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Life On The Road With Spafford: An Interview With Jordan Fairless October 26, 2018 12:16

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

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Over the past four years, I've had the opportunity to interview a countless amount of artists and bands. While it's difficult to hit each band with totally unique questions, each conversation allows me the opportunity to get a detailed history lesson on the subject at hand. That being said, I had the opportunity to sit down the Spafford's Jordan Fairless (bass) last Friday before the band's show at Saturn in Birmingham, AL. Watching this band's continuous rise up the ranks of the jam/festival scene has been nothing short of amazing. Thanks to this opportunity, I now have a much better understanding of the band's remarkable story. See below for the full interview, and make sure to catch these guys on the road as soon as possible. 
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I thought we could start off by covering some basic background info. Is there any particular person that led you towards playing music?
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Jordan: Definitely. I credit my parents. Both of my parents were music majors in college, who later found different careers that allowed them to make more money. My father was a pastor, and my mother was a choir director, so I just grew up around music. It kind of came naturally. I started playing the violin in the fifth grade and eventually gravitated towards guitar. I was always nurtured by the church environment of my parents. They helped to foster that young obsession with music, which later turned into finding the radio. I found bands like Weezer, Incubus, 311, Sublime, and others that really made an impact on me.
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Those bands made a big early impact on me as well. 311 was the first band that I became truly infatuated with. 
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Jordan: Yeah man. That record with all of the flames on it. I remember staying up until 2:00 AM to try and catch a certain song on the radio, so I could put it on a tape. 
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I used to do the exact same thing. I would even call the radio station and use different voices to request the same song, so I could try and record it on tape. 
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Jordan: I had a thing growing up where the music that I could listen to was heavily censored. I would listen to music secretly...bands like Tool or Green Day. Whatever anyone was giving me, I would go listen to outside of my house. I wasn't allowed to listen to that music at home until later. Music has always been this outlet to something else for me. 
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I was in a similar scenario. My parents didn't want me listening to "profane music." I definitely had to return a few CDs to the store.
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Jordan: I used to try and put my thumb over the 'Parental Advisory' sticker (laughs).
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Absolutely. I know that routine all too well. So you mentioned that you started off playing violin and gravitated towards guitar. When did you make the transition to bass guitar? Who are a few bassists who helped you find your sound?
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Jordan: I realized early on that I was listening to bassists without knowing it at the time. Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), and Dirk Lance (Incubus) whose real name is actually Alex Katunich. I loved the early Incubus stuff. He had some amazing tones. One of the first CDs I ever purchased was Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, so Victor Wooten is just burned into my brain. Then there was Phish later on and plenty of others. 
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The bass is somewhat of a recent development for me. I guess it was seven years ago that I switched over from drums. First, I played violin, and then trumpet and french horn. I played guitar intermittently. At some point, I was on the drum line and started playing the drums. I just loved playing music, and I would play whatever I could. 
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The band needed a bass player, and I felt confident that I could do it. I started studying the bass, and at that point, I realized that I had been listening to the bass my entire life. It's the rhythm section, and it just kind of developed from there. There were the guys I've mentioned, and then the jam music that I didn't find until later in life. Listening to guys like Phil Lesh, Mike Gordon, Dave Schools, Victor Wooten, and all of those guys. I realized that there was a different element between the studio and creating live music. Somewhere in there, it's been this blend of how I play the bass now (laughs).
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That's a well rounded group of influences. Tell me about you ultimately met the other guys in the band and how Spafford ultimately started. 
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Jordan: Brian (Moss) and I met in Arizona back in 2008. I had moved out there looking for something different. I grew up in Nashville. I lived in Gainesville, Florida for a while. I was born in Alabama. I spent time in Michigan and New York. I'd lived all over the place. Something about Arizona was very special. When I met Brian, there was something about the way he and I interacted musically that was very special. 
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That's what continued to keep my roots in Arizona. The music, landscape, and so many other things were there. I moved out there looking for something different, and I found it. All of the sudden, we have a band. So I thought, "Ok. I guess I'll stay here and keep playing shows with this guy." Now, here were are back in Birmingham, Alabama. How did that happen? I've been in Arizona for ten years now. 
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When I think back on meeting Brian, I just remember that he was really good on the guitar. I knew I wanted to play music with him. It just kind of grew from there. We've been through changes. I'm not the original bassist. I was the original drummer. Counting myself, we've been through three drummers and three bassists. We've been through multiple keyboard players. There's just something about the music that wants to keep going. 
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Red (Andrew Johnson) has been here for while now. I feel like he just joined the band yesterday, but in all honesty, he's been in the band almost as long as I've been playing the bass. That's crazy for me to think about. Then adding Cam (Laforest) in...it's like we met because of music and stay together because of music. The world needs this music. 
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I love it. Speaking of Arizona, which you just touched on, you've come along way from those days. The success you guys have experienced comes with a lot of accolades, praise, and even criticism. What do you guys do to keep it all in check, stay grounded, and focus on the music?
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Jordan: We have a motto. Every night before we go on stage, we huddle up and say a group prayer, if you will. It's not to anything specific. Even if people think we're great, this is about us...right now. We have to go out there and play music. Let's be patient. Let's listen to each other. Let's have fun. That's our motto. I would love to be rich and famous and have all of these things, but that's not going to change who I am at the core. It's not going to change anyone in this band, because at the root of it, we started this band because we like playing music. 
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Now, people enjoy listening to us play music, but that's not why we started the band. We'll play in front of no one and still have so much fun. The fact that there are people there now to push us and carry that energy forward...that's a bonus. I'm still in this because I love playing music. That's what keeps me humble. I'm not some rock star. I'm not a genius. I'm a guy who loves playing music, and I'm really appreciative of the fact that people will allow me to do that all of the time. 
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How about your strategy with songwriting versus improvisation? Improv is obviously a huge part of this band. You guys have done some marathon sets. How do you decide when to just run with it? 
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Jordan: That's a big question. We just embrace new music as it comes. We try to figure where a jam is going to go when writing a new song, but it's just going to happen when it happens. It may not happen the first time the song is played. You may find the jam and where to let it breathe the fifteenth time you play the song. The approach is that if someone has a song idea, show it to the group, and let's try it. Let's see if we can get it to the point that it's ready for the stage. 
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Last night, we were in Nashville. Something about The Basement inspired me to write something. Then, I have to see if I can finish that, and how long until I can get it to the table. Once it's to the table, how long until it gets to the stage? Once it's to the stage, how long is it until we really figure out how to play the song? There are songs that we've played for years that we're still figuring out how they're supposed to be played. We're not going into the studio, writing an album, and then going out and playing those twelve songs. We're touring 100+ songs, and each night leaves a space in that song where it could be open to having it's own jam. Maybe there is a section where previously, there was nothing there. It was just a guitar solo, but tonight, let's make it a jam.
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I would say that the crowd and environment inspire when and where the jams happen, how they happen, and how good they are. We need that energy, and with writing new music, there is so much that is already there. Getting it to the table is the hardest part as a musician. You finish everything you need to do by yourself, and then you prepare to show it to other people. If I'm painting a work of art, I'm probably not going to unveil it in the first two weeks. It's going to take me at least three months before I'm even close to showing someone what I think the finished product is going to look like.
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Maybe two years later I end up finishing the painting. I don't know. I'm not an artist, and I don't paint. That's how our ebb and flow with live music is. When it's ready, it will be played. There is too much music getting ready right now that eventually will be played.
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That's a great transition towards talking about the new record, For Amusement Only. I'm sure you had more than enough material to choose from. How did the song selection work, and how was this studio experience different than those in the past?
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Jordan: We spent six months recording the previous album. We recorded For Amusement Only in two weeks. We walked into the session knowing that we had two weeks to record the album. What can we accomplish in two weeks? Here's our list of options. These songs are representative of a journey. This is what has brought us to this point, and here are these two new songs that we're going to throw on that happened during the recording. The whole process involved figuring out what to select from the 100+ songs we had been playing over nearly eight years. You have to chop down and select what to put on there. 
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At some point, you have to choose what makes the album. I'm gonna record "Leave The Light On" because we've been playing that song for six years, and it deserves studio take. With the other tracks, it's about finding a good flow and writing a good setlist, if you will. We wrote it all down on paper and said, "That looks really good. Let's record it." It's a setlist that lasts forever, you know?
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I know you guys have been on the road for a few weeks, with a about a month left on this run. I always enjoy discussing the elements of playing in different regions, especially the southeast. There's a certain vibe, as well as the whole concept of southern hospitality. How has the south treated you thus far?
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Jordan: There's something in the water. People are nice. They love music. They appreciate the show. People are just nice. It's a different vibe. Every market is different. "Southern hospitality" has to be the most appropriate term for what we as a band feel when we are playing here. I feel so good tonight. How we were treated today. It's the same vibe in Atlanta and Florida. Everyone is here because of the music. It's not just because there is something to do. People like music on a deeper level. There is a lot of great music that came from this region. There's just something in the water, man. I can't really describe it. It's special and amazing. 
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I have to agree with you there. So, just to wrap up, what's coming up on the agenda for the remainder of 2018? What are your goals moving into 2019?
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Jordan: A bunch of new music. Jams that go somewhere that I've never been before. That's what I want every night. I want to go somewhere I've never been before. That's why I like touring in a band. I like seeing new places, and the feeling of creating a new memory. You can never recreate the first time that you see something. If you're driving in Idaho, and it's the first time you've seen Idaho, you won't experience that feeling again. I want to keep creating memories that are that special, for myself, the fans, and the band. I think that we all share that vision. We're gonna play more shows. More two and three-night runs in the same city. Maybe record an album that no one has ever heard. Go to Disney World. I'd really like to have a vacation and go to Disney World at some point (laughs). I just want this to keep going. 
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I've got a good feeling about that.
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Jordan: I sure hope so.
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WEWatch Spafford perform "West L.A. Fadeaway" in Birmingham here:
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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 [1] > Dis Go in 5? > Weasel, Shake You Loose, Ain't That Wrong

Encore: West L.A. Fadeaway

Notes: [1] "Palisades" tease

Watch a Spafford's performance of "West L.A. Fadeaway" here:


Umphrey's McGee and Spafford Deliver Sold-Out Sunday Special August 13, 2018 16:20

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Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
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While Sunday afternoon would see heavy rains roll through early on, the skies would clear just in time for a rock show that Birmingham will be talking about for some time. Jam veterans Umphrey's McGee always bring a special show to The Magic City, but there was a notable buzz surrounding this particular date. The opening gig for Umphrey's has been a highly coveted spot for years, and I'm not sure that role has ever been filled by a hotter band than Spafford. These two seem like a match made in 'jam band heaven', and Sunday night's sold-out show at Avondale Brewing Company was everything we could have hoped for. 
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Spafford has quickly become one of the hottest rising acts in the jam/festival scene, and the showing of fans for this early 5:30 PM set was a direct indication. This would be just my third opportunity to catch these guys, with the first two coming earlier this year at SweetWater 420 Festival. The band came out firing with an 18-minute "Windmill" to open the set, showcasing their brilliant approach towards improvisation early on. Next up was the beautifully melodic "Slip and Squander," one of my favorites from the band's latest release For Amusement Only. This one captures the essence of keyboardist's Andrew "Red" Johnson's vocals as well as any tune in the bands arsenal. Heavy jams within "Lovesick Melody" and "Soil" would round out one of the stronger 45-minute sets of music I can remember. While we were all hungry for Umphrey's, Spafford left one hell of a mark on Birmingham. We'll all be anxiously awaiting their return, which will undoubtedly be a hot ticket. 
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Umphrey's took the stage shortly after to the first sold-out crowd that I've witnessed in quite a few shows at the brewery. This was a night that featured a heavy dosage of UM staples, starting off with a rocking "August." The set continued with "Day Nurse" > "The Linear," only to be followed by one of my all-time favorites, "Mantis." I can't help but throw my hands up in celebration when the chorus for that one comes around. The jam would ultimately segue into "Draconian" and one of the band's newest tracks, "Forks," would follow. Frontman Brendan Bayliss then called on "local up-and-comer" Taylor Hicks for the band's debut of Dobie Gray's "Drift Away" to close out the set. If anyone hadn't been singing along by this point in the night, they surely chimed in for this moment. Video footage from "Mantis" and "Drift Away" can be found below.
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Speaking of all-time favorites, the second set was about as strong as a long-time Umphrey's fan could ask for. "Ringo" lit a fire in the rowdy Birmingham crowd and a massive "Cemetery Walk" > "Cemetery Walk II" made for a super funky, electro dance party. Keyboardist Joel Cummins would continue to shine as he led the way into "2 x 2," another UM ballad which just resonates with a beautiful, peaceful vibe. "Bridgeless" provided some of the evening's heavier moments, as it tends to do, before a nice segue into "Seasons," a newer tune from the band's recent surprise album it's you. "Seasons" ultimately led back into the unfinished "Mantis" from earlier in the night, which made for an emphatic end to the second set. 
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The encore would point the spotlight on Cummins yet again as he sparked the intro and led the way through "Kimble." Just when I was thinking we might get another big cover to close out the night, the band ripped back into "Bridgeless" and finished in appropriately raging fashion. It had been about a year since my last non-festival, two-set Umphrey's show, and this was just what the doctor ordered. This band operates like a well-oiled machine, and they continue to raise the bar like very few have ever been capable of doing. We'll be anxiously awaiting their return, and speaking of which, would it be too much to ask for a two-night run in Alabama?  You know what they say...you can't get a hit unless you swing the bat. 
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Spafford - Birmingham, AL - 08.12.18

Set: Windmill, Slip and Squander, Lovesick Melody > Soil

Umphrey's McGee - Birmingham, AL - 08.12.18

Set 1: August, Day Nurse > The Linear, Mantis > Draconian, Forks, Drift Away[1]

Set 2: Ringo, Cemetery Walk > Cemetery Walk II, 2x2, Bridgeless >  Seasons > Mantis

Encore: Kimble > Bridgeless

Notes: [1] debut, Dobie Gray; with Taylor Hicks
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Watch a clip of Spafford performing "Soil" here:
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Watch a clip of Umphrey's McGee performing "Mantis" here:
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Watch a clip of Umphrey's peforming "Drift Away" with Taylor Hicks here:
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A Few Thoughts On The Magic Of Purple Hatter's Ball June 11, 2018 12:42

Words + Photos by Dawn Cassizzi 

It always feels good rolling up to the The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and my arrival to the Purple Hatters Ball was no different. This was my first time to attend PHB, and I was pleasantly surprised by the intimate feel of this little gem of a festival. With such a stark contrast to the crowds and craziness of so many other festivals I’ve attended at the park, I felt like I had happened upon a secret; a secret that included Spafford and one of my long-time favorites, Lettuce.

After arriving and setting up the camp site on Friday, we headed in for a yoga flow to get our bodies prepped for the full two days of dancing to come. Yoga, lunch and bike rides proceeded the afternoon that began with the heady jams of Hive Mind; a take-off of Atlanta based band, Space Kadet.

With just enough time between sets for a snack and a “trip” back to camp, my partner-in-crime and I returned to catch the soulful and sometimes sultry sounds of Memphis powerhouse, Southern Avenue. Band frontwoman, Tierinni Jackson knows how to put on a show and I loved seeing her sister, Tikyra as the drummer. This band puts a modern spin on “Memphis” style music that will take you all the way from the church to the club.

As the day began to turn to dusk, Toubab Krewe hit the amphitheater stage to set the vibe for the evening. With a sound that is challenging to describe, but impossible to forget, TK is a band that is not to be missed! *And lucky me… this time I did not miss the chance to pick up one of their limited-edition vinyl releases of their latest album, Stylo.

Toubab Krewe was followed by The Heavy Pets, and to close out the evening, Spafford. After discovering Spafford at Hulaween 2017, I knew I would make my strongest efforts to see them any time I possibly could. For my second show, they did not disappoint and kept me on my toes for the entire set. Filled with twists, turns and surprises, they have moments that are reminiscent of styles of so many of my favorite, but very different sounding bands…and yet I hesitate to compare, as they are so unique. I knew I was on the verge of obsession, however when they encored with a cover of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” merged with “Reprise”, my feelings were confirmed.

Day two began with a slower start due to some scattered showers, but as soon as the rain passed we headed in to catch the Roosevelt Collier Trio, Breaking Biscuits and Lettuce. Roosevelt Collier, whom I heard referred to as the “Hometown Kid”, brought several of his friends up to join him including Nigel Hall (keys), Eric 'Benny' Bloom (trumpet), and Ryan Zoidis (sax) of Lettuce, as well as Luke Quaranta of Toubab Krewe on percussion.  

Our dancing shoes were broken in just in time for Breaking Biscuits, a groovy-trippy collaboration of Break Science and Disco Biscuits that has just enough electronica to keep the EDM kids happy. Of course, the crowd went wild when they brought up Rosey for a cover of Prince’s “1999”.

Closing out a spectacular line-up, Lettuce brought the funk and left the crowd satisfied with the 11th annual PHB.  Lettuce gives me life, and I hope they continue to return to this extra-special, boutique festival. Thank you to Mama Margie and Paul Levine for giving me another excuse to return to The Spirit of The Suwannee Music Park and for honoring your daughter, Rachel Morningstar Hoffman in such a beautiful way. See you next year!

Videos via RexAVision

Watch Toubab Krewe perform "Hang Tan" here:

Watch Southern Avenue perform "Don't Give Up" here:

Watch Breaking Biscuits perform "Inside You > Robot Rock" here:


Here's Why We Can't Wait For Purple Hatter's Ball May 30, 2018 00:05

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Photo by Jeffrey Dupuis
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It's that time of the year again, and summer festival season has officially begun. While countless festivals are scheduled in various, beautiful locations across the country, few (if any) can truly match the magic of Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. While heavy hitters such as Suwannee Hulaween and Wanee naturally draw the most attention to the park, one of our favorite annual events lies ahead this weekend: Purple Hatter's Ball. In addition to a consistently solid lineup, this  intimate two-day music festival raises awareness for The Rachel Morningstar Foundation (a non-profit 501c3 organization) in honor of music lover Rachel Morningstar Hoffman
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Purple Hatter's Ball 2018 will showcase a diverse line-up of music on two stages including the picturesque Amphitheater Stage surrounded by massive live oak trees draped with Spanish moss, and the much-loved Beach Stage which offers plenty of shaded area for dancing during daytime sets and sun drenched sand along the black Suwannee River, where festival goers chill on inflatable rafts and play games. PHB 2018 will be headlined by seven-piece super funk futurists Lettuce, who are known for throwing down some of their best live performances on the SOSMP Amphitheater Stage, and Arizona-based four piece Spafford, who are in the midst of a meteoric rise within the jam scene, taking over airwaves on Sirius XM’s JamOn. Also performing is Breaking Biscuits featuring Aron Magner and Marc Brownstein from The Disco Biscuits, and Adam Deitch and Borham Lee of Break Science. The experimental band has only played a handful of shows, and this marks their first performance in the southeast.

Additional artists on the lineup include: Florida-based jam aficionados The Heavy Pets, who are currently touring behind their new full-length album Strawberry Mansion; the one-and-only sacred steel master Roosevelt Collier and his band whose Exit 16 debut album recently dropped on GroundUp Music; Toubab Krewe with their energetic instrumental world music that blends Caribbean, Malian and influences from the “Dirty South”; the conscious world-reggae sounds of DubConscious - Rachel’s favorite band;  and twin producer–duo MZG. Additional performers include Southern Avenue, Hivemind, Catfish Alliance, Trial By Stone, and Vlad The Inhaler.
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Purple Hatter’s Ball is the perfect opportunity to experience the beautiful Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park festival grounds, during a laid-back, intimate and affordable event. Attendees are encouraged to take advantage of the park’s endless activities such as swimming, canoeing, kayaking, biking, and disc golf.  There is no better way to experience Spirit of the Suwannee in style. The park also offers guest comforts including a general store, a full-service restaurant, showers and water stations.
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Here's a taste of what you can expect from the 2018 PHB lineup:
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Lettuce will bring an unmatchable level of explosive funk to the table.
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You've surely heard the Spafford hype. It's very real. Just wait.
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Break Science meets The Disco Biscuits: Need we say more?
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Toubab Krewe is back with a vengeance. Is there a more unique band out there?
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Suwannee is essentially home turf for The Heavy Pets. These guys always deliver. 
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Speaking of home turf...expect to see your fair share of Dr. Roosevelt Collier.
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Photos by Rex-A-Vision
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Purple Hatter's Ball Will Feature Lettuce, Spafford, Breaking Biscuits March 7, 2018 13:46

Photo by Jeffrey Dupuis

Purple Hat Productions has announced the artist lineup for the eleventh annual Purple Hatter’s Ball. Returning to its home at the beautiful Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park (SOSMP) in Live Oak, Florida June 1 & 2, 2018 the intimate two-day music festival raises awareness for The Rachel Morningstar Foundation (a non-profit 501c3 organization) in honor of music lover Rachel Morningstar Hoffman.
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The 2018 Purple Hatter’s Ball (PHB) will be headlined by seven-piece super funk futurists Lettuce, who are known for throwing down some of their best live performances on the SOSMP Amphitheater Stage, and Arizona-based four piece Spafford, who are in the midst of a meteoric rise within the jam scene, taking over airwaves on Sirius XM’s JamOn. Also performing is Breaking Biscuits featuring Aron Magner and Marc Brownstein from The Disco Biscuits, and Adam Deitch and Borham Lee of Break Science. The experimental band has only played a handful of shows, and this marks their first performance in the southeast.
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Additional artists on the lineup include: Florida-based jam aficionados The Heavy Pets, who are currently touring behind their new full-length album Strawberry Mansion; the one-and-only sacred steel master Roosevelt Collier and his band whose Exit 16 debut album drops Friday on GroundUp Music; Toubab Krewe with their energetic instrumental world music that blends Caribbean, Malian and influences from the “Dirty South”; the conscious world-reggae sounds of DubConscious - Rachel’s favorite band;  twin producer–duo MZG, and many more. Full lineup listed below.
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PHB 2018 will showcase a diverse line-up of music on two stages including the picturesque Amphitheater Stage surrounded by massive live oak trees draped with Spanish moss, and the much-loved Beach Stage which offers plenty of shaded area for dancing during daytime sets and sundrenched sand along the black Suwannee River, where festival goers chill on inflatable rafts and play games.
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A favorite moment of the weekend is when Rachel’s mother, Margie Weiss (aka Mama Margie), leads an emotional ceremony celebrating her daughter’s memory. Each year, they released 24 monarch butterflies – 23 to represent Rachel’s age when she was taken from this world and 1 for her spirit that lives on. This year, Mama Margie will share several positive updates on  progress being made by the Rachel Morningstar Foundation and unveil a documentary about Rachel’s Law.
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Purple Hatter’s Ball is the perfect opportunity to experience the beautiful Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park festival grounds, famous for hosting Suwannee Hulaween, Wanee, and more, during a laid-back, intimate and affordable event. Attendees are encouraged to take advantage of the park’s endless activities such as swimming, canoeing, kayaking, biking, and disc golf.
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A limited number of early bird tickets for $49 + taxes and fees will go on sale Friday, March 9 at noon EST. Tickets will include two days of music and primitive camping. Mama Margie VIP upgrades that include two dinners backstage with artists and staff, an event poster and tee shirt and preferred viewing are available for $199. For a limited time, the park is also offering a very special deal - receive an air-conditioned one bedroom cabin and a golf cart for $400. There is no better way to experience Spirit of the Suwannee in style. The park also offers guest comforts including a general store, a full-service restaurant, showers and water stations. To join the waitlist for cabins, golf cart rentals and RV hookups, please contact SOSMP at (386) 364-1683.
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Stay tuned for additional artist announcements and details on live art, yoga and workshops.
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Purple Hatter’s Ball 2018 Initial Lineup:
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Lettuce
Spafford
Breaking Biscuits ft. members of The Disco Biscuits and Break Science
The Heavy Pets
Roosevelt Collier Trio
Toubab Krewe
Southern Avenue
Dubconscious
MZG
Vlad The Inhaler
Trial By Stone
Catfish Alliance
HIVEMIND
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About The Rachel Morningstar Foundation:
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The Rachel Morningstar Foundation exists to help the public understand the benefit of guidelines for law enforcement's use of confidential informants (CIs). Currently each state, county, city, college campus or law enforcement agency sets their own standards, laws or guidelines as it relates to recruiting and using CIs. The efforts of this foundation are dedicated to the memory of Rachel Morningstar Hoffman (December 17, 1984 – May 7, 2008) a 23-year-old Florida State University graduate. She was murdered while acting as a police informant during a drug sting that started on May 7, 2008. The first of its kind in the U.S., Rachel’s Law, a Florida law that went into effect on July 1, 2009, established new guidelines for law enforcement when dealing with confidential informants.
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Purple Hatter’s Ball Information:
Twitter + Instagram: @PurpleHatters (#PHB2018 #PurpAllDay #RachelHoffman)
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Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park Information:
Twitter: @SOSMP (#Suwannee #SOSMP)
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SweetWater 420 Festival Reveals Stacked Afterparty Lineup March 1, 2018 17:11

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Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
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As if we needed any additional reasons to be excited about SweetWater 420 Festival, we now have a killer variety of afterparties to choose from each night. The majority of these shows involve bands and/or members of bands already playing the weekend's festival. We'll break it down by the various venues involved, which include Terminal West, Variety Playhouse, and Aisle 5
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First off, you have arguably the jam scene's hottest act in Spafford playing a late night set at Terminal West on Friday night. Saturday night will see a rare late night acoustic performance from Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger of Umphrey's McGee. Tickets on sale Friday, March 2nd at 4:20 PM EST.
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Secondly, Aisle will feature a slew of amazing up-and-coming acts between Wednesday and Sunday night. Wednesday's show will involve a variety of Atlanta's top local talent performing as the "Atlanta Super Jam." Friday's afterparty features Voodoo Visionary with support from The Groove Orient and PK.KidSuperstar drummer Nikki Glaspie will lead The Nth Power on Saturday night with support from The 4 Korners. Sunday's late night set will feature local jamband Bird Dog Jubilee with support from another local collective in the form of 'Super Jam Allstars'.  Tickets on sale Friday, March 2nd at 4:20 PM EST.
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Last, and certainly not least, Variety Playhouse will provide the weekend's final entertainment. Members of Umphrey's McGee and TAUK will join forces as TAUKing McGee. This is sure to be a mind blowing set of high energy jams and beautiful improvisation. With The String Cheese Incident playing the official pre-party at Variety Playhouse on Thursday night, those in attendance can expect to see some magical moments in Little 5 Points. Tickets on sale Friday, March 2nd at 4:20 PM EST.
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Watch TAUKing McGee perform Bonobo's "Circus" at B.B. Kings here:
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Shut Up and Listen: A Lesson in Jam with Spafford February 3, 2018 16:07

Interview by Brett Hutchins: Brett on Bands

Photos by Brian Hensley Photography

Spafford is on fire. The four-piece Arizona experimental funk rock band set the jam scene ablaze last year, with opening slots for Umphrey’s McGee and double dose day and night sets at Suwannee Hulaween that garnered them fans from across the country. Those sets were a prime example of a band primed to take every opportunity thrown their way.

They’re already riding that momentum into a strong 2018 with sellouts of small rooms across the South. Sandwiched between a sold out Atlanta debut and a string of Florida dates dubbed the “Fourida Tour” by its rabid fans, keyboardist Andrew "Red" Johnson chatted with us about traveling at breakneck speed into uncharted improvisational waters. It’s a word that’s thrown around a lot, but improv remained the theme throughout this interview.

You can count on one finger how many other bands do it as well as Spafford does. 

The band’s motto is “we jam”. Define that magic three-letter word.

Red: It’s our goal to create something brand new every night. We don’t want it to get stale for the fans or us. We’re interested in creating something on the spot rather than the cookie cutter show with the same chords and the same jams every night. It’s a lot more fun to explore new avenues with everything, with each instrument, vocals, and every facet of the music.

As much to keep you guys sane on the road as anything, I’d guess.

Red: It’s never boring on the road, but it’d be a lot less interesting if we played the same show every night.

I’ve read that sometimes you’ll even do songs in different keys just to keep it interesting.

Red: Sometimes it’s that, but sometimes, especially with covers, we’ll forget which key to play it in, and instead of taking the time to look it up, we just play it however we feel like it. Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting it to fit better in my vocal range.

How does the band recover if a jam starts to plod along some of the members might be lost musically within it?

Red: With the type of music we play, we’ll inevitably run into those ripcord moments where it’s not going anywhere, but we aren’t a band with a bunch of hand signals or visual cues. I’m not over there talking to Jordan about what we’re doing next. We just feel it. That’s the thing about improv music. Sometimes you go out on a limb and it works, but sometimes that limb breaks. There’s no set way we do it. Sometimes we just pull the plug and get out of there.

Risk and reward is something you guys must be experts on.

Red: You have to find balance, but we definitely aren’t afraid to try anything. Switching modes and chords within a jam is nothing foreign to us. It’s something we look forward to. We love the risk. That’s the gamble, and we’re going to give it a shot. The payoff is great, but there’s something special about being in the moment and working to that together with a common goal.

How much impact does the crowd have on the show?

Red: 100%. Because of the style we enjoy playing, this truly improvisational style, if the crowd is really raging and throwing down, chances are the music will be more aggressive. If they’re more laid back and grooving, then the music probably will be, too. It’s not an intentional thing, either. It just seems to happen.

How does the spirit of improv bleed into how you live your life day to day?

Red: Life on the road is not like it is in the movies. I’ve never met anyone who wants to throw a TV out of the hotel room window. The truth of the matter is that life on the road can sometimes be quite dull. The best times we have are on the stage. We find something to occupy our time. The guys went disc golfing the other day to pass the time. That’s not for me, but they had fun I think.

So there’s a whole lot of “hurry up and wait” on the road?

Red: You get done playing and have that high. You get that rush every time, but when you get done, it’s a matter of “oh, I guess I’ll get back on the bus for the next however many hours.” Then you play the show and it’s rinse and repeat. But it’s still the absolute best job in the world and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Has the release of improv-only sets to different outlets been purposeful?

Red: We’re really proud of the Abaculus record we just put out. It’s an hour straight of improv we did in our rehearsal space without even having the intention of recording it. Our bassist Jordan was actually the only one who knew we were recording. I’ve listened to it a million times and remember immediately thinking we should release it. At the risk of sounding artsy, I’ve got nothing to prove. I’ve played enough shows, some of them to just the bartender, to not depend on what other people think too much. If they love it, awesome, but if they don’t, I hope they vote with their feet and know that we committed to doing something original together.

Did Jordan have ulterior motives when he hit record?

Red: No. We all love to record everything we do. I listen to almost everything we play. It’s similar to an athlete watching game film. We’re always looking and listening for ways to get better. Hitting record is just what we do.

How do you feel about the jam band label? How do you differentiate yourselves from others in the genre?

Red: Oh man, that’s a debate that’s been going on for years and probably will live forever. What does that term actually mean? Yes, we are a band that jams. But we’re also four guys in a band. Does that make us a boy band? Do all jam bands have to have fans that wear tie dye? Do you have to be stoned to enjoy our music? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s totally undefinable. In the end, we hope we make people dance.

Last question. My beautiful girlfriend wants to know if you like cucumbers. So I must ask. Do you like cucumbers.

Red: Who doesn’t like cucumbers? Or at least who is less than neutral on it? It’s like eating water. I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus, but we might have a couple guys in the camp who refuse to get in with the cucumbers. I refuse to name names. But yes. I enjoy cucumbers.

Watch Spafford performing to a sold out crowd in Wisconsin here:
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Spafford's Georgia Debut Features Surprise Sit-In From David Lowery October 29, 2017 14:52

Words by Josiah Garrett

Eager fans gathered in anticipation on Wednesday for Spafford's debut performance in Athens, Georgia, and they were not disappointed! After Spafford's customary "Soundcheck Jam", their 2 sets included a groovin' 19-minute Minds Unchained, an uplifting, 13-minute Windmill, and a super-duper tasty In the Eyes Of Thieves” into JJ Grey's “On Fire.” However the most memorable and surprising moment of their peach-state debut was when Spafford brought up longtime songwriter-rights advocate and University of Georgia professor, David Lowery, to close out the first set with Cracker original, “Low.”

David Lowery, in addition to being the founder and co-founder of Camper van Beethoven” and “Cracker” respectively, is most well know for his fight for songwriter royalties from digital distribution services like Spotify and Pandora. An established professor in UGA's Music Business program, Lowery has brought to light the prevalent issues of digital music services taking advantage of copyright loopholes and neglecting to pay songwriting royalties, or mechanical rights, to the artists. In the complex system of royalties for online music distribution Lowery is an outspoken advocate for musician's rights to their songs, and while his lawsuits may fizzle out in court it highlights a bigger issue of importance whereby creative artists are compensated for their work in the digital age.

Conversely, jam band fans have historically opted not to monetize the taping and sharing of live performances, which is what makes their live performances so amazing and this sit-in so surprising! The 6-minute “Low” was met with cheers as audience members recognized the acoustic guitar bearing staple of their community. By the time the chorus came around, bewilderment turned aside and a hundred voices sang in unison. There was no doubt in the crowd's mind that they were witnessing a rarity inside the historic 40 Watt Club.

So while David wont get songwriting royalties on the audience recording of Cracker's biggest hit, his unexpected collusion with Spafford paints a more poignant picture: That beautiful 6-minutes of keyboard riffin', bass groovin, and guitar soloin' brought together two unlikely heroes and will surely resonate in the hearts of Athens music lovers as a moment of community and solidarity across genres. Listen to the whole show here! And don't worry, you won't have to pay for it.

Special thanks to Spaffnerds for the setlist and video footage!

Set List via Spaffnerds - (Listen)

Spafford: 10/25 | 40 Watt Club | Athens, GA

Set 1: Plans, It's a Bunch > Mind's Unchained, Windmill, People , Low*

Set 2: Lonely, The Remedy, In The Eyes Of Thieves > On Fire^, All In

Encore: Todd's Tots

Notes:

*Cracker - with special guest David Lowery (of Cracker)

^JJ Grey

Watch Set 1 via Spaffnerds here:

 

Watch Set 2 via Spaffnerds here:


Watch Umphrey's McGee Perform "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" At Hulaween October 27, 2017 11:20

Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Hulaween, the weekend so many have been waiting for all year, got its 'unofficial' start last night as its truly ridiculous 'pre-party' began. With the variety of Joe Russo's Almost Dead x2 , Greensky Bluegrass, Lettuce, Kyle Hollingsworth Band, Spafford, and Zach Deputy on tap, the vibe at Suwannee felt like the weekend was in full force. Oh yeah, did we mention two sets Umphrey's McGee, as well? Well, that happened too. One of the evenings many highlights came in the form of a 20-minute cover of Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" late during UM's second set. Fortunately, HD video footage has surfaced via Live For Live Music and can be watched in full below!

Watch Umphrey's perform Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond via L4LM here:

Umphrey’s McGee: Suwannee Hulaween - Live Oak, FL - 10.26.17

Set 1: No Crying In Mexico > 40’s Theme > Wappy Sprayberry > All In Time > Push The Pig, Dump City > All In Time

Set 2:: Le Blitz > Remind Me > The Triple Wide > The Floor, Day Nurse > Shine On You Crazy Diamond > Day Nurse, Booth Love


SweetWater 420 Festival Reveals Stellar Initial Lineup October 19, 2017 10:50

Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

SweetWater 420 Fest will return to Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park on April 20th-22nd. SweetWater Brewing Company have  revealed the initial lineup for next year’s event, which is quickly becoming one of the premier music festivals in the country.

Today's announcement includes headlining act Umphrey’s McGee (two sets), as well as Tedeschi Trucks Band, Sturgill Simpson, Vulfpeck, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Papadosio, Anders Osborne, Spafford, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, Southern Avenue. Stay tuned for additional lineup announcements, including a second headliner, in early 2018.

SweetWater 420 Fest also features a 5K run, the Planet 420 Eco-Village, the 420 Disco, the 420 Lyrics & Laughter presentation of comedians and up-and-coming local acts, an Artist Market and Food Village. Terminal West, Aisle 5, and other local venues are known for hosting some heavy hitting late night parties as well. 

Watch the lineup announcement video here:

Sweetwater 420 Fest initial lineup announcement from HEP420 on Vimeo.

 


Dominican Holidaze Reveals Stacked 2017 Lineup May 9, 2017 13:27

Host bands Umphrey's McGee, STS9, and The Disco Biscuits have revealed the lineup for The 11th installment of Cloud 9 Adventures’ Dominican Holidaze destination concert event in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. This year's festivities are scheduled from December 1st - 5th. Along with the host bands, this year’s Holidaze will feature GRiZ, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Lotus, The Motet, TAUK, Spafford, Sunsquabi and Wolf + Lamb, plus a poolside set from Umphrey’s McGee’s Brendan Bayliss.

All-inclusive packages for returning Holidaze guests go up for grabs on May 17. If rooms remain following the pre-sale, there will be a public on sale on Thursday, May 18 at 12 p.m. ET via Dominicanholidaze.com. Head to the festival’s website for additional details.

Watch the Dominican Holidaze (2016) official aftermovie here:


Funkify Your Day With Spafford's Latest Live Video March 1, 2017 16:12

If you pay any attention to the jam/festival scene, you've surely heard about the four-piece funk rock act known as Spafford in recent months.  Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, Spafford has been making waves across the southwest since forming in 2012, but they since have become one of the hottest bands in the country.  The band is currently in the midst of a major national tour which includes a bunch of dates with Umphrey's McGee, as well as numerous headlining gigs at many of the country's most well known clubs.

Fortunately, Spafford and TourGigs have recently released a pro-shot video for one of the bands newest tunes, "It's A Bunch."  The video was filmed live at The Fillmore in Detroit, Michigan while supporting Umphrey's McGee on February 4th, 2017.  This is some seriously funky stuff, and the hype surrounding this band is more than justified.  Check out the video below and see for yourself!

Watch Spafford perform "It's A Bunch" at The Fillmore (Detroit) here:

Official Bio: Spafford

Spafford is a four piece funk rock act hailing from Phoenix, Arizona. The band is comprised of Brian Moss (Guitar), Jordan Fairless (Bass), Andrew “Red” Johnson (Keys), and Nick Tkachyk (Drums). Refusing to be restricted to any musical boundaries, Spafford seamlessly blends together an eclectic mixture of all of their collective musical experience. The heart of their sound is rooted in deep sonic exploration with a focus on improvisational elements. With jams stretching well beyond the typical structures of their songs, fans have flocked to their live shows to experience the unique energy captured within each performance. A focus on blending genres with a deep foundation of patient groove building has helped craft a sound all their own.

Formed in 2012 by happenstance, the band has been building an organic fanbase in the Southwestern United States through word of mouth ever since. As the secret has gotten out Spafford has moved onto national touring, sharing the stage on a coast to coast tour with jam heavyweights Umphrey’s Mcgee in 2017. Reaching the next level in their ascent in an ever changing jam band landscape, Spafford has risen to the top of the next wave of acts by providing quality improvisation and a truly unique musical experience. Spafford has hit the road full time and is bringing their high energy performances nationwide.