music / Columns

Jam Central Station: Spafford

August 11, 2018 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski



For a lot of folks (myself included) Spafford seemed to come out of nowhere. I went from never having heard of the band before to all of the sudden seeing various live tracks pop up on Jam On and seeing them hitting the mid-tier level at festivals. Spafford seemed to, almost overnight, break out and start making a name for themselves. Obviously, that wasn’t the case, and this band from Arizona had been honing their craft for quite a while before making a concerted effort to go national. The strategy certainly paid off, and Spafford have quickly become a band with a following around the country.

Spafford got their start simply through playing at open mic nights. Founding members Brian Moss and Jordan Fairless played open mics together, with Moss on guitar and Fairless on percussion. They were able to attract fans through these small sets, and began informally putting together a band. There wasn’t any major direction to what they were doing, no single songwriter with a vision, and their influences were all over the map. But the talent was there and Spafford officially played their first show on New Year’s Eve of 2009. The initial lineup had Moss still on guitar, Fariless playing bass, Mike Kreidel on drums, and Jonathan Hust on keys.

Early lineup changes shook things up as both Hust and Kreidel left the band early on, to be replaced by Red Johnson and Nick Tkachyk, respectively. They released a self-titled album in 2012, which the band has since called “traditional.” The album is full of solid songwriting and catchy hooks, and the diversity of the band is apparent in that all members had a hand in putting the songs together, but it certainly didn’t capture what the band was all about live. Extended improvisational segments where were their strength was, and it’s what helped get them a following. They were one of the very few bands that could put something unrehearsed together on the spot and make it work. Their jams were energetic, flowing, and always seemed to have a direction to them.

Because of the strength of their live performances the band quickly moved to focusing in that area. They put shows up on Archive and released multiple live recordings. They didn’t, however, put much effort into breaking into the national scene. They kept mostly to the Southwest and worked on honing their craft. However, their live releases started catching the ear of those in the jam scene, and bands coming through Arizona started getting into what Spafford was doing. By the end of 2015 they had released a four live albums and dozens of other shows on Soundcloud and Archive, so they were a little more ready to make a move.

2016 was the breakout year for the band. It started with, fittingly, their “Breakout” tour that took the band throughout the midwest. Not surprisingly, they had already cultivated a fanbase with folks that were already supporting bands like Umphrey’s McGee, Lotus, and The Werks. Spafford fit well into that niche. Their extensive live collection also made it easy for them to latch on as a Jam On artist. Rather than having to rely on studio cuts, the station had a pick of songs to grab from their live recordings. It became common to hear the extensive 15+ minute jams from the band on the station, which led to the band quickly getting festival bookings.

While Spafford was active on the festival scene in the Southwest, 2017 saw them take a leap. They were at Electric Forest, Summer Camp, Resonance, and many other mid-sized festivals throughout the country. They also released an improvisational collection, taken from a single jam session in their home studio. This was far from the “traditional” first album they put out. Spafford embarked on tours alongside a variety of contemporary bands as well as opening for some of the most established jammers on the scene, and they were always able to hold their own. They did go through one more lineup change when drummer Cameron Laforest replaced Tkachyk in 2017. 2018 saw the band release their second true studio album with For Amusement Only as well as hit festivals such as Bonnaroo, High Sierra, Peach, and Lockn’.

Spafford is still getting their legs under them and I’m sure we’ve yet to see what they’re fully able to do as a band. But they’re off to a great start. By being careful and picking their spots, they were able to make sure that their introduction to the national scene was successful, and they weren’t putting themselves in a position to fail. That success has quickly started to build upon itself, and Spafford looks like they’re ready to stick around for quite some time.



Colorado Kind Festival Announced
Colorado Kind will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, CO. The event will feature The String Cheese Incident, The Motet, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Drunken Hearts, and The Mountain Sun All-Stars featuring members of SCI and guests. The festival will be held September 14-15.

Lettuce add dates
Lettuce added dates to their current “Wavelengths” tour. They’ll be on the road through early November, including sharing dates with Turkuaz and The Soul Rebels.

August 11 – Winter Park, CO – Solshine Music Festival
August 23 – Arrington, VA – Lockn’ Music Festival
August 25 – Arrington, VA – Lockn’ Music Festival
September 15 – Greenfield, MA – Wormtown Music Festival
September 20 – Berkeley, CA – UC Theatre$
September 21 – Crystal Bay, NV – Crystal Bay Club$
September 22 – Lake Perris, CA – Sam Same But Different Festival
September 23 Felton, CA – Santa Cruz Mountain Sol Festival
September 30 Asbury Park, NJ – Sea Hear Now Festival
October 2 – Grand Rapids, MI – The [email protected]
October 3 – Urbana, IL – The Canopy [email protected]
October 4 – Chicago, IL – The Big Weekend – Concord Music Hall
October 6 – Pittsboro, NC – Shakori Hills
October 7 – Charleston, SC – Music [email protected]
October 10 – Omaha, NE – [email protected]
October 11 – Kansas City, MI – [email protected]
October 12 – Saint Louis, MI – Atomic Cowboy [email protected]
October 13 – Eureka Springs, AR – Hillbery
October 25 – Live Oak, FL – Hulaween
October 27 – Live Oak, FL – Hulaween
November 1 – Greenville, NC – State Theatre*
November 2 Philadelphia, PA – The Fillmore#
November 3 Washington, DC – The Anthem*
November 10 – Denver, CO – Boettcher Concert Hall with The Colorado Symphony$w/ Amendola vs. Blades
@w/ Daily Bread *w/ Turkuaz #w/ Turkuaz and special guests The Soul Rebels

moe. announce winter tour
moe. announced a November/December run that will take the band through parts of the Southeast. This will include a few stops in Florida as well as other areas.

November 28 Charleston, SC—Charleston Music Hall
November 29 Orlando, FL—The Plaza Live
November 30 Fort Lauderdale, FL—Culture Room
December 1 St. Petersburg, FL—Jannus Live
December 2 Ponte Vedra Beach, FL—Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
December 5 Charlotte, NC—The Fillmore
December 6 Birmingham, AL—Iron City
December 7 Atlanta, GA—Buckhead Theater
December 8 Atlanta, GA—Buckhead Theater
December 9 Nashville, TN—Marathon Music Works


July 25-29
Floyd, VA
Foster the People, The Infamous Stringdusters, Hiss Golden Messenger

Element Music Festival
July 26-29
Snug Lake Ampitheatre
British Columbia
Lotus, Spafford, Particle

Werk Out Festival
August 2-4
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
The Werks, Umphrey’s McGee, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Lettuce, Papadosio, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Twiddle, Turkuz

Summer Meltdown Festival
August 2-5
Darrington, WA
Bassnectar, Big Gigantic, Greensky Bluegrass, Lettuce, Beats Antique, Papadosio, Twiddle, Pimps of Joytime

August 17-19
Wellston, VA
Dawes, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Billy Strings, Larry Keel, Steppin’ In It, Jon Stickney Trio, The Crane Wives

August 23-26
Arrington, VA
Dead & Company, Widespread Panic, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Umphrey’s McGee, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Sheryl Crow, Lettuce, George Clinton & P-Funk, Blues Traveler, Matisyahu, Spafford, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

Waterloo Festival
September 7-9
Carson Creek Ranch
Austin, TX
The String Cheese Incident (3 nights), Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Otiel & Friends, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, The Motet, Boombox, TAUK, Marco Benevento

Colorado Kind Festival
September 14-15
Planet Bluegrass
Lyons, CO
The String Cheese Incident, The Motet, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Drunken Hearts,

FreshGrass Festival
September 14-16
North Adams, MA
Trampled By Turtles, Yonder Mountain String Band, Indigo Girls, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Steep Canyon Rangers

The Festy Experience
October 5-7
Arrington, VA
Greensky Bluegrass, Gillian Welch, Railroad Earth, Sam Bush Band, Billy Strings, Della Mae, Fruition, Carbon Leaf, Bonnie Paine, The Lil’ Smokies

Hillberry Music Festival
October 11-14
Railroad Earth, Trampled By Turtles, Sam Bush, Lettuce, The Wood Brothers, The Infamous Stringdusters, Billy Strings, Split Lip Rayfield

Suwannee Hulaween
October 25-28
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
The String Cheese Incident, Jamiroquai, Odesza, The Revivalists, STS9, Lettuce, Trampled by Turtles, Medeski, Martin, & Wood, Galactic, Turkuaz, The Wood Brothers, Yonder Mountain String Band, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead

Hangtown Music Festival
October 25-28
Placerville, CA
Railroad Earth (3 Nights), The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Trampled By Turtles, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe presents Eat a Bunch of Peaches, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, The Infamous Stringdusters, Billy Strings, Pimps of Joytime

Strings & Sol
December 7-11
Puerto Morelos, MX
Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Leftover Salmon

December 12-16
Puerto Morelos, MX
The Disco Biscuits, STS9, Umphrey’s McGee, Lotus, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Ghost Light

Winter Wondergrass Vermont
December 14-16
Stratton, VT

Tropical Throe.down
January 10-14
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
moe., The New Mastersounds, Big Something

Jam in the Sand
January 15-19
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra, The Wailers, Green Leaf Rustlers

International Incident
January 25-28
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
The String Cheese Incident, Keller Williams

Panic en la Playa Ocho
January 25-29
Riviera Maya, Mexico

Winter Wondergrass Colorado
February 22-24
Steamboat Springs, CO

Winter Wondergrass California
March 29-31
Squaw Valley, CA

Bender Jamboree
April 11-14
Plaza Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV
Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams, Billy Strings


Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!