Spafford Brings Jam-Filled Performance to Birmingham's Saturn October 22, 2018 13:51
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos and Video by Isom Morgan Photography
This past Friday night, Birmingham music fans received something that they had been anxiously awaiting: two full sets of Spafford. While the band performed a 45-minute opening set for Umphrey's McGee at Avondale Brewery just a few months ago, fans were left wanting so much more. Friday night's performance at Saturn did not disappoint, as the band provided a jam-filled, palpable energy over the course of three plus hours. This would also be my first non-festival experience with Spafford, and I couldn't have walked away more satisfied.
The first set began with a brief technical issue, which the Spafford team couldn't have handled more professionally. After a quick pause, the band returned to the stage, and everyone was ready to jam. Bassist Jordan Fairless led the way on the "The Fireman," before we went for a wild ride with "In The Eyes of Thieves," the first of several tunes from the band's 2012 self-titled release. "My Road (My Road)" would follow, while one of my personal favorites, "The Postman," was next on the list. The first set would ultimately close with another older original, "Galisteo Way," which guitarist Brian Moss led the way through.
Keyboardist Andrew "Red" Johnson shined on the second set opener, "Red's Jam," before Moss ripped into the heavy-hitting intro to "Weasel." This tune has somewhat of a heavy-metal vibe to it, accompanied by catchy vocals and moments of 'jamtronic' vibes. The jam then segued into "Dis Go in 5?" and eventually led back into the closing segment of "Weasel." Fairless would take lead vocals on the bluesy "Shake It Loose," and arguably my favorite Spafford original, "Ain't That Wrong," closed out the second set on the highest of notes. After a brief exit from stage, the band encored with a killer take on the Grateful Dead's "West L.A. Fadeaway." While I've heard a number of bands perform this classic Dead tune, this was easily one of my favorite renditions that I've heard.
I can't say enough about this band and the entire team surrounding them. Watching their continuous progression up the ranks of the jam/festival scene in recent years has been truly remarkable. I'd listened to hours of their music, while catching three separate one-set performances before Friday night. Finally witnessing two full sets of Spafford in a packed, indoor venue was more than enough to seal the deal. This band is just getting started, and we can expect to see them continue to test the boundaries of musical improvisation for many years to come.
Setlist: Spafford - Saturn Birmingham (AL) - 10.19.18
Set 1: The Fireman, In The Eyes of Thieves, My Road (My Road), The Postman, Galisteo Way
Set 2: Red's Jam > Weasel  > Dis Go in 5? > Weasel, Shake You Loose, Ain't That Wrong
Encore: West L.A. Fadeaway
Notes:  "Palisades" tease
Watch a Spafford's performance of "West L.A. Fadeaway" here:
Twiddle's Zdenek Gubb Discusses Songwriting, Southeast Tour, & More September 26, 2018 12:43
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Denis Semenyaka
With 12 years of relentless touring behind them, Vermont-based rock band Twiddle has built an impressive resume spanning Red Rocks to Bonnaroo, and multiple sellouts of historic rock venues including Port Chester, NY’s Capitol Theatre, and Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club. And with the second half of the band’s third studio album, PLUMP, on the horizon, the band’s career continues to catapult forward. Buoyed by the generous support of 359 Kickstarter donors, the 27-song album does more than showcase the group’s beautiful music, but also tells an important story, comprised in PLUMP Chapters 1 & 2. We recently caught up with Twiddle's Zdenek Gubb (bass) to discuss songwriting, characters, future recording plans, and much more.
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Twiddle has been officially rockin' for twelve years now. When exactly did you join the band, and how did that all come together?
Zdenek: I'll give it to you from my perspective. I was actually introduced to the band by a couple of friends when I was a junior in high school. My friends were like, "Hey, you look like the bass player from this band," and they were actually a really great band. I decided to check them out, and I fell in love with the music. I slowly met the guys, and a year later, when I was halfway through my senior year of high school, they asked me to join the band.
It worked out perfectly, in the sense that it felt like old friends coming back together, even though we didn't know each other that well. So before all of that, I was sneaking out of my parents house and trying to get into shows that were 21 and up, and I was only 17. I've been doing it ever since, and it's been a slow build and an awesome journey of discovery between ourselves. Developing these relationships with the band and people around us has been special.
I did not realize that. So you jumped in straight out of high school?
Zdenek: Yeah. You could say that I was lucky in the sense that I got injured really badly playing football. I would have had to continue doing that, but because of my injury, I had to stop doing that all together. That made it so when they called me, somehow I had the time to actually make it happen, and it worked out.
That's pretty wild man. Very cool. How do you guys go about the songwriting process? Any particular pattern or structure over the years?
Zdenek: Well, it's been different through the years, but originally it was a lot of lyrics written by Mihali (Savoulidis). He would bring the song to us, almost completely finished, and we have proceeded to write our own parts to all of the songs. That goes for everybody. We'll bring together a song, the lyrics, and everybody writes their own parts. I've had a couple of songs where I would actually write all of the parts and have to perform it. The thing that makes it unique is that we all get to do our own part and create something individually. That's what makes the music special, because we're all from different backgrounds.
That's how we did it originally, but now, we're starting to do it more cohesively and writing the parts all together. For example, "Orlando's," you had three of us writing our own parts and then smashing it all together to see what it sounds like. It worked out to be the sort of epic tune that we all had a big part in.
That leads perfectly into my next question. I've always loved the various characters involved in your music. Frankenfoote and the Jamflowman come to mind. Both are revisited in "Orlando's," along with references to several other tunes. Is this a story that you're continuing to develop?
Zdenek: That would be really cool. It's definitely something we've thought about. As the years have gone by, more and more characters come into fruition and turned into songs. It was just an idea we had to not only bring those characters together, but it made since that it would be at a bar.
We used our ability of writing it together, so that it's not just written by one person, but all of the pieces of ourselves put together into it. It actually feels like it is everyone being put together. I can't say that there is some grand scheme of something bigger than this, but that sounds like a pretty cool idea. Maybe in a year from now we'll do something bigger.
Last year marked the release of Plump Chapter 2, while Chapter 1 was released back in 2015. What was the strategy with this body of work as opposed to your previous albums?
Zdenek: Well, the general strategy was that we were going to put out a double disc, immediately (laughs). In the time that we put out Plump 1, that's the amount of time we were hoping to have put out the entire thing. It wasn't going to be a Chapter 1 or 2. We just didn't have the time, and we had all of this music that we wanted to put out.
We had to break it into two parts, and that's just how it went. Luckily, everyone was patient and thankful enough that we took our time on it. I think that was really important. Chapter 2 is only as good as it is because we took the time to focus on it.
Anything you can share regarding future recordings / releases?
Zdenek: Some people have asked about a Chapter 3. I don't think it's going to be a trilogy, but I would like to do more double disc albums. I guess the only thing I can say is that after the experience of Chapter 1 and 2, we realized that there is a whole other spectrum of genre, sound, and music that we can go into. I guess all I can say is that people should be excited to hear something new and different. We aren't going to go too far from the path we're on, but we're definitely putting out some new, unique stuff.
The stages, venues, and festival spots are continuing to get bigger. What do you guys do to stay grounded, focused, and motivated to keep building on this success?
Zdenek: You know...hmm...it's tough to answer that because I don't think we've ever even thought about it. We keep ourselves grounded by little things like playing Super Nintendo on the bus and keeping things chill. We don't think of ourselves like...how should I put this? Just continue to play like the underdog and work on yourselves. We're almost playing to the sense of never thinking that we're as good as we really want to be. So, that kind of grounds us in the sense of striving to get better and better. It's never a thought of "Man, we're the shit!" It's more like, "Man, we sound like shit! Let's get better."
That's the right attitude. With success comes positive attention, as well as critics. I think it's important not to get too tied up with either side.
Zdenek: True, but it's always good to have your ear to the ground and respect that come of those criticisms has a little bit of knowledge that you can learn from. So, we don't ignore all of the criticisms, but you have to take everything with a grain of salt.
Absolutely. So more specifically, the band is back in the southeast for the first time in a while. How has this run treated you guy thus far? Have you felt the southern hospitality?
Zdenek: Everybody has been really cool. The shows have been great down here. The numbers have been great. It's our first time ever doing five shows in a row down here in Florida. It was great. The only thing I have to say is damn was it hot! Sweating so much. That was brutal. Everyone was nice enough that they still wanted to give you a hug when you got off stage and you're soaking wet.
It's been absolutely brutal down here this summer. We're all anxiously awaiting for it to cool down in Alabama.
Zdenek: Oh yeah? Are you going to be in Birmingham?
Yeah. I'm planning on driving over on Saturday.
Zdenek: Dude...I am pumped about that show. Last time we played Birmingham was one of my favorite shows we've ever done. The whole group felt that way too. There was just something about it. We're pumped. It's gonna be something special.
There is a really great music scene in Birmingham right now. I've only been to this venue (Saturn) twice, but it's a really unique, intimate spot.
Zdenek: That's another nice thing. You mentioned us playing bigger shows. The nice thing about us doing this run down south. For me, it's just really fun. With the big shows, there is some pressure. Not too much pressure. It's exciting, but to go back and do these smaller shows really reminds you where you came from and how fun it's been.
Love hearing that. Before we wrap up, the calendar is stacked through the end of the year. What's the latest news, and what can fans expect from you guys in the coming months?
Zdenek: It will be our first time playing House of Blues in Boston, so I'm really excited about that for New Year's. We just booked Halloween. Have you heard what it is?
I have not. What's the word?
Zdenek: We're announcing on Wednesday that we're playing as 'Phiddle" with Phil Lesh at The Capitol Theatre's 'Phil-O-Ween'.
Wow. I've loved seeing the recent collaborations with Phil.
Zdenek: That's gonna be something special. I'm really excited about it. Aside from that, we're busy with shows, but we're really excited to start working on the next album. There's already some new material out there, and that's what we're really focused on and excited about.
Watch Twiddle's official recap from Red Rocks 2018 here: