Boston-based indie legends Dispatch stopped at the iconic Troubadour in Los Angeles last weekend on their North American tour. TFFT caught the show on Saturday night, the first of their two night engagement.
The intimate venue was packed solid and the crowd were wired with anticipation, so much so that a glimpse of one of the band members on the staircase in the wings coming down from the green room caused an immediate screaming wave. Based on the “acoustic evening” billing, I was definitely not expecting such a raucous evening, but Dispatch fans are die-hard and loyal, and it’s been a long since the band played in LA. It’s remarkable how such an unassuming group of low-key, mostly middle aged dudes can inspire such rowdy fandom. But everything about Dispatch just radiates positivity and goodwill, from their killer hooks to their life-affirming lyrical subject matter, to their charitable work. The band has been partnering with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence on the tour to raise money for survivors of gun violence and families of victims, and to raise awareness about advocating for gun control legislation.
The band took the stage amidst wild cheers and dove right into playing their latest album America, Location 12 from start to finish, with very little chatter. I reviewed the album for TFFT back in June when it was released, and have not been able to stop listening to it since. It’s a more mature, polished record than their earlier full length albums, and the album works perfectly live as a cohesive entity. The band plays with the comfort level of artists that have been playing together for years, as core members Brad Corrigan and Chad Stokes have been (Pete Francis has been sitting out of the tour due to being treated for depression), yet there is such a freshness to their live show. This is due in part to the enormous energy being brought by their their touring bandmates, especially drummer John Reilly, who stole the show at moments with his impassioned performance, long hair flying and jumping up and down.
The house was electric when the band took their set break, and when they came back onstage the tipsy crowd was even more riled up, ready to rock out to some of their old favorites. They played lively, extended, rocking versions of Here We Go, Bang Bang, and Flying Horses among many others. Trumpeter Rashawn Ross of Dave Matthews Band joined them for a couple songs, wailing out killer solos. The crowd’s frenzy kept mounting, inspiring Corrigan to remark “oh man, you guys are fucking loud. They say — touring bands, don’t expect much from the LA crowd.” The sound at the Troubadour is usually impeccable, but with that many bodies and that much sound in such a small space, it inevitably spiraled into a wall of sound … although there is something transcendent about that kind of energy at a live show that elevates the experience even though it’s almost impossible to hear properly. My ears definitely rang for hours afterward, but it was worth it.
The crowd did respectfully settle down when Corrigan and Stokes came out by themselves for the first encore and played a haunting new song they had just written about the gun violence crisis in America. It was incredibly moving and poignant, written from the perspective of those who had lost loved ones: “It’s not enough, your thoughts and prayers/You send your love/You say you care/But you are not my baby.” For the second encore, the band brought the house down with The General, the perfect ending to a thrilling show.