that moment right there
because i’m just so clever i can’t stand it sometimes, i was initially going to center this post around the idea of “precrime,” the premise for the movie minority report. a science fiction term for the practice of arresting someone for a crime they have not yet committed, precrime is often found in movies centered around a dystopian future where the government is extra evil and all-knowing.
in my mind it would have been something like “press room v. spafford,” with the band being arrested a full 24 hours before the actual show due to having left the venue in a massive pile of molten lava because the jams were just so fuckin’ hot that night. and if you don’t think i was going to work “on fire” into that godawful metaphor then you are outside of your mind. i realized after saying the word “precrime” out loud just how embarrassing and poorly thought out that would have been. after thinking about why my mind would even come up with something that asinine in the first place, i realized something else entirely in that moment of idiocy.
since the first unplanned note was played in front of an audience, fans of improvisational music have been using an outlandish amount of hyperbole to describe numerous aspects of their favorite bands. things as big as entire years and tours have been deemed “unapproachable” and “untouchable” when compared to other years and tours. other aspects that may seem smaller, like individual shows and jams, though, are most often described in phrases that would make your grandparent’s heads spin.
how would a grandparent interpret your description of a particularly rousing version of “electric taco stand” (if they could get past the song title in the first place) if you referred to it as an “intergalactic hoedown”? grandpa’s picturing dolly parton riding the e.t. bike into space while grandma thinks that hack who directed “2001” is making a cowboy movie. or something equally far from the intended meaning. i’ve used those very words to describe that song. as well as many other nonsensical phrases that all come out as jibberish to the untrained wook ear. but they sound cool (lasers is obviously an outlier. that’s just good old fashioned americana), so these phrases end up sticking around and making their way into many of our vocabularies.
spafford deserves better. they absolutely warrant all the ridiculous, positive things that are said about them and the music, but going back to the same tired well of “space mountain alien porno funk” and other equally amusing similes for what we all know is really just electro funk therapy is not doing them any favors. the best way i’ve ever described a show or jam or have had one described to me is through a physical expression. a giant, shit-eating grin; a bewildered head shake; shrugged shoulders and a total loss of words. making eye contact with someone else who’s had the same experience with the same band is the universally accepted sign that you just had to be there.
this mutual understanding between music fans can only come from seeing a band live, and spafford cannot progress much further without more people coming out to their shows. especially shows on a friday night in their home state’s biggest city. that’s what this entire week is about, and it’s what i realized after my precrime idea: turning people on to this band is easy once they hear the music. that’s why we use so many overblown descriptions when people ask us what they’re like. i really do feel like i’m in space sometimes in the middle of a great taco jam, and i definitely get lost in time when my eyes are closed in the middle of “leave the light on.” i’ll keep using “intergalactic hoedown” and some other longtime favorites to describe some of this music, but not as much as “just go see them.”
this friday night at the press room is going to be huge for both the band and the fans. the press room is an awesome venue that’s going to be turned inside out by all of us. in an email exchange with red and jordan this week, i asked them about playing bigger venues like brooklyn bowl and the big stage at mcdowell mountain music festival and whether that had any effect on their mindset. jordan’s response is something every spaffnerd will be excited about:
the mindset is that the big stages are where we belong now. the challenge going forward is being sure to keep the attitude and the music as relaxed as we have been since the beginning. it’s gotta always feel like we are at home. luckily, our fans provide that feeling and the bigger stages and bigger crowds amplify the possibility for connection.
when i asked red about whether the bigger venues affected the band’s ability to connect with each other and get “there,” that place where improvisational bands are always striving towards, when they’re locked in with each other and essentially letting the music play them, he focused on the importance of connecting both with each other and the audience:
i personally love playing to big crowds, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better show… one of my favorite shows was in a tiny little club in phoenix with maybe 200 people. probably less. but the energy in that room coming from the crowd was transcendent! on stage, it’s indescribable the feeling you get when the fans are hanging on every note.
when they’re all out there with their eyes closed, heads back, sweat drippin’ and grooving together- it’s like we’re all experiencing the music together instead of musicians playing for a crowd. that’s what i play for: that moment right there.
goddamn! goddamn i say! if you’re not absolutely stoked to go see spafford this friday or can’t feel the excitement in their voices coming through in these quotes, then i don’t know what to tell you. go watch high school musical for the 87th time i guess. both red and jordan reiterated how important it is to have fans there for them and for fans to be there in order for them to get it. in that same email exchange, red wrote:
“if we can just reach one person tonight -just touch one soul- get one person to think to themselves ‘i get it!’, we can leave happy… that’s how the spafford train got rolling. we didn’t start the spaffnerds group. we didn’t start the spaffam group. these are all people that went to a show to dance and have a good time to some live music and they ‘got it’… and that’s something you can only get live.”
jordan continued that same thinking:
playing in front of the same growing crowd in our home state in many ways has put pressure on us as a band to consistently push the boundaries with our improvisation and song writing. knowing our fans are always watching, listening and waiting for our next move is a constant motivator to outdo the last performance… we have always been free with the music and that is what has drawn people in. i think the day we stop taking chances and being free people will lose interest.
the whole point is being there. being there with your friends to see a band that has already made us proud to be from arizona, not because of the weather, but because we have a band that brings it every single night and constantly extends our expectations for what they are capable of. this is a great state that has more than its share of flaws, and we always seem to be the ugly duckling that gets skipped on national tours from other bands, but none of that matters when spafford is playing.
i haven’t seen spafford since the cactus jack’s shows in february and after streaming just about every show on their spring tour i feel like miles davis after he had his father lock him in the garage for 3 days to kick his heroin habit cold turkey. this is our band and this is our community, and we need to show them that they are not just appreciated for what they bring every time they step on stage- they have our unwavering support now and will continue to have it as they branch out to other states, regions and eventually the national scene.
that’s why instead of the usual recap or summary of how incredible the show was, i am telling you now, before the show, that you need to be there. you need to bring 5 friends, especially if they’ve never seen spafford. you need to call your nana and tell her you need that $12 christmas check she always sends you right now so you can buy a ticket. you need to be driving around mill and old town and roosevelt blasting the wedding wolfman’s because you’ll get all the hot girls and guys looking at you thinking “sweet aunt jemima! i just felt that bass note right in my loins- i must procure more information on where to hear that music!”. you need to be covered head to toe in “i’m killing it!” stickers and force others to do the same. you need to buy your pal skyowner tequila all night because he just got back from key west and is still wondering what happened.
but most importantly, you need to be there because when you wake up on saturday morning and you’ve still got the rest of the weekend in front of you, you and your crew will go for brunch to recover. you’ll sit across the table from each other, and none of you will have anything to say until that first bloody mary kicks in. and even then, all you’ll be able to do is laugh and shake your head.
lasers, man. lasers.
and if you want to give a spaffirgin a heads up for what they’re about to witness, last week’s show at the orpheum in flagstaff should do the trick:
the whole show is now available to stream and download: