Live review: Dispatch @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Day 3By John Hendrickson | June 6th, 2011 | 2 comments
When Dispatch closed out its three-day run at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Sunday night, an unmistakaable feeling of nostalgia floated between Ship Rock and Creation Rock. The crowd — composed almost entirely of 18-34 bros and bro-ettes — sang the winding, sometimes bilingual lyrics to songs that they had likely downloaded on Napster more than a decade ago. For many, Dispatch defined “independent music” before it was associated with skinny jeans, fixed-gear bikes and trendy micro-genres.
Instead, Dispatch’s independence was rooted in the songwriters-in-the-round coffee house aesthetic that dictated so much of its first album, 1996′s “Silent Steeples.” The trio of Chad Stokes, Pete Heimbold and Colorado native Brad Corrigan — all songwriters and multi-instrumentalists in their own right — opened Sunday’s show with a stripped-down take on “Flying Horses,” possibly the greatest hit off that first record. The audience sang en masse as they did during the band’s “final” show at the Hatch Shell in Boston during the summer of 2004, then again for three sold-out nights at Madison Square Garden in New York City three years later. Each of those shows came with some sort of caveat — a free, public, ticketless goodbye in ’04 and proceeds benefitting Zimbawe in ’07 — though this 2011 reunion tour feels less about activism and more about, well, cashing in on posthumus success.
That’s not to say Stokes and Corrigan shied away from philanthropic appeals between songs. There was a book drive, some number to text to United Way and some praise of efforts by Denver’s Flobots all in the name of “amplifying education.” And the crowd cheered politely for each quasi-activist pitch, but, at the end of the day, this was a night aimed at re-living your high school and college years. Songs like “Out Loud” (with its improvised “Mrs. Robinson” breakdown), “Two Coins” and “Bulletholes” saw the band at its reggae-rock best before a long acoustic set deflated the middle of the show.
In classic Dispatch fashion, instrumental flubs transformed into light-hearted moments, forgotten lyrics yielded laughter rather than embarrassment and a show in front of 9,500, at times, felt as intimate as those college coffee house gigs 15 years ago. Set-closer “The General” was the definitive sing-along everyone had been waiting for and the two-song encore kicked off with the well-executed surprise of all three members perched in three corners of the crowd for “Cut It/Match It.” The literal separation was almost an allegory for the band’s current state. Internal conflict and power struggles of three unique songwriters tore the band apart, and they’ve all since pursued solo careers in one form or another (Stokes’ State Radio project being the most prolific). Nevertheless, Dispatch is an organism, and the guys slowly made their way back down to the stage for the rousing afro-beat anthem “Elias.” With those three-part harmonies and triumphant choruses sung by thousands, this looked and sounded like the Dispatch of yore.
Click here to view a full photo gallery of Day 1.
Click here to stream and download our Mile Marker audio session with State Radio, featuring Chad Stokes of Dispatch.