Last April, Bullet journalist Lizzie Morelli covered a show for the highly successful jam band Spafford. In the review, she called Spafford “special” and announced them as the “future of jam music.” That wasn’t the first time I had heard claims of approval towards Spafford; within the ever-evolving jam genre, everyone’s a critic. It's refreshing to discover a jam band that melts your face off. Not everyone may agree with, but if a band is able to acquire a dedicated fan base, a jam band’s exposure, then their longevity and success could start making giant strides. Spafford is the hot new band on the block and their strides have been tremendous.
In retrospect, 2017 was the stepping-out party for the jam quartet’s members, including Brian Moss (Guitar/Vocals), Cameron Laforest (Drums/Vocals), Jordan Fairless (Bass/Vocals), and Red Johnson (Keys/Vocals). After starting the year touring with fellow jam band juggernaut Umphrey’s McGee, Spafford continued the momentum and played at some huge festivals like Electric Forest, Summer Camp, Peach Fest, Suwanee Hulaween and Dominican Holidaze, just to name a few. If you include their performances from countless venues across the states, then Spafford really was everywhere in 2017. My exposure to them was somewhat limited, but I caught what I could from the Saturday set during Hulaween - though I ended up missing at least half of it. Needless to say, I had a blast that night, but time seemed to pass by in a blur and I never absorbed the band the way I had intended to.
I was very surprised to learn Spafford saved their Atlanta debut for this past Saturday. With all the excitement surrounding them, I thought they would have made their way to Georgia’s capital by this point and figured I had just missed the opportunity. This explains why the show at Atlanta’s own Terminal West had been sold out for weeks. Fans all across the south had been scrounging to find tickets on the resale market. Resale ticket costs for the show ended up being four to five times higher than their original admission price.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Spafford prior to the show to discuss everything from overcoming hardships to the odd things hippies do during their shows. I tried fishing for hints towards what they have in store for Atlanta’s Sweetwater 420 Fest this upcoming April and Johnson commented that “[they] are lucky if [they] get the setlist done half an hour before the stage goes dark.” You can listen to the full interview at the bottom of this page.
When the stage did go dark at Terminal West and Spafford hit the stage, the crowd erupted in cheers. Terminal West was packed shoulder to shoulder, everyone seemingly anxious to witness something special. Spafford started the night with a bang, covering The Who’s 1982 hit “Eminence Front." What really stuck out to me was Johnson and Fairless’ singing. Spafford’s improvisational jams seem to be front and center of people’s minds, but I was transfixed by the band's ability to produce a group of pleasant vocals. The band continued to play fan favorites like “The Remedy," “Palisades,” “Weasel” and my personal favorite, “The Reprise.”
There was plenty of funky bass lines from Fairless to keep the crowd moving and Moss’ guitar added some bright bouts of creativity - some of the brightest I've seen. Moss has found a way to build on every sound each member produces and then unleashes a guitar solo that puts you on your ass. Laforest kept the beats grooving on drums, suggesting he has established a way to mesh with the band since his breakout at Summer Camp. You can tell these guys love what they do, and have found a sound that is their own. At one point in the show, I heard an audience member claim Johnson’s keys "sent his mind to another place."
It’s hard to imagine Spafford has been around nine years, considering a large chunk of fans has only discovered them in the past year or two. They seem to have found a way to break through into the public eye and build a foundation their fans can follow for years to come. When I look back at some of the acclaims Spafford has received, all I can do is shake my head in agreement. I’m excited to see where the band take this wild ride of theirs. They have earned my respect and adoration and hopefully will bring back their resonating sound to those that missed them this upcoming April at Sweetwater 420 Fest.
Set I: "Eminence Front," "The Remedy," "Lovesick Melody" > "Soil," "Slip And Squander," "Mind’s Unchained," "Leave The Light On"
Set II: "Leave The Light On," "Beautiful Day," "America" > "Palisades" > "Weasel" > "The Reprise," "Six Underground" > "The Postma"
Encore: "So Into You," "Ain’t That Wrong"
Photos by Carlie Adair for Bullet Music