By Lizzie Morelli
Photo by Keith Griner
Spafford is a band out of Arizona that has been planting seeds in the scene recently. The foursome, featuring Brian Moss (guitar), Jordan Fairless (bass), Red Johnson (keys) and Cameron LaForest (drums) have a unique chemistry that spins itself into effortless, deeply felt, improvisation, which is accompanied by vocals which change leads throughout their live shows. Their jams are the vehicles we all climb aboard but the vocals really drive it home.
Spafford, named for the bands long time friend and eventual lighting designer Chuck “Spafford” Johnson, has become a grassroots movement of sorts. Rumors of the band spread slowly through playing gigs, internet forums, and word of mouth. This natural progression grew with it a large and loyal fan base.
Brian and Jordan met in 2008 and started playing open mics together under the name “Officious Tortfeasor,” but the band became Spafford when they were offered a New Years gig in 2009-10 at Coyote Joe’s in Prescott, AZ. Spafford spent their formative years touring the state of Arizona eventually expanding their route to the greater South and North West regions which earned them crucial credit in Colorado.
In September of 2016 they hit the road for their “Break Out Tour,” presented by Live for Live Music. This tour turned the national spotlight on Spafford and brought the band East of the Mississippi River for the first time. The direction of the band was further solidified as they sold out Chicago’s Tonic Room within hours of online sale.
In the winter of 2017, Spafford was announced as support for tour veterans Umphrey’s McGee for 18 shows across the United Sates. In addition to their work with Umphrey’s, Spafford sandwiched in another 30 something headlining dates and brought their music to new markets in the north east.
In April 2017, they played Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY. This was the first time I saw them. There was a lot of hype around this show as Jim Pollock, who has done a tremendous amount of artwork for Phish, created a poster that people were eager to get their hands on. Their live performance tapped mostly into their original catalogue with a notable cover of the Tears for Fears original “Mad World”.
They completed the last chunk of their North East tour with a sold-out show at Nectars in Burlington, VT. After the long trek home Spafford ended it all with 2 sold out nights back home in Phoenix at “Last Exit Live,” a venue that has become a big part of the bands history.
Following the close of the 2017 Tour the band replaced drummer Nick Tkachyk, bringing on Cameron LaForest as their new drummer and solidifying the bands makeup. The change came as a surprise to long time fans but Cameron has since proved himself as an important part of the bands new dynamic. Summer Camp Music Festival in Illinois was a pivotal moment in the bands history and future as it it was the first live show with Cameron. I was lucky enough to catch a live stream of the show. They threw down in front of a massive crowd, but there is more to the story.
Something some people don’t know about that show is that there were all sorts of technical difficulties. Their monitors were out. If you didn’t know, monitors are the speakers musician’s use on stage to be able to hear each other. They flew blind on their first show with their new drummer and never skipped a beat.
They have been hitting the festival network pretty hard this summer.
Aside from Summer Camp, Spafford played Electric Forest and most recently The Peach “Festival. In between gigs they found time to record “Abaculus: an Improvisational Experience,” which they dropped August 9th. The album is an hour-long jam that that carries through multiple movements and is a big step forward for Spafford. It’s a clear representation of how well these guys can work with each other. It also shows their diversity.
Spafford has announced plans for its coast-to- coast fall tour that will start in Charlottesville, VA and end in Flagstaff, AZ. They hit the stage at Canyon Jam September 9th at the Mishawaka Amphitheatre in Bellevue, CO for what is sure to be a very exciting show at a very beautiful venue.
Following Abaculus and the close of a busy festival season, I am sure we can expect exciting things to continue flowing from Spafford as they continue to raise the bar for themselves.