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REVIEW / PHOTOS | Spafford & Mungion at Bottom Lounge 4/8/17

Photos: Tara Gracer

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It's time to talk about the J word again.

Unlike many publications, we're happy to acknolwedge jambands -- to keep our finger on the pulse and look twice at the last few lines of festival bills.  Yet, access to adventurous new music is as prevelant as ever, and much of what is truly inspring doesn't fall necessarily under that category.

And while I've followed a lot of jambands, peeked under the hood and never exhausted my curiousity about them, it's been a while since I've actually gotten into one.

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So it's pretty remarkable that at a show in early April in Chicago, two bands that could be unequivocably labeled as jambands made a case for some extra attention.

Spafford has had as compelling a narrative as any recent touring band, as fans watched them rocket from talented obscurity to the national spotlight in short order. 

Clearly, it's not just me they're impressing, essentially quadrupling their draw in Chicago between September '16 and April '17 -- selling out their Bottom Lounge show in advance, and generating even more buzz in the process.

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But they had a little help from some locals in Mungion and together these two bands shared a common musical thread and obviously mutually interested audience.

The crowd came early for Mungion -- whose lengthy set felt like celebration of conquering heroes after being on the road for a few weeks with Spafford.  The Chicago fans were clearly invested in their proggy / fusiony compositions, which were fine-tuned from the road test.  The band exuded a confidence, and playfulness, that demonstrated growth -- executing the complicated material with precision, while remaining loose on stage (holding up poster board signs to get reaction from the fans... it worked).

So while Mungion hit at a bit after 9:00 to a capacity room, it didn't stop the group from also staying late for two big sets of Spafford.  While they hail from Arizona, a pair of band members have roots in Chicago, so these sets, too, were a homecoming of sorts.

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That confidence Mungion displayed?  Spafford cranked it up even further.

Rattling off a pair of sets with no recognizable (to me) covers (apparently, the show opener was Sneaker Pimps' "Six Underground'), they seemed to challenge the crowd.  You don't really know us but you know you really love us.

Nearly every tune featured break-out rock/funk improv, enough to keep the dance floor packed and fists pumping way past midnight.

Perfect?  Hardly.  They are still a jamband after all.  But jambands have always been about overlooking weaknesses to experience some of the peaks -- and my goodness are there peaks -- glorious, telepathic full-band jams that smack you right in the pleasure bone.

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They're not old favorites with a catalog of chestnuts, but Spafford had the crowd in the palm of their hands nonetheless.  It's what is making word-of-mouth so great and sending tickets flying off of shelves.

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So with an offering like that... what's the celiing on a band like Spafford?  Clearly the 700 capacity Bottom Lounge ain't going to hold them.

I don't exactly know, but for at least one more round, I'm willing to find out.  And that's something I haven't said about a jamband in a long time.

 

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