Head to Spafford’s website for information on all upcoming shows! “We Jam.”That is the simplest way Spafford can describe themselves and their sound. In an era of music where the electronic scene is booming and the jam band generation is constantly looking for organic improvisation and creativity, Spafford stands out as a refreshing new sound. As the band gears up for a Fall Tour that will see them head East of Colorado for the first time, Spafford is excited to bring their special brand of ElectroFunkTherapy to new audiences.Hailing from Arizona, the four piece band is comprised of Brian Moss (Guitar), Jordan Fairless (Bass), Red Johnson (Keys), and Nick Tkacyk (Drums). According to Fairless, one of the things that makes the band unique is “the diversity and freedom that comes from having 5 different song writers/lyricists in the band which never really conform to any one specific genre. Even Chuck (Johnson) our lighting guru writes lyrics for our songs, though he can’t play any instrument besides the recorder. That and the freedom of improvisation; it is similar to a good game of chess. I like having to think and also never having to really play the same song twice.”Spafford has built a following the old fashioned way, through playing and word of mouth. Fairless explains, “The band formed when Brian and I met in 2009 and started playing at open mics together, but we didn’t know it… We got people to dance so we kept doing it. We accidentally started the band as it is now when we get offered our first gig for New Years Eve 2009-10 and the rest is kind of history from there.”In recent months, a buzz has begun to build around the band and their jamming prowess which has lead to the upcoming “Breakout Fall Tour” that will see the band play nine shows in CO and the Midwest.A diverse range of sounds and influences including but not limited to Phish, alternative rock, bluegrass, and even gospel has lead the band to craft a sound that can cover an array of different genres minute to minute.“I usually just ask people if they like to dance and tell them we probably play at least one style of music they are in to. The band is so eclectic that it is difficult to describe the music to people, I prefer to explain the different genres we like to dabble in and how each night is a different experience based on how we are feeling and what we have been studying.”The Fall tour represents a big moment in the band’s history as they are ready to get their music to as many new fans as possible. “I could not be more excited. Brian and I have been at this for nearly seven years and the other guys almost 5 and we are ready to show the rest of the country what we have been creating out there in the high desert of Arizona.”Fans of lengthy improvisation will surely want to hear what Spafford is doing. It has become a huge part of the bands identity and creative expression. It’s not unusual for jams to go well past the 20 or even 30 minute mark at a Spafford show. Fairless explains, “improv is the most important. From a selfish perspective, I don’t want to be in a band that goes city to city playing the same setlist and programmed show every night. From the fan’s perspective, I believe that the mystery of each night and its potential to lead us all to a special moment through improv is what keeps people so interested.”Spafford jams have a keen sense of patience and slow groove building that is harder and harder to find in the scene today. “It just kind of started happening as we played together more, and, as we took note of that, we started to try and develop it. Sometime I love it when we hold a foundation and Brian just shreds, he is after all the best and most tasteful guitar player I have ever met. Still, my favorite moments on stage are when we are taking turns developing the groove piece by piece. Then finally it is ready to drop and we let it and all the hands go up and the booties shake. That is what life is all about.”For an incredible example of this, the band holed up in a cabin in Colorado last winter and live streamed 90 minutes of improvisation, which can be heard below.
Photo courtesy of Nora Clougherty Members of the TOMS club at Saint Mary’s Skyped with TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie during his TED talk Thursday.The TOMS company, through its “One for One” model, donates a pair of shoes to the poor in third-world countries every time someone buys a pair of its shoes. When someone purchases TOMS eyewear, a part of the profit goes to help restore sight to those who are poor. A new addition to the One for One organization is TOMS tote bags. Every time one is sold, a new bag, along with a safe home birth kit, is given to a pregnant mother in need of one.“For a long time, TOMS just provided shoes,” Mycoskie said. “We now have factories in Haiti and Kenya. We try to continually stretch the boundary of our company to create jobs.”Martin Burt, the founder and CEO of Fundacion Paraguaya (FP), which receives and distributes donated shoes, also Skyped in with Mycoskie and the Saint Mary’s club.“We are using TOMS not as charity but as self-help,” he said. “It is self-help and self-reliance that gets people out of poverty.”Burt, who founded FP in 1985, works to provide education in entrepreneurship and microcredit to students in Paraguay. At the moment, he is creating schools specifically for rural youth who are chronically unemployed, as well as developing the “Poverty Stoplight,” which uses technology to help poor families understand their economic position and work to improve it.“Our bottom line is impact, not poverty,” he said. “We try to design ways to diminish poverty.”TOMS club president Nora Clougherty said it was rewarding to speak to both Mycoskie and Burt, whose foundation, as a TOMS giving partner, directly uses the shoes.“We were not only able to witness how the shoes are being put to use, but we also got to talk to someone who was directly impacting TOMS,” she said.In response to a question from the Saint Mary’s club, Mycoskie said the biggest challenge was just making the shoes while keeping one question in mind.“How do you preserve a culture of giving as you scale a big business?” he said.Mycoskie said another major obstacle was keeping in mind the purpose of TOMS creation.“The challenge was in keeping the whole organization excited and focused on why we do what we do,” Mycoskie said. “More important is the mindset that we’re changing.”Burt said a partial obstacle to eliminating poverty is that people sometimes forget that poverty exists.“It’s not that the poor are invisible — we do not see,” Burt said. “We can transform the world and end poverty in one generation just with the TOMS shoe example, but it is impossible for people to see the solutions that are right under our nose.”Burt said TOMS is a good model because it can be applied beyond just shoes.“This is about social innovation, taking what works in one industry and applying it to another industry,” he said.Clougherty said the conversation inspired the club to continue to spread its message.“My goal is to one day see everyone on campus wearing TOMS so that we can see the change a simple purchase can have,” she said.Another club member, Delaney Hunt, said talking to Mycoskie helped her to consider the service aspect of business.“Talking to somebody that has that reputation and is so well-known makes it more real,” she said. “It makes me believe in their mission even more — it makes it more personal. The business model itself is interesting in that you could apply it to anything. It gives me ideas on what you can do with a normal business major.”Club member Tori Wilbraham said Mycoskie’s talk was particularly impactful as she prepares to graduate.“He inspired me to follow my passions rather than pursue a career for money,” Wilbraham said.