Once again, I find myself in the heart of New York City, traveling, writing and seeing live music. Spafford has been gaining a lot of attention this past year and I was lucky enough to see them last year at a very small venue, near my hometown in Virginia. I decided to head up north to see them again and also check the Brooklyn Bowl off of my must see venue list. Staying in Midtown Manhattan is like stepping into a different dimension. It's quite different then the rural mountains I am used to and getting acclimated to the city can be quite difficult. The lights, the people, the honking of countless horns can make it seem like heaven to some and hell to others. I always enjoy my time in the city and I try and see something new every time, experience new foods, sights and sounds. This time I decided to check out Central Park and as much as Manhattan as I could. I traversed the depths and underbellies of this thriving metropolis to make it to Brooklyn via the F train to the station at Where The F*** Am I and beyond. At times the chaos and hectic nature of the subway feels like the seventh layer of hell but I traversed Hades and returned like Hercules, stronger and wiser. Outside of the Brooklyn Bowl a gentleman handed me a free ticket to the show and even tried to get me a date with a young woman off the street. Hats off to you good sir.
The venue itself is truly one of a kind, with full bowling alley lanes, projectors streaming the show while you bowl right underneath, never needing to take your eyes off the lanes. The bowling was a little bit pricey but seemed well worth it and in New York City what doesn’t cost an arm, a leg or an unborn child? I will answer my own question, Pizza… The sound in the venue was also very well done and the carnival art displayed on the walls was one of the coolest aspects, as well as, the ornately painted bowling pins that line one area of the venue.
Spafford began slow and steady, like an engine warming up before a big race with “Shake You Loose.” The venue resonated with an excitable axiomatic energy that the band seemed ready to ignite, feeding off it, building it up until it was ready to be released, exploding into the crowd. This show would mark only my second time seeing Spafford but this show was immediately different and enhanced. Add a new drummer, Cameron Laforest into the mix and the fact that this was to be the first live broadcasted show from such a significant venue, may all contribute to the change of flow that I experienced. At times, Spafford can delve into some deep trance-EDM sounding Jams like “On Fire” but they always bring it back home with Phish-esque jam qualities and moe. like transitions with songs like “Electric Taco Stand” and jazzy “Slip and Squander.” The cover of the ultimate early 80s classic from Men At Work, “Land Down Under” was much faster paced and almost off putting a first. I feel as though the band could have just as easily slowed it down and picked it back up, starting with the original tempo of the song and then building it up to a climatic conclusion. Honestly though, hearing anyone play that song live puts a smile on my face.
The encore and jam in-between “All In” was one of the most high-energy and riveting performances I have seen in quite a while. One of my friends who attended the show with me came out with a new favorite band and I don't blame him. That's the kind of intensity that Spafford brings to the stage; the real question is can Spafford keep this momentum up for more than a few tours? The lead guitarist and singer, Brian Moss holds this band on his shoulders but I did see the bass player Jordan Fairless and keyboardist Red, step up and help with some of the spotlight burdens. Without this band working together as an equal unit they may burn out but Spafford seems willing to give it their all and that's what really counts. I would love see this band add more improvisational elements into their performances and possibly some sit-in performances from members of the Jam community.
May The Jam Gods Be With You,
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.