gauntlet

by SKYOWNER

“‘remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.”

tony soprano

spafford has no use for the phrase “remember when.” there are plenty of jams and shows i still listen to regularly, but the people i know are always talking about future shows and tours and looking forward, and that’s a direct result of the band and their constant pushing. with the music, the setlists, everything. and more importantly, each new show manages to somehow outdo the previous one.

with 2015 on its last legs and spafford finally -finally!- approaching their annual new year’s eve show on thursday, it’s pretty cool to think about what they accomplished this year (some of which feels like it was a decade ago, in a good way):

the collection of new songs that stretched the band’s creativity all over the place and satiated an extremely hungry fanbase… the gem & jam set that introduced us to “hollywood”… the cactus jack’s shows to kick off the year proper and the first shows with jordan and brian’s new guitars… the mini tour through new mexico & colorado in march a few weeks before the widespread panic after-shows in vegas, capped off with their first slot on the big stage at mcdowell mountain… the march and may single show throwdowns at the orpheum in flagstaff, and the press room show in front of a hometown crowd that would be the last live music they played until august…

summer was slow but signing with a promotional company that got them on their way to the next level was awesome news while we waited to see them play live again…

the incredible pranster’s too debut shows in the august heat less than a week after slaying their opening slot for graham lesh’s band in san diego… their first #phishdick’s after-shows in denver over labor day weekend that included leaving mid-weekend to hit a festival in taos before driving right back to denver for a monster sunday show… the september shows in northern california where they played through what sounds like extremely difficult festival circumstances and still made new fans.

the outdoor jungle rock at prescott’s brick & bones, their first true hometown shows in nearly 3 years… the taos show that was so hot it made locals set off fireworks in celebration, and a return to their second home in albuquerque the next night… the headlining slot at apache lake which will hopefully be a future site for their own festival…

the phantom menace they turned into at last exit on halloween weekend with perhaps the best single show i’ve seen them play, followed by one of the most goosebump-inducing singalongs i’ve ever been a part of… flagstaff to tucson the weekend after, vegas to san diego the weekend after that, all capped off by six december shows in spafforado during which the band was kind enough to stream and release the cabin jams in all their sonic glory.

which brings us to today.

there’s an old story about the comedian milton berle, who apparently was well-known for his massive genitalia. the story goes that he was in a steam room one time when a stranger approached him and challenged him to a measuring contest. someone else in the steam room -supposedly jackie gleason- told milton to “go ahead… just take out enough to win.” so he did.

if the previous five years was spafford’s version of pulling out just enough to win, then 2015 was them plopping their collective horse cock on the table for everyone to marvel at and saying “take a good look, nerds- we’re gonna be here for a while.” musically speaking, of course.

“but skyowner, music isn’t a competition” you might whine say. i don’t want to sound like the hardo of the year, but everything is a competition. life is a competition. i understand the thinking, because music is about whatever you want it to be, but spafford is the best band you’re going to see on any given night and they’re out to prove it. to themselves, to the fans who’ve been spreading the gospel for the last 6 years, and to anyone who has never heard them.

there’s been more of an attitude and nastiness creeping out of the music this year that wasn’t prevalent before, and that comes from the band knowing how good they are but still sometimes playing for 100 people when they should be playing in front of 1,000-plus, or opening for bands that have no business being on the same bill as them, nevermind being the headlining act.

that comes back to us as fans. they’ve done the hard part with the music. most bands would kill to have 10% of spafford’s original material in their catalogue. if you love this band then you have a responsibility to help spread the word. if you know someone who loves edm, there’s a spafford song for them. if you know someone who loves progressive rock or metal, there’s a spafford song for them. if you know someone who loves improvisational music of any kind, there’s a spafford song for them. if you know someone who just wants to shake their ass for a few hours instead of sitting at home watching bob ross paint happy trees, they can celebrate spafford’s entire fucking catalogue. and if you know someone who just loves songwriting, then play “hollywood” in the car with the windows down for them.

the music does more than a million fanboy blogposts ever could, so just get someone to hear one jam, or better yet drag their ass out to one show to see that this band is for real. and maybe a few decades from now they’ll ask themselves “remember when spafford was just a local band that never had a shot at getting popular outside the southwest?”

neither do i.

happy new year.

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