bosun records

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mollusk

04

ween released their album the mollusk twenty years ago today. as was common industry practice back then, june 24th, 1997 was a tuesday. 1997 was the year before mark mcgwire broke roger maris’ home run record, and on june 24th he hit his 27th home run off of randy johnson.

this has nothing to do with ween, but i remember that summer well, and the mcgwire / sosa home run race that got so big in 1998 was just starting to percolate. another big part of that summer for me: “return of the mack.” unfortunately, discovering ween and the mollusk were still several years away.

if you’re reading this then you probably know the general background story of how the mollusk was recorded and the adversity the band faced just to get it completed, but for anyone who is unfamiliar:

in 1995 ween rented a house in a town called holgate on the jersey shore to begin recording the followup to chocolate and cheese. shortly after setting up in the house, a water pipe within the house burst and damaged and in some cases totally destroyed their gear and equipment, so they left the house and decided to write and record 12 golden country greats instead. i wrote about that album’s 20th anniversary last year.

once they finished 12 gcc at the end of 1995, they re-started and quickly finished the mollusk at the beginning of 1996. 12 gcc wasn’t released until july of that year, so for a while they had what would ultimately become two of their most popular and flat out best albums sitting on elektra’s shelf waiting to be put out. think about that for a second.

four proper albums into their career, a band that was originally just two guys and a drum machine organically evolve into a full five piece unit and embark on their first effort to record a studio album with the new members. this band encounters a massive setback that most others would never recover from and decides to completely change course and make their version of a country album that was inspired by the goddamn beach boys’ christmas album.

in doing so, they unintentionally form a new band -the shit creek boys- made up of the utmost studio session professionals in the country music capitol of the world (and who probably learned the hard way what “brown” really means). they then reconvene with the original lineup that was meant to record in the beach house and record almost two albums worth of new material. and this is still while they’re waiting for the country album to come out!

after recording is completed, they go on a successful national tour with the shit creek boys backing them on both their old and new material, do one more short tour with just gene, dean and the drum machine as a sort of last hurrah, and at the start of 1997 they become the five piece band we all know and love today.

again, if you’re reading this you most likely already know everything i’ve written so far, but it never ceases to amaze me what this band has done. we could rehash this everyday until trump ends us all and it still wouldn’t make up for the lack of recognition they’ve received. but that’s also what makes it so worthwhile to love the boognish. to love the brown. it’s group of people i am proud to be a part of.

i’m not a big fan of prog rock so i’ve never really thought of the mollusk as that kind of album, but i definitely agree with it being a concept album with a heavy dose of dark, nautical psychedelia. if 12 gcc was ween’s version of a country album then this is their version of a sea shanty album.

after finding out that it was recorded on the jersey shore, i tried setting it to the one movie that i always think of when i hear the words “jersey shore”: eternal sunshine of a spotless mind. it wasn’t exactly like dark side of the moon and the wizard of oz, but it was cool seeing the cinematography of the shore in the winter with the music on the album playing. a northeast beach in winter is bleak and desolate, but also beautiful, and a lot of those images still come back to me when i listen to these songs.

trying to put this album in perspective twenty years after it was released is interesting. i’ve listened to it hundreds of times from start to finish, and every time i think i’ve heard everything it has to offer something new sticks out to me. whether it’s a lyric that hits me in a new way or an instrument or sound layered in the background that adds a new dimension to a song, the mollusk is and always will be a rewarding listen.

in 2017, i can’t think of any bands that i’m familiar with who sound like they’ve been influenced by this album, or ween in general. and maybe that’s on me for not listening to enough new music, but it’s more likely that ween are a modern grateful dead: they’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do. and any band trying to imitate their sound and ideas are going to be called out very quickly.

“i’m dancing in the show tonight” opens the album perfectly. it’s a children’s song from the 50’s but the way they play it makes it feel like it was sung by pirate’s kids on ship-wide talent shows three hundred years ago. that segues into the title track which is wonderfully hypnotic and bleeds into “polka dot tail” that feels right at home with its playfulness.

“i’ll be your jonny on the spot” gives us our first inkling that maybe this isn’t the best album to put your kids to sleep to after all. “mutilated lips” reaffirms that notion, and has one of my favorite tone inflections (cadence, maybe?) in any ween song with the way gener kind of slowly sings “i said please calm it down… evvv-ree-thing is turning browwwn.” i love everything about that part. i’ll touch on “the blarney stone” in a little bit, but this is not just the perfect drinking song it seems on the surface.

as far as “it’s gonna be (alright)” goes, i’ve said this many times before, but i swear to god they have so many songs that if the songwriting credits read (lennon / mccartney) and not (freeman / melchiondo) many of them would be considered all time classics, and this is one of those songs that along with “birthday boy” and “i don’t want it” are some of the best breakup lyrics ever written.

“the golden eel” is the musical peak of the album. the bongo intro with the heavy synth or whatever it is comes in with the lyrics that gradually build up to the wall of sound chorus with the thundering drumbeat that comes back down again to another verse and chorus before deaner gets to really go off for the final minute while the chorus repeats and the drums keep stomping.

“cold blows the wind” is as haunting as it gets, and maybe the most shanty-esque song on the album. this sounds weird but i always picture the castle where duncan had his eyes torn out in the delightfully cheesy kevin costner robin hood movie prince of thieves. shoutout to maid marian.

“pink eye (on my leg)” is the brown instrumental break we’re all waiting for, and because of the repetitive barking in the background  i’ve always pictured a three legged dog running around a pirate ship chasing the one toy he’s been given to play with by the guys but because they’re on the high seas it keeps sliding around the ship, which sounds like it would be frustrating, much like pink eye (on your leg).

it took me a long time to stop thinking that “waving my dick in the wind” was not on 12 gcc. maybe it’s because i love the version they play with the shit creek boys on live in toronto canada (quick aside: i love how they called it “live in toronto canada” and not just “live in toronto,” just to specify to their idiot fans which toronto the songs were played in), but it definitely sounds like a b-side from the 12 gcc sessions to me.

“buckingham green.” instant classic. the string arrangements, the drums, the marching pace of the music, the vocal effects, the lyrics, the title… one of ween’s best songs period.

“ocean man” is the song that you can tell people they like when they say they don’t like ween. everyone knows this song, whether it’s from the honda commercial or the spongebob movie. but i hear it as the last bit of lighthearted reprieve we get as listeners before the heavier, deeper finale.

besides knowing the words to songs, i’ve never paid much attention to the meaning behind the lyrics (to quote white men can’t jump, i listen, but i don’t hear), so forgive me if this has been obvious to everyone but me for the last twenty years:

i read that the story in “she wanted to leave” is the precursor to “blarney stone” in that the narrator in “leave” is on a boat with his woman, perhaps on a honeymoon with his new wife, when they get accosted by three men or pirates or whomever. the pirates take his lady, and she actually wanted to leave with them because she really loved one of them and not him.

Three men is all they were.
Three men out at sea.
Three men came aboard my ship and took my true love from me.
I couldn’t believe
She wanted to leave
She wanted to leave.
I loved you so long.
Since you were a child.
I’ve cared for your every need.
I’ve tried to make you smile.
And all the while
You wanted to leave
You wanted to leave.
Go gather the guns.
We’ll blast them at sea.
She begged for me not to shoot,
“For my true love is here with me.”
I’ve never loved thee
Now I must leave
Now I must leave.
So go fetch a bottle of rum dear friends and fill up my glass to the rim.
For I’m not the man I used to be
Now I’m one of them.

 

then in “blarney stone,” which takes place many years later, this same guy, who in the current parlance of our times might be referred to as a “cuck,” is drinking himself into oblivion at a bar with no regard or care for any woman at all, still depressed at the past events on the open water.

i don’t care if either of those are true, it’s just another example at the depth of these songs that make up such a great album.

another thing ween fans say, and it’s true- that’s why we repeat ourselves on an infinite loop, is that ween’s b-sides are better than most band’s greatest hits albums. “kim smoltz,” recorded during the mollusk sessions, is a perfect example:

when they debuted this at their reunion run in broomfield last year it took people a few seconds to realize that we were actually seeing it happen, and luckily just about everyone there understood that it was a very cool moment and shut up for a few minutes so we could all enjoy it.

wash me down” is an unreleased demo that would be right at home with the other session songs, and even though i can’t make out all the lyrics it’s become one of my favorite ween songs.

the mollusk at twenty. pretty amazing. at least once a year i try to listen to every ween album in order on a long drive or over a weekend, and while the pod is always going to be the brownest thing they’ve done, this and 12 gcc are the ones i look forward to on those listening sessions. not because either are my favorite, but because when you can put them in immediate context to the music that came before and after, it crystallizes how impressive this detour from the “usual” ween music people were expecting at the time was, and you really get a sense of how creative these guys can be.

i really hope the reunion means a future studio release, but when the music we already have is this good, it doesn’t really matter.

rise, boognish, rise.

 

100

smoking-and-drinking-were-often-the-only-relief-for-fdr-during-the-war

the first 100 days of a president’s… presidency, are, for some reason, considered to be worth talking about.

an arbitrary number that stems from a misunderstood fdr quote about congress from more than eighty years ago, this initial time period has been used to reflect a first term president’s successes and failures while trying to outline the remainder of the next four years.

our current president’s first 100 days were just up last week, but, coincidentally, i realized that spafford was added to nugs dot net back on january 24th, making today their 100th day on the site, and i think now is a perfect time to talk about what they’ve accomplished in their first 100 days being on this most prestigious application.

now, many of you may be hesitant to continue reading. comparing an 8th tier hambland to the most powerful position in the free world? “stupid,” you’re probably thinking.

well let me tell you this:

i went to an ivy league school. i’m very highly educated. i know words. i have the best words. the previous five years of a spafford-less nugs site? sad. terrible. awful. a total disaster. it was a place for losers.

but the last three months on this terrific app we call nugs, the creators of whom are honored to be great, great friends of mine? huge. you never saw such tremendous web traffic.

it really makes you wonder why there was a civil war they weren’t on there from the beginning. the only difference between spafford and these other nugs bands is that spafford’s jams are more honest and their women are more beautiful.

believe me, when we get through these shows and this blog, we’re going to make history. millions and millions and billions and billions of jams are going to be covered.

we’re going to take care of the haters and the morons by building a wall… of musical knowledge. i can’t even describe this wall- it’s just going to be a super classy wall.

china. jeb bush. little marco.

being on the nugs app may not seem like a big deal when you explain it to a normal, but considering where this band was just six months ago, this is a massive step forward. by the end of 2017 spafford will most likely have played almost half the total number of shows they’d played the previous six years combined.

going from an audience of thirteen at cranky pat’s square slices and broken dreams pizzeria in neenah, wisconsin last october to selling out shows at the bluebird in denver and the jam mecca, nectar’s, in burlington just last month… that’s not how this usually happens.

and of course, opening for umphrey’s for two months put them on more people’s radar than a streaming service ever could in such a short time period, but having these shows available immediately allowed newcomers to relisten to what they saw in person and confirm what they may have been skeptical of believing for themselves.

was it the energy of the room that made this band sound so amazing? was it because the stripper at the post-show club really liked me this time guys i swear? was it the party favors, perhaps?

nah. they’re just this good.

and everyone’s favorite lopez, lopez, summed it up perfectly when he tweeted “i wonder how many bands had their first and last tour as an opener be the same tour…?”

that’s a slight exaggeration, as it would definitely help to do a few more tours opening for umphrey’s or another band at that level, but there’s no hyperbole regarding how well they played.

mixing in a number of long one set shows and full two set shows throughout the umphrey’s tour gave them the ability to stretch out and not be continuously hindered by the 45 minutes they were allotted each night.

so here we go, as of right now these are all the spafford shows available from my great, great friends over at nugs dot net. you should definitely listen to every show at some point. there are gems everywhere.

no ratings, grades or any other triviality- just an appreciation of the last few months. full shows unless otherwise noted.

also, i ran out of useful synonyms somewhere around the third show so forgive the repeated “sick”s, “nasty”s, “great”s and what have yous. i tried to rein it in but there’s only so many ways to talk about how good this music is.

anyway… onward and upward.

1/21/17 – 4 song opening set – just their second show of the tour, there’s some solid playing but overall it feels a little restrained. understandable, given the circumstances. great “todd’s tots” though.

1/24/17 – awesome show with a full set finally letting them play the way they’re used to. “virtual bean dip” is a candidate for best jam of the tour, lovely segue into a really good version of “leave the light on,” and an excellent “postman > palisades > galisteo way” to close it out before a double dipper encore. nice little “bee jam” in there too.

1/25/17 – second night in a row they bring the desert heat to virgin northeast ears. “remedy” and “walls” are superb and two of my favorite jams of the tour. “in the eyes of thieves” gets a great jam here and the last forty minutes are pure bliss with the “electric taco stand” alternate ending that gets me every time, a fun “salamander song” and raging and multifaceted “all in” that close the show before red kills the “beautiful day” encore.

1/26/17 – 4 song opening set – interesting call opening with “seven” which has only been played a handful of times, nice “leave the light on,” typically blissful “windmill” peak,  and a really good postman. not much more you can ask for in 45 minutes.

1/27/17 – 4 song opening set – nasty “in the eyes of thieves” opener that rages, cools off, jams hard then segues perfectly into “galisteo way.” good “people” into a short and sweet “ain’t that wrong.”

2/1/17 – i have to admit i didn’t even know what “dream jam” was when i saw this setlist, but it got my immediate attention with the nineteen minute track length. just the ninth time this song has ever been played (and only the second time in nearly three years), dream jam sets the tone right away.

probably my most listened to song of the tour, dream jam is a beautiful instrumental that is the perfect song to set the stage for a massive “windmill” in the second slot and a par-for-the-tour fantastic “backdoor funk.” three songs in fifty minutes to open the show? i mean i guess i’ll take it.

“red’s jam” batting cleanup fits perfectly. my favorite version is from 1/1/16 sandwiched in between a stellar “america” and “walls.” give it a few listens, it’s well worth your time.

the always-welcome “weasel > palisades > weasel” combo slides right into a nice “slip and squander” before the show ends with yet another massive jam vehicle, “leave the light on.”

and finally, “todd’s tots” in the rare encore slot closes things out.

wow. this is a hell of a show. i think most of us prefer the slightly longer two set shows, maybe because they feel more complete or something, i don’t know. but spafford has mastered these long one set shows, and they’re almost more fun to listen to if you weren’t there.

again, i don’t know why, but they’ve gotten so good at writing their setlists to mix in just enough of everything that helps make a show perfect, and buffalo is up there at the top with the best shows i’ve ever seen.

2/2/17 – 4 song opening set – excellent “walls”, a cool little jam in the middle of “people,” an exploratory “all in,” and with any other band “remedy” would’ve been an after thought but they slayed this one and ended the set on a high note.

2/3/17 – 4 song opening set – “virtual bean dip” is tight but short and sweet, “legend” is good, there’s a really nice unique little melody we don’t usually get during the last three minutes of “ain’t that wrong” with a segue into a well played “leave the light on.”

2/4/17 – 5 song opening set – awesome jammed out “postman,” nice “salamander song,” the debut of the lovely instrumental “it’s a bunch,” tight “slip and squander” next with a raging “the reprise” out of nowhere to finish the set. sweet.

2/8/17 – “backdoor funk” and “the reprise” kick things off in high gear but the “virtual bean dip” is the big kahuna in this show. it goes in so many awesome directions there’s no point -really though, is there ever?- in trying to describe it. this is a must-listen. it’s crazy how different this one is from the philly version, which is excellent in it’s own right, but in vastly different ways.

“leave the light on” can’t be forgotten either. unfinished, yet another absolutely stellar version. and a huge “walls” to close… wait, this is just set one?!? sweet aunt jemima! just an amazing performance right here. truly exceptional.

set two is very good in it’s own right but it was going to be almost impossible to top what they did in the first set. give it a listen for sure. “lonely” gives the milwaukee version a run for it’s money and “bee jam” gets jammed out to an awesome segue that finishes the “leave the light on” from set one. the always lovely “diana” encores and takes us home.

another near perfect show.

2/12/17 – on paper, charlottesville doesn’t seem to have anything that jumps out besides a fifteen minute “palisades,” which is indeed an awesome jam, but this one deserves to be listened to from start to finish. the “hollywood” into “the reprise” is great, and is, i think, the first jammed out “hollywood” since 10/30/15, making it just the second time they’ve extended that lovely song. good show overall.

2/17/17 – solid aftershow for umphrey’s. not much else to add.

3/10/17 – 4 song opening set – hard to believe this “virtual bean dip” is only 9 minutes bc they take it all over the place, great version w nice segue into “the remedy” that finishes really strong and transitions into a really tight “all in” which then in turn segues into “backdoor funk.” near the ten minute mark i hear a slight tease of the riff that would blossom into the gorgeous bliss jam a week later in l.a. in another great version of bdf.

3/16/17 – 5 song opening set –  the band coming out to a standing ovation and not really knowing how to proceed while trying to take it all in, a humbling experience for both them and their fans. opening with “beautiful day” was the best decision they made all tour, and having brendan bayliss sit in on “the postman” was just the icing on the cake. or so we thought, until a drop to your knees and let jesus carry you home level of pure joy erupted in “salamander song.” this is how you do a homecoming show.

3/17/17 – 5 song opening set – “windmill” opener is always welcome. this one has a great jam and peak. a fine “simon & lily” follows, then a tight and high energy “on fire”, pretty basic “leave the light on” until the last four minutes where it kicks into high gear before abruptly dropping into a set closing “hollywood.”

…………………………………………………………………………..

damn. this is getting long. let’s take a break. with some porn.

…………………………………………………………………………..

3/22/17 – san marcos is a solid show, with a nice big “leave the light on” in the end, but other than some very tight and high quality playing there’s nothing else that stood out to me in this one. note that “tight and high quality playing” is used almost as a put down here (though it’s not meant to be), whereas with every other band that’s the highlight. lasers, man. lasers.

3/23/17 – houston definitely takes off from where san marcos touched on, with a lot of great but unextended jams sprinkled throughout. this show had much better direction throughout the setlist, and the playing reflects that.

3/25/17 – dallas is easily the best of these three texas show, as “standing outside a broken phone booth with money in my hand” had an awesome and dark little electronic type of jam that segued so nicely into “in the eyes of thieves” that it instantly became a tour highlight. definitely go back and listen to both songs but especially the last minute of phone booth before thieves comes in.

4/6/17 – milwaukee and chicago had the most number of songs i’ve seen the band play in just two shows in a long time, but they did it right. sandwiching “red’s jam” in between “the remedy” to open the show was awesome. the debut of their cover of “sweet” by the cheektones, a local prescott band, was cool too.

set two’s “lonely” is one of if not the best jams of the tour, featuring some really phenomenal drum playing by nick, who really drives this thing the whole way. i didn’t actually appreciate this one, though, until i saw the love it was getting on everyone’s favorite drug band message board.

after relistening a bunch of times i quickly understood why it was getting so much praise. this is the definition of a tight, complete jam with no filler whatsoever.

thanks also to lopez for streaming this one!

4/8/17 – oh hi we’re spafford hmmm let’s see what can we open with here… “crazy”? “people”? “black betty”? nah we’ve done that before. no, wait, it can’t be… tha- tha- that’s “six underground”‘s music! holy hell they opened a sellout show for 750 people in a city they’d only really played in once before with a song from the soundtrack to the motherfuckin saint?!?!?! val kilmer! elizabeth shue! awful costumes, horrific makeup and the worst fake accents in cinematic history! that saint! spafford is the greatest band in the goddamn world and we will bow before them lest our offspring be smitten with the teeth of uncle val’s ridiculous scientist character! hail! hail! hailllllllllll! the spaff from the desert!

yeah i guess they played a fuckin top nutch nut grabber of a show after that. what of it? go listen to it yourself if you want to know how good it was. i’ll be here basking in all this sneaker pimp glory.

4/30/17 – “some kind of jam” got treated to a humdinger for what appears to have been their indoor aftershow. this was the “we traveled back east for one gig so let’s relax and let our big balls flop around for everyone to see” show.

big awesome jams in “backdoor funk,” “leave the light on,” “all in,” “electric taco stand,” giving two of the new songs some love in “mind’s unchained” and “it’s a bunch,” raging “the reprise” as the show closer with a “galisteo way” that left the promoter out of breath while he screamed at the audience to show the band some love as they walked off the stage. good stuff.

i know i said no ratings but that’s no fun i want to start some arguments with you nerds so dig this shit right here:

best opening set: no competition here, there can be only one and it’s the marquee in tempe on 3/16. see above if you don’t know why. stateline 3/10 is a close second with one long segued set, but it was always going to be tempe.

best opening song: “dream jam > windmill” from buffalo on 2/1. 35 minutes of glorious hose filled beauty. can’t top that in my book.

best jam: as i said before, the miramar “lonely” seems to be the spaffnerd favorite, and while it’s hard to argue, it doesn’t stand that far above the rest for me to just go with what feels like the majority. for the last few weeks, the buffalo “dream jam” was my easy pick. then i listened to the philly “virtual bean dip” opener and couldn’t stop playing that one.

several “leave the light on”‘s and “electric taco stand”‘s are in this category as well, but after many listens to make sure i wasn’t overrating it, i’m going with “virtual bean dip” from columbus on 2/8. this is the one, folks, at least for me. give it several listens and really let it sink in. that whole show is astounding and might be the show of the tour, but this vbd really takes you places.

best segue: the 3/25 dallas “standing outside a broken phone booth with money in my hand” into “in the eyes of thieves.” this was an easy one for me. the playing at the end of phone booth is deep and moving while the segue into thieves can go unnoticed for a few minutes if you’re not paying attention. an extraordinary one two punch and the best thing to come from the texas shows.

the buffalo dream jam > windmill is sublime and a very very close second, as is the philly virtual bean dip > leave the light on and the columbus bee jam > leave the light on completion. the charlottesville hollywood > reprise definitely deserves a shout out too.

best show: philadelphia, asbury park, buffalo, columbus, dallas, milwaukee, chicago and whatever town some kind of jam is in, were all treated to B+ or better shows. and no one who’s been following spafford for any length of time will tell you that they’re surprised by this.

everyone who’s just getting on board, get used to seeing this band kill it every single time. it’s a beautiful thing to witness.

but i have to say that buffalo is the closest thing i’ve seen to a perfect spafford show. i’ve listened to it a dozen times, if not more. before going through every show again i already had this paragraph written out, fawning adjectives and all.

but then i relistened to the asheville show. then once more. and once more after that. and after i realized that i’d gotten lost in this show five or six times without even knowing it, i was struck by how smoothly the whole show runs from the opening and nearly trance-inducing “funkadelic” to the ragey and uplifting “galisteo way” encore.

“funkadelic” never gets too high and shows patience by all four members throughout, slowly rolling along until to the end where it segues into “america,” only it doesn’t feel like “america” until more than two minutes in. brian’s staccato riffing sounds a bit like “punch you in the eye” on crack. but the good kind, that doesn’t get you addicted or rot your teeth.

there are several great riffs brian touches on in this jam and after the first listen it may sound like it’s all over the place, and maybe it is to a small extent, but this is the sound of a band that is pumped up, and i’ll take that kind of energy every time.

they cool it down a bit with one of my favorite newer covers, “standing outside a broken phone booth with money in my hand.” from what i heard, this asheville crowd was big and rowdy with many still flying from the umphrey’s show, so for spafford to slow things down like this in front of that crowd takes some serious balls. and phone booth isn’t some three minute breather. this thing goes for more than eight minutes, and luckily for everyone there it does so into a dynamite “backdoor funk.”

bdf gets taken for a ride here, but not until after they develop a gorgeous melody around the five minute mark. bdf has gotten jammed out really nicely this tour and in a lot of different ways. a highlight in a show that is seriously filled with them.

“diana” is perfect before they get back on the horse with a joyous “electric taco stand” and an ocean deep “the postman” that takes several listens for the whole thing to even remotely sink in.

a climactic “galisteo way” as the lone encore puts a bow on this incredible show, so there it is. asheville is my pick for best show of what’s available on nugs dot net. there’s a lot out there that’s still unreleased, so here’s hoping more soundboards continue to pop up.

also, i hope i got at least one you nerds with the “nice aftershow” fakeout above. if not, i guess i really need a new hobby.

best surprise jam: “six underground” baybeeeee!!!! not just a surprise song, this bad boy clocks in at eleven minutes of shocking exploration. i love this band.

best encore: gonna have to cheat and put the 4/22 last exit phoenix show here even though it’s not on nugs.

opening with brian solo on “the man,” the debut and i believe first radiohead cover ever played with “everything in it’s right place” that gets nice and spooky and ultimately segues perfectly into the closing of “all in” from the first set.

sorry not sorry there’s just no beating that, and while there are certainly some encores that are actually on nugs and deserve an honorable mention, closing out the last exit homecoming in this fashion was unparalleled and a flat out treat to everyone there. probably the best encore i’ve ever seen, period.

and while we’re on the subject of the last exit shows, definitely give those a listen [or a watch, here (4/21) and here (4/22)]. the audience recordings on archive are damn near unlistenable, mostly because it was a chomper’s paradise.

the new layout at last exit is perfect, but the combination of chatter from the outside patio that bled indoors and the natural excitement of a very small but tightknit group of people who collectively hadn’t seen each other in a long time made for a perfect storm of loud but happy slurring throughout the night.

if you were there, though, hot damn was that a great time. the “bee jam > midnight rider > bee jam” right after “all my friends” to kick things off was so nice, and everyone loves a “crazy” appearance on top of a nasty “weasel > palisades > weasel.”

and then one of if not the best “postman”‘s i’ve ever seen to open the second night, followed two songs later by the aforementioned and unfinished “all in” that abruptly went into “salamander song” and one of my new favorite covers, “spell yourself” which fits the band and this night in particular perfectly.

not to mention they finished that with an out of nowhere “when the saints go marching in” instrumental tease. last exit live is to spafford what nectar’s was to phish, so if you really love this band then you owe it to yourself to make a trip out here if and when they play there again. ask the milwaukee crew. they’re basically regulars there now.

i gotta say, these 100 days took a lot out of me. who wants to buy night train a slice? cheeses crust i’m hungry!

 

vibrating with love and lasers,

skyowner

 

 

 

 

p.s. i changed my mind columbus is the show of the tour

enough

growing up, i liked to push people’s buttons. friends, family, teachers, coaches- it didn’t matter. for whatever reason, i liked to see what a person’s mental breaking point was and how i could help them reach it.

when i did it to my dad, he called it “getting his goat,” at which point i would tell him how stupid that phrase was, which would further annoy him, and around and around we’d go.

one sunday afternoon some years ago, i went golfing with my dad and brother.

my dad is a devout catholic so we went to church beforehand, and i couldn’t stop laughing at the old members of the choir.

during hymns, they elongated “jesus christ” to “gheeeee-zussssss cryyyyyyyyyyyy-stuh.” i’d been to mass hundreds of times before, so it’s not like i hadn’t heard that type of singing. there was just something in the air that day that made me want to act like a jackass.

after mass, i started yelling the overly long and tone deaf version of “jesus christ” every chance i got: when we got stuck in the church parking lot traffic; when we hit a bunch of red lights on the way to the golf course; when starbucks put sweetener in my iced coffee after i asked for it black; but especially once we got on the course and my dad started shanking the ball several times per hole.

there was hardly anyone else on the course that day, so my jc’s echoed throughout the trees and fairways. at this point in my life i had made it clear that i would do anything for a laugh, so even though taking the lord’s name in vein is a sin, my dad had resigned himself to the fact that i was going to bring the buffoonery whether he liked it or not.

after blasting a monster drive on a short par 4 near the end of the round (and after several dozen jc’s screamed at the top of my lungs), i launched my sand wedge approach over the green and into someone’s backyard.

lifting my club in the air like a young judge smails, i muttered a very low but drawn out “jesus,” and as i let go of the club on it’s ascent into the nearby like, let out the loudest, longest “christ” of the day.

my dad seethed while brother stood motionless. the air was so still that we heard the club’s “plop” into the lake, which i had to laugh at.

the reddening of my dad’s face was the signal that maybe i should calm it down a bit and finish out the round without any additional jc’s before he had a heart attack. i obliged.

on the way home, we stopped at five guys for a burger, which we brought home so we could watch the sunday night red sox game. after inhaling my food like a sickly dickensian poor boy, i proclaimed that i was off to the rest room to “take a huge shit.”

this phrase did not endear me to my dad’s recently cooled off demeanor.

“ok fine! just do what you need to do and stop announcing it!” he bellowed.

after making excessively loud moaning sounds for about 20 minutes to let them know exactly how i was doing, i walked back into the kitchen shirtless, with only my boxers on.

after waiting a moment to make sure i had both my dad and brother’s attention, i clapped my hands together like a toddler discovering the joys of laughter for the first time and screamed “huhhh-huh-ha-hahaha-hahahaha i wiped my bummmm!”

the “ha ha ha” sounded like the beginning of wipeout. which only made things worse.

my dad dropped his food, rubbed his temples for just a second and then yelled “hey! Hey! HEY! thaaaaaaat… IS ENOUUUUUGHHHHHHHHH!”

he then took the dog and stormed outside, where i assume they went for an extensive walk, because they still hadn’t returned when my brother and i went to bed a couple hours later.

the sox won, too.

 

spaghetti

i love ennio morricone’s soundtrack to the good, the bad and the ugly. i don’t know why but it feels like a great way to kick off the weekend.

and if you even remotely like this then you should check out rome, the 2011 album by danger mouse and daniele luppi that also features jack white and norah jones.

rome is an excellent modern take on the music that was typically featured in spaghetti western films in the 60’s and 70’s.

sixteen

15418406_1365083263531437_7797480984452283073_o

…………………………………………………………….

adios

pay-a-photographer-who-was-heading-home-from-a-weekend-of-camping-was-stunned-when-he-waved-goodbye-to-a-bear-and-it

on friday and saturday of last weekend (october 28th & 29th), spafford played what amounted to two farewell shows at last exit live in their adopted hometown of phoenix. they weren’t presented as such, but if you’ve been following this band then you know how big they’ve gotten in the last 6 weeks and how big they will continue to get through the end of the year and throughout 2017. shows like last weekend’s at venues of this size are about to be considered the good old days, so i hope everyone there realized what we were witnessing.

opening for lotus this weekend, playing phish after shows in new york over new year’s eve, and opening for umphrey’s mcgee in january up and down the east coast ensures that they’ll be playing to crowds that recognize and appreciate their talent, which should eventually pave the way for their own national tours that will allow them to come back to arizona with their guns blazing and a bigger, rowdier crowd here to greet them.

however, we can’t talk about this past weekend without talking about the midwest run at the end of september with shows in boulder, denver, lincoln, milwaukee, neenah, chicago, and ottawa.

you know. the tour that gave us an instant all-timer in the pizza jam(!!!!!), back to back shows at the sweat and joy-filled tonic room, and of course the band’s new folk hero- the man, the myth, the legend… lopez.

born out of a perfect storm of jams, booze and end of the week giddyness in the mixlr chat room during the neenah show at cranky pat’s, we finally got to meet him in the flesh when he flew out from milwaukee for the last exit shows, and he did not disappoint.

lopez is basically the result of catherine zeta-jones getting eiffel tower’d by paul bunyan and zorro with the lone ranger on camera duty and no one bothering to take a paternity test.

he more than exceeded everyone’s expectations and brought a new energy to the phoenix scene that everyone responded to immediately. there were dozens of shouts, cries and near-orgasmic wailings of “lopez!” throughout both nights- the dude’s a people person for sure.

with no hint of jaded vet hambland feelgoodery, i can say with 100% confidence that the next spafford show is always the best. last weekend was beyond stellar, though, and it took me a few days and several relistens of each show for the music to fully sink in. it’s been a long time since i’ve reviewed an actual show and since these are going to be the last we see here for a while i figured i’d do an old fashioned recap of what went down.

friday night (10/28) opened with an extra smooth but unfinished “in the eyes of thieves” that segued nicely into “feel like a stranger” where red’s vocals really shine in an always welcome cover. look for a potential thieves conclusion this weekend.

next up was probably the best “lonely” i’ve ever heard them play. brian shreds in a powerful but restrained peak and you can really hear jordan’s rolling bass lines throughout this section. just a lot of excellent interplay by the whole band.

it was also at this point that some silly goose in the crowd asked a certain photographer whether this song was already the encore. yeesh. some of you people need to handle your party favors a little better.

songs like “walls,” which came next and rages here, are an important play off the happier, more upbeat songs in the band’s repertoire. i can’t say it any better than jerry joseph in the video below from the widespread panic documentary the earth will swallow you:

the downy-soft drop into “postman” was a thing of beauty and the resulting jam was upbeat, exploratory and patient enough for each member to show off their individual talents before climaxing with an exultant peak.

this is the kind of jamming i love, whether it’s the grateful dead, james brown or spafford- when everyone’s on the same page and jamming together, this is what i’m after. phil lesh is famous for confusing musicians who haven’t played with him before when he tells them that he wants everyone to be soloing together instead of laying back and having people take turns on their own. well, this is what they can listen to if they don’t know what he’s looking for.

“slip and squander” closes out the first set in its typical lovely fashion. this song has really become a fan favorite and live staple over the last year, so let’s shout out the band’s namesake and lighting master chuck johnson, who wrote this song as well as one of my other personal favorites, “the man,” which will hopefully be getting played more often going forward. check out his other writing right here.

set two opened with a monster version of “all in.” really- this one is worth all 25 minutes they ride it for. around the 5 minute mark, that little guyute-esque scale run is always one of my mini favorite moments at a show. i don’t know how to explain it, it’s simple, nothing stands out too much, but it takes me to my happy place every single time. then right after that, going back to the jerry joseph analogy, they launch into rock god mode and get the room’s energy all the way back up before exploring several different areas of improvisation that never lose the crowd’s interest.

“electric taco stand” follows, with a pretty straightforward first 7 minutes that lead into the bliss-filled 10 minute alternate ending that peaks and peaks and peaks before going back into the taco proper finale. if you love this version as much as i do, check out the 8/9/14 show where they !encored! with the same hose-filled facefuckery. gotta love this band, man. hoo doggie!

not to be outdone by the two preceeding jams, “weasel > red’s jam > weasel” closed out set two in trancey, pure groove fashion. along with “walls,” this song brings a dark undertone to the show every time it’s played and can really get out there when they want it to. nick really drives this version all the way through.

saturday night (10/29) kicked off with a 16 minute jammed out cover of “ghostbusters” which was just plain fucking awesome. i played this for my younger edm-loving coworker yesterday and after the jam started he remarked that it didn’t sound like ghostbusters anymore. big mistake, junior. i proceeded to lecture him on type I vs type II jamming for the next 90 minutes.

this jam really gets out there and segues perfectly into “todd’s tots” which continued to take the energy up beyond the 11 we were already at. i maintain that the beginning sounds like the doobie brothers’ “china grove” but no one agrees with me. another really nice bliss section in the middle of the song before the craziness caps it off.

brian gives us a tour of the shred factory with “ain’t that wrong” in the three spot, getting the asses shaking and heads banging as a bunch of people sang along to the chorus. red’s organ was on point throughout, adding a nice layer in the background.

batting cleanup and out of nowhere they drop an extra laid back cover of green day’s “long view” off the dookie album. i got the album for christmas in 1994, the same day my family got a black lab from santa. we named him duke. i thought of him during this song. because he’s dead now. anyway, he was a good dog and this was a good jam. a very nice surprise.

“backdoor funk” from live vol. 2 has been my go-to spafford listening along with the pizza jam, and while this night’s version is quite shorter than the album’s, they cover a lot of different space with this one and it’s really one of the best jams of the weekend. excellent version.

closing out the set is a cover of herbie hancock’s “cantaloupe island” with mike cunningham on saxophone. i was unfamiliar with this song before the night but they seemed to have done it justice and it’s always great hearing spafford with horns.

a unique take on soft cell’s “tainted love” opened set two before “the reprise” got things going again. someone please tell me another time they’ve played this before “america” because i can’t think of a show where that’s happened. seemed like there were lots of confused but smiling faces around the room. i love when they do stuff like that to keep the fans on their toes.

i was hearing “windmill” and “salamander song” teases for the last two minutes of the reprise before they fully went into the latter, which is another always-welcome fan favorite with the audience participation and joyful bliss peaks (although there were a few too many “heys” during the chorus section, listen to the band noobs). it’s just one of those songs that makes you feel good– about life, yourself, the moment, whatever. great energy in the room because of this one.

“america” following this was really cool and got everyone back into rage mode with the last 3 minutes developing a lovely little jam that segues right into “galisteo way.”

the opening guitar chords always get people moving and this one was no exception. with the crowd nice and lubed up by this point, the singalong portion of the chorus was especially spirited, if wildly out of tune (that’s on me, i’ll raise my hand for that one. i can’t sing for shit. doesn’t mean i’m gonna stop, though).

the jam that came out of the main song was quiet and delicate and mostly stayed that way before “dis go in 5?” came in for a workout. the instrumental behemoth got dark and grimy and had the crowd in a trance while going into another beautiful jam-within-a-jam (check out the lick brian starts around 9:45) before going back in to the finale of galisteo, which itself was an all out dance party.

of all the segues and transitions from the weekend this one might be my favorite. pure joy into dance madness with people jumping up and down in unison.

bringing mike cunningham out again to close the set by covering todd rundgren’s “bang on the drum all day” was an awesome finish and left everyone smiling, screaming and singing along to the chorus.

what more could we have asked for after two straight nights of astounding jams, cool sit-ins and virgin cover songs?

how about an instant classic version of “leave the light on”? there have been so many great versions of this song in 2016 alone, but saturday night’s 25 minute epic is one that holds up after many relistens. like friday’s “all in,” this one makes use of every single note played- you get your money’s worth if you listen start to finish, especially if you liked the night’s “ghostbusters” opener because they bring ray parker’s masterpiece back for a brief but fiery reprise that put a perfect bow on another perfect spafford music weekend.

actually, here’s a reenactment of the collective response during the ltlo peak that went back into the ghostbusters reprise:

so yeah, it was a great two nights.

as always here’s the archive and soundcloud links, but for chrissakes if you have a few extra shekels to spend please go to their bandcamp page and buy live vol. 1 & 2 if not the entire catalogue, of which most of us celebrate in its entirety.

jimi hendrix said “the time i burned my guitar it was like a sacrifice. you sacrifice the things you love. i love my guitar.” i don’t exactly want to set these lads on fire, but i do love them and want to see them succeed to the highest level they’re capable of.

so leaving arizona for a while and making a name for themselves on the national scene is what they need to do, and i urge everyone to continue spreading the word, sending links to jams and shows and just keep getting the name “spafford” out there. the reward we’ll get as fans will be more amazing music and a band that is able to do this full time.

so chicago- enjoy what you’re getting this weekend, on top of a world series to celebrate, you’ve got our band and, by the looks of it, our weather now too.

with love and only the straightest of lasers,

 

skyowner

here we go

simba rafiki

maaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhn-sibenya-agabadeetzababa!

oh yeah. Oh Yeah. OHHHH YEAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

after years of people saying “i love these guys, when are they coming to ______ (insert any town besides phoenix)” and getting a blank stare in response, spafford has officially announced tour dates in the midwest. and even better, they’ve partnered with live for live music to make this happen.

their facebook post last month had a lot of us thinking that more dates would be added to the two colorado shows, and it’s great to see that our waiting paid off. reading this at work in real time as it came out today, i was beyond pumped. numerous ric flair woo’s were screamed when i read the announcement.

this is a huge deal, and finally seeing it made official, i was so excited i got up and just started pacing around my office, unknowingly walking outside to the parking lot not having any clue how to react other than going full lattimer on all the parked cars.

when i came back inside, stacey, the office manager, noticed the growing sweat circle around my supple bosom and said “you look like you’ve been breastfeeding.”

that was uncalled for, stacey.

“well you look like you just won a hobo fisting contest” i replied.

“and i wasn’t breastfeeding. i was outside doing jumping jacks and running wind sprints. i also did a hundred pushups in twelve minutes,” all of which was true.

“why?” stacey asked, mouth agape, looking like an incredulous yokel.

there was only one answer, and “spafford is finally touring!” wasn’t it.

instead, i karate chopped the salad she was eating for lunch out of her hands and started air guitaring the solo from the 8/9/14 taco stand right in her face, thrusting my hips and grunting in time the way brian should but doesn’t.

stacey was not amused, but after getting doused in sweat and watching my luscious blonde hair bounce like fields of wheat dancing in the wind, she acquiesced to my demand that she blast the boulder windmill and let the tps reports review themselves.

five minutes into the jam and she agreed to be my tour wife. we consummated instantly in the office storage room. i won’t comment on which one of us screamed “big red” as our bodies writhed in ecstasy to the song’s -and each other’s- climax.

now, corporate wookery aside, the point of celebrating today is that all of us love these five guys, and the time has come for music’s best kept secret to let the rest of the country in on what we’ve been raving about for the last few years. like parents sending a child off to college, our boys are all growns up.

the only other time they’ve left the southwest for an extended period was the glorious and myth-building may/june 2014 tour. they haven’t had the reach where it made sense for them to play, i don’t know, a place like salt lake city on a tuesday night to an audience of one bartender who’s more interested in the mormon tabernacle choir than a 45 minute improvisational jam.

right now, my heart is pounding and even after flagstaff last weekend i wish there was a show tonight. i’m sure a lot of you are feeling the same way. the tour is still a ways off, though, and as always, we need to help get the word out. the excitement we’re feeling today has to carry over to a random conversation a month from now with someone who lives in lincoln, milwaukee, this neenah place, chicago or dekalb. get them to the show.

and if someone says they’ve never heard of spafford, don’t slap them in the mouth or belittle their ancestors as we’ve instinctively trained ourselves to do. just smile and play them a nice soundcheck to ease them in. the music will take care of the rest.

this is a really important tour for the band. they’ve killed it in arizona for years, they’ve made a ton of headway in denver recently, but the midwest and eventually the north east are still where they need to repeatedly deliver in order to make themselves a national touring act. the hard part is done- they have the music, they just need a lot more people to play in front of. word of mouth is how this thing’s going to grow.

finally, here’s a self-serving link to share with someone who may not know where to start with the live stuff, and of course there’s always the band’s own official soundboard page on soundcloud, full shows on the archive, and their facebook page.

see you in the promised land, nerds.

golden

today is the 20th -!!!!!- anniversary of ween’s out of nowhere country album 12 golden country greats. if that means anything to you then you know there’s not much to say -though i’ll try- other than it was an incredibly cool and seminal moment in the band’s history.

a risk similar to the grateful dead’s workingman’s dead and american beauty albums and yes i’ll say it radiohead’s kid a in that it was a total 180 in songwriting, live shows, and even studio albums that caught everyone by surprise.

ween was less than two years removed from adding claude, glenn and dave to the touring and then full time band, so to go to nashville with pure ween songs and have longtime session professionals sort out the instrumentation and play it on record was another huge step for two guys who up til then had been used to taking the stage with each other, a guitar, and a drum machine.

and i’m always amazed at the age of musicians when they have important moments like this in their career. dean and gene were 26 years old when this album came out. when i was 26 i was barely off my family cell phone plan and making money through what you would charitably call nefarious jobs.

dean and gene were on their fifth album and making music with men twice their age who had played with country legends in their own right. think of the balls it took to walk into a studio with these songs, telling guys that played with elvis and willie nelson to hold that solo until right after deaner sings “on your knees you big booty bitch start suckin’.” and then went out on a full tour with them! just one more example of how and why ween is on their own level.

“so long jerry” and “i’ve got no darkside” are the two songs left off 12 gcc for whatever reason or fable you want to believe, but they’re both excellent (the former having been written about jerry garcia) and deserve your attention. this just reinforces the old saying that ween’s b-sides are better than 99% of what most other bands officially release.

i’ve also included a link just below to a fan-made mix of the same fall 1996 tour that live in toronto canada was recorded on (i always thought it was hilarious and very ween to specify the “canada” part, like people would confuse which toronto they had played in).

excuse any and all incoherence in this post, it’s late i’m drunk and didn’t even know it was the anniversary til just now so here goes nothing.

mazel tov and long live ween.

country tour ’96 sbd sampler with the shit creek boys

ruby

until a few months ago, ruby andrews was unknown to me. i think she’s one of those supremely talented soul singers from the sixties and early seventies that get lost in the shuffle unless you’re a vinyl collector or obsessed with that genre.

which is depressing because she has one of the most powerful voices i’ve ever heard, and her mark on soul music is huge regardless of her level of fame. the passion and range she has throughout her songs is unmistakable, singing every verse like it’s her last time in a studio. i could listen to her sing soup ingredients and she’d still bring it.

black ruby is my favorite of her four albums, and you can buy it here.

def jam

prologue:

i’m grateful that shakespeare, whitman, thoreau

never had the pleasure of getting to know

you in their time, for surely they’d have penned

a greater ode to you, than i can even pretend

but you own my heart, and thus i shall try

to prove my love worthy, girthy and lithe

……………………………..

they say that a child cannot possibly feel

heartbreak and love, pain that is real

but you and i know the falsity of that claim

our instant connection was deep and not vain

though details are scarce of when we first met

you raced into my heart like a winnipeg jet

our love was pure, instant and true

i knew i’d never met another like you

our courtship was swift, i wasted no time

even when we were together you were still on my mind

we didn’t play games, we both had what we wanted

our recent selves were ghosts, already haunted

there were many before me, perhaps even some after

all we cared about was making the most of our chapter

while we weathered the valleys and cherished the peaks

know we’re just getting started, no one else shall i seek

in the heat, in the cold, when the day’s young or old

you steam and you simmer, flavors so bold

words have never really meant much between us

you’ll always have my attention with eight to twelve pieces

love has many shapes, but with you i prefer

three sides at the most, and never ever four

chicago, new york, connecticut too

all have laid claim to having the best of you

but i forsake regions and the pride of a country

though i’ll venture to guess you’re nothing special in hungary

many still question the strength of our love

but when they hear your name, it’s me they think of

for when i return home at a long day’s end

energy sapped, back unable to bend

there’s nothing, nothing!, that i’d rather see

than a lovely cheese pizza, just for me.