Spafford 2.25.23

Animas City Theatre
Durango, CO
Words & Photos by Gab Kaplan Last month, Spafford ended their 2023 Spaffski Winter Tour in beautiful Durango, Colorado at a sold-out Animas City Theatre. The performance was the final of 8 ski town shows across Colorado including Telluride, Steamboat Springs, Frisco, Avon, Grand Junction, and Nederland. The group was lucky to have had this performance take place during a small lull in the snow that has been pounding the area all winter, as some of the other acts that have played in Durango and other Colorado ski towns this season have not had the same luxury.
From inside the venue, you wouldn’t have been able to tell or even remember how cold it was outside as the heat from the dancing crowd kept it warm all night. The audience was of mixed ages and musical tastes, but everyone in attendance was there to get their funk on with the Arizona-based quartet. There were many students from Fort Lewis College present as well as some of Durango’s population of original hippies, which is typical attendance for any jam band that plays the Animas City Theatre, but there were also a fair share of fans from out of town including some extra dedicated Spaffnerds who had driven up for the show from Arizona as well as some students from other colleges and universities who were on spring break visiting Durango to ski.
Spafford has grown immensely in the music scene since their start over a decade ago. From humble beginnings at Arizona open mics to touring with Umphrey’s McGee, Spafford has won the hearts of many with a sound that I would best describe as 90’s/early 2000’s alt rock mixed with plentiful funk jams, a touch of reggae, a hint of prog, and a heavy hand of rock n’ roll-based riffage topped off with catchy vocals that sometimes remind me of Eddie Vedder. This group is incredibly dialed-in with each other and the music and I am always impressed by their stamina and creativity in their live jams, especially their seamless transitions between the structure of their originals and their lengthy improvised passages. Guitarist Brian Moss, bassist Jordan Fairless, and drummer Nick Tkachyk recently welcomed their new keyboardist, Cory Schectman of The New Motif to the lineup following the departure of longtime keyboardist Andrew “Red” Johnson after the band’s past New Year’s Eve run. Red’s decision to leave the group to be able to spend more time being present with his family must have been a tough call, but ultimately, the right decision, as our time with our loved ones is precious and never quite seems to be long enough. It is always bittersweet to see a member leave a band for any reason, especially a longtime member, but it is heartwarming to see someone new step up and fit in well with the group’s chemistry both on and off stage, as well as adding another layer of influence, experience, and talent to the mix. Schectman had filled in for Red for 4 shows last September.  Spafford opened the night with their song “Pretty Mama”, a bluesy headbanger off their 2019 EP The Gaff Tapes followed by their (nearly) instrumental track “The Postman” off their second studio album For Amusement Only (The only lyrics in the song are “I’m the postman, will you remember my mail?”) They closed their first set with a cover of JJ Grey & Mofro song “On Fire” into “Electric Taco Stand”, the first track off their 2012 self-titled debut album and a fan favorite. Spaff returned to the stage for a second set opening with hot jam “Giants In The Light” into “Backdoor Funk”, a track off their most recent 2022 album Simple Mysteries. The boys also showcased one of their new songs “Shelter In Place”, which had only been played 3 other times since they debuted it in January. Spafford ended the set with a funky cover of Tears For Fears’ “Mad World” and closed out the night with their calypso-influenced tune “Salamander Song” as an encore.
The most interesting part of my night was actually seeing the vast comparison of this show to another show I attended just an hour or two prior. Durango always has all kinds of music happening. I like to describe the scene there as “From punk to funk” because I truly have seen the full spectrum of acts roll through that town. Thanks to Eugene Salaz of Durango Massive Productions, who is the talent buyer for the Animas City Theatre, as well as many indie producers and musicians booking acts at other local venues such as 11th Street Station, The Hive, and The Indigo Room, as well as other various bars, breweries, and outdoor events and festivals. I have seen all kinds of musical acts play in Durango ranging from bluegrass, funk, jazz, reggae, Afrobeat, samba, and bossa nova, to hip hop, death metal, punk, ska, grunge, indie, alternative, and electronic. I myself have even played in a few projects there varying from punk to funk (with a little ska in between!)
The show I attended before Spafford was at a newer brewery called Anarchy Brewing, just down the block from the Animas City Theatre. The three bands that played there were local punk group Acid Wrench, local hardcore-post-punk group American Businessman, and the hardcore-ska-punk group Lo-Cash Ninjas from the Navajo Nation, Shiprock, New Mexico. The room was absolutely filled to the max with a crowd of all kinds of people of all ages from all walks of life. It was loud and rowdy and at points, half of the room was a mosh pit. There was even a moment during the show when one of the guitarists threw their guitar onto the ground and then jumped into the mosh pit while the rest of the band ended the song. It was interesting to see the varying demographics of these events side by side and I truly appreciate the diversity that occurs within Durango’s music scene. Whatever musical acts roll through, people just love to see music there! Even though the town is small, the community is large and does its best to support whenever possible. I hope to continue to see that music scene grow and diversify.  Spafford has another big season of touring coming up this spring and summer, including 3 sold-out nights at NYC’s acclaimed Blue Note Jazz Club, and many more dates and festivals that have yet to be announced for the rest of the year. After only being able to enjoy live recordings, it was a pleasure to finally see this incredible group perform live in person and I’ll surely be at another one! Gab's Photo Galley Set 1: Pretty Mama, The Postman, On Fire* > Electric Taco Stand Set 2: Giants In The Light > Backdoor Funk, Shelter In Place > Mad World+ Encore: Salamander Song *JJ Grey & Mofro +Tears For Fears


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