Music News

Denver Is Home Away From Home for Jam Band Spafford

Photo by Paul Citone
Southwest-based jam band Spafford.
Southwest-based improvisational jam band Spafford was playing at Schmiggity’s in Steamboat Springs when COVID-19 decimated the concert industry and forced bands off the road. Eighteen months later, the quartet, comprising Brian Moss (guitar, vocals), Jordan Fairless (bass, vocals), Andrew “Red” Johnson (keys, vocals) and Nick Tkachyk (drums, vocals), returns to Colorado to make its Sculpture Park debut on Thursday, September 2.

“Since the tour got pulled when we were in Colorado, this feels like our homecoming show, and we're ready to bring it to Denver,” Moss says. “We're very honored to get to play at a new venue for us, and we think it's going to be a super-exciting, amazing experience for everybody involved.”

The Mile High City feels like a second home to the experimental quartet, says Moss, who formed Spafford in Prescott, Arizona, on New Year's Eve 2009. Soon after, Moss and Fairless met Johnson at an open-mic night, and he joined the group, quickly followed by Tkachyk, who completed the final piece of the Spafford puzzle.

The four musicians spent their early years developing a signature blend of funk, jazz and rock and honing their extended jams locally. In 2014, Spafford played its first show outside the Southwest at Quixote's in Denver, to a modest crowd on the back patio.

“Since then, things have grown wildly for us,” Moss notes. “When we would ride up and down Colfax and see the Fillmore, the Ogden, and all those theaters, we would think, ‘Oh, man, we're just this little young band. What a dream it would be to play one of those places.”
The fourpiece soon kicked off its near-annual residency at the Ogden and began showcasing its intoxicating crescendos at venues including Cervantes', the Bluebird, Globe Hall and Ophelia’s. In 2018, Spafford was called up to the coveted Colorado music-scene big leagues when fellow jam band the Disco Biscuits invited the group to open the final night of its Bisco Inferno Red Rocks run.

Still an up-and-comer at the time, Spafford was only initially booked for a standard hour-long opening set. However, the band's zealous fans tweeted at the Disco Biscuits, vying for the group to have additional performance time, and their wish was ultimately granted.

“All our fans were annoying [The Disco Biscuits] on Twitter, so they decided to give us that extra time,” Fairless laughs. “Thanks, fans — you made it happen. Your voice was heard!”

Spafford’s dedicated fans have been showing up in droves to support the band’s COVID-comeback fall tour, which launched in Nashville on August 3. Show attendees are being treated to new tunes from Spafford, which spent quarantine holed up in a Phoenix studio, writing and rewriting a plethora of musical material.

“There are a lot of things you don't get to take advantage of when you're touring all the time, and one of the biggest things is rehearsing and working on new music,” Fairless explains. “So for us, [quarantine] was kind of an opportunity to really dig back into the songs that we already know and ideas that we could explore as a group.

“We took full advantage of not being able to tour, and I think that's showing by having new songs to play,” he adds.

For Tkachyk, Spafford’s fall tour is a chance at redemption with the fans. He took pride in being in a band that never had to cancel a gig prior to the pandemic, and he’s ready to show Denver revelers why it was worth the wait.

“We felt like we kind of let our fans down,” he says of the forced concert cancellations. “But we had to do what we had to do, and we banded together as a team. I’ve learned so much about how to be a member of a group that really has a purpose and really wants to share its collective art with as many people as we possibly can.”

When Fairless calls Colorado Spafford’s home away from home, he truly means it. The outfit’s namesake and good friend Chuck "Spafford" Johnson's family has a house in Colorado, where the band has shared years of special moments and bonding experiences.

“Colorado was the first destination for us when we were just starting to tour outside of Arizona, and we have so many memories that are tied to Colorado,” he says. “So for us to get to come back and play this amazing venue outside in wonderful weather and to be back playing live music is just a dream come true. And it's a real reminder to not take the ability that we have as touring musicians and as music consumers for granted.”

Spafford plays at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, September 2, at Sculpture Park, 1736 Speer Boulevard. For tickets and more information, go to AXS.