? It’s a funky good time after all. Place basically erupted at this point since this is really the only song of the night with a good slammin’ introduction. This is the hard-hitting, biscuity edge I enjoy so much from Spafford. Heavy, squishy envelope from Jordan. Good piano sounds coming from Red. Cam is just chilling in the untz trance and Brian slowly builds the funky riffs into a mind-blowing peak. And there was much rejoicing.
Slip and Squander: Now this was the most confusing song selection I have witnessed from the band. I would assume that most in this position would pick a song with high-energy intro and no real low-energy parts. Not to mention they had played Slip and Squander the show prior for the tour closer in Flagstaff (along with ETS as well!) Its past 3am, we just got done dancing to potentially 7.5 hours of music prior. I and many others were expecting something along the lines of Weasel, Virtual Bean Dip, Thieves, Galisteo, etc.
There is a very good reason behind this song selection though. It’s Spafford. Damn me for assuming they are settled on any formula. This song is very uniquely them. It says, “We don’t have to constantly party in order to keep people hooked and dancing.” It delivers too. A beautiful version and a solid prep for the melt to follow….
The Postman: Now things start to get really interesting. Any song of yours that Brendan Bayliss genuinely wants to learn is a great song. This version was as good as they come. The jam is super appealing to my earholes and this may have been the highlight of the show for me. Super patient jams here and lots of great band communication during the jams. Red starts to unleash the snyths at around 10 mins really setting a great vibe for the rest of this show. Crunch levels steadily increase until Moss decides to finally settle things down after a barrage of notes for a tasty peak. It’s getting really late now. My ankle is twice the normal size due to shenanigans. I hope the energy keeps.
Leave the Light On: The energy keeps as this is one of my favorite songs of theirs. Especially after what they did with it at American Beauty for New Year’s…. It’s like their Reba/Fire on the Mountain: 2 chord vamp jams with tons of room to explore the brains of unsuspecting attendees. Except this song contains a second jam that is filthy, dirty, disgusting goodness that only Spafford can produce. Again, tasty Red synth work. Big bombs from Jordan. Good funk-chugging from Moss and a nice bouncy groove from Cam make this second jam climax quite nicely. I am dancing on a sprained ankle. Life is really good at this point. Did I mention the staff is not letting anyone’s drink go below half full? Every 2 mins someone is asking if I want my 32oz (nicknamed the Slug Jug) filled. Again. I am really enjoying life during this fat LTLO. Brian becomes possessed and starts to really destroy the whole place with notes. Quite the spectacle. And there was much rejoicing.
All In: Spaff-metal at its finest. They start what is normally a 20+ minute journey after Moss tells the crowd they have about 5 mins left on stage. There was shredding, tightly played parts. But alas, due to time constraints, the second jam does not even take place. Not my favorite version of All In but I am sure glad I got to rage this song at the coolest party ever.
Final thoughts: Spafford picked a set-list that defined them the most. Most of the lyrics in the songs selections were very immediately descriptive of how I believe the band was feeling all weekend. They purposefully left out their “party songs” so to speak (as did the other bands really all weekend long) to show us the true face of the band. Traditional rules of festival sets were broken all around and we were all better for it in many ways. Reception was solid AF even with the set not being as hard-hitting as they could have chosen to make it. Also, many of the other artists were raging to their show (maybe another reason for the selection). For example, I closely relate Weasel to the obvious Disco Biscuits influence in the band. I bet some would maybe conclude Spafford is “trying to sound like the Biscuits” if they did play Weasel. With this unique setlist, fans were most likely walking away going “these guys are pretty unique songwriters and can also shred the balls off anyone.” I think this was a major success for them and I am glad to see them continuing to grow and melt faces all over the world.
I am ready for New Year's Eve.