Spafford postpones Aspen show, but you can still support them and other touring artists amid coronavirus cancellations |

Spafford postpones Aspen show, but you can still support them and other touring artists amid coronavirus cancellations

Andrew Travers
The Aspen TImes
Spafford, the jam band popular in mountian towns, hs postponed its spring tour due to coronavirus disrptions. THe band had been scheduled to play Belly Up on Friday.
Courtesy photo


Want to support Spafford following their tour cancellation? Check out their merch at where the band has a huge selection of apparel, hats and accessories – ranging from pins and t-shirts to tote bags and yoga pants - in the same price range as the cancelled Belly Up show tickets ($25-$40).



The band released its live set from the Mesa THeatre in Grand Junction, recorded March 4. You can hear it online here.

Spafford’s Friday night show at Belly Up Aspen has been postponed due to disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic. The band, which was on a ski country tour and played Scmiggity’s in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday night, announced Thursday morning they were halting their winter tour.

“It’s with extremely heavy hearts that we must inform you that we will be postponing all winter tour dates due to new mass gathering mandates and restrictions issued by the government in the states of Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada,” the band wrote in a statement. “We’ve had an absolutely amazing run this winter and the last thing we want is for it to stop now. Sadly, this means we also have to cancel tomorrow night’s show at the Belly Up in Aspen.”

Belly Up will refund tickets and Spafford pledged to reschedule the 15 canceled gigs.

“Our sincerest apologies to our fans and the people of Aspen, Colorado specifically,” the statement continues. “We look forward to playing the Belly Up and getting back to Aspen as soon as possible.”

Touring artists like Spafford, an Arizona-based jam band, primarily make a living based on revenue from touring gigs. This week’s cancellations of tours and festivals big and small are an economic blow to touring bands (and people like roadies, managers and marketing people).

Fans can still support bands by paying to download songs online or buying merchandise through band websites. The disposable income you were going to spend on a concert ticket — or that you’ve had refunded from Belly Up for Spafford’s concert — can go toward Spafford’s online stores, which has a huge selection of Spafford gear. Spafford also has a sale going on right now on items like hoodies and yoga pants.

In a post on Twitter on March 6 that went viral, the DJ and producer Dani Deahl wrote, “Cancelled festivals and shows (because) of Coronavirus will be big financial losses for indie artists this year. Please consider buying a piece of merch to support your favorite indie act(s) and help art thrive.”

Spafford is a ski town staple, making seasonal stops here at Belly Up Aspen and across mountain towns in the West. The band’s coronavirus-truncated tour sent them through Winter Park, Frisco and Steamboat Springs before it ended.

The band started winning over fans in Colorado soon after it formed in 2010. Drummer Nick Tkachyk recalled steadily moving beyond venues in Spafford’s native Phoenix, first to Albuquerque and then to Denver, where they became regulars at the jam band hub Quixote’s True Blue.

“The style of music we play — the more jam, rock, funk style — hits well with people in Colorado,” Tkachyk said from Tucson earlier this winter as the tour launched. “So it was a natural fit. Since then we’ve loved playing Colorado. The crowds always throw down, so we throw down and it becomes a big throw-down session.”

Chuck “Spafford” Johnson, the band’s namesake, has a family cabin in Winter Park, where the band has set up shop regularly over the years including its “Cabin Jam” livestream concerts on Facebook.

Like a lot of jam bands with devout followings, Spafford keeps close track of its set lists and studies them before performances — making sure not to repeat recently played songs or ones they did during their previous stops at a venue. But their wildly improvisational shows are always open-ended affairs.

“There is a sense of that we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Tkachyk said. “There is a sense of mystery. We have our set list, but somebody might play a lick in a jam from another song that’s not on the list and we’ll go into that. We let the spirit of the jam and the spirit of the crowd guide us.”

Amid their jams, Tkachyk said, the band generally communicates non-verbally with music cues and the occasional look in the eyes.

“Musical communication is the best and most pure form of communication we can utilize,” he explained.

Those live shows are Spafford’s calling card. But they’ve been prolific with live recording releases as well, in proper albums and smaller online only drops (including a three-song audio release last week from a set at Grand Junction’s Mesa Theater.)

The band’s most recent studio release is “The Gaff Tapes,” an eclectic five-song EP released in October. It was an experiment for the band, made in their home studio in Phoenix and engineered on their own.

“We are really proud of it and we had a blast,” Tkachyk said.

Their previous full-length studio record, the sprawling “For Amusement Only,” was released in 2018.

And in December, the band released “Chapel Jam,” a live recording from January 2017 with a curious backstory. They were touring the northeast opening for Umphrey’s McGee, when a show in Rochester, New York, was canceled. The band was staying in a church’s mission hall, which had been converted into an Airbnb. On the unexpected night off, they set up their gear in the building’s chapel — Tkachyk on his drum kit on the altar, the rest below — and played a long jam without an audience.

“We love sharing music and the fans have always been grateful,” Tkachyk said of Spafford’s many live releases. “We kind of carry on the Grateful Dead outlook of releasing live music. It’s not necessarily our music – it belongs to everybody and the fans play as much of a role in the live performances as we do. So we want to share it as much as possible.”