Dispatch (photo: Joshua Huver)
On Thursday, November 30, the one-time Boston-based band Dispatch performed the first of two sold-out evenings at The Fillmore in San Francisco, featuring a heavy mixture of old favorites among their newest tunes.
As Brad Corrigan — vocalist, percussionist, and founding member of the band — said near the end of the show, the San Francisco Bay Area has become like a new home to them. Their most recent record, America, Location 12 was put together in Stinson Beach. They released the album in a very impromptu manner in Santa Cruz in June, and generally seem to really be coming together in a larger setting.
In addition to Corrigan, guitarist and founding member Chad Urmston is also present on this tour, along with bassist/guitarist Matt Embree, percussionist John J.R. Reilly and multi-instrumentalist Mike Sawitzke, co-producer on America, Location 12
In March of this year, the third founding member of the band Pete Heimbold announced on the band’s Facebook page that he was taking time off from the road in order to treat his depression. Although many were eager to see him return for this tour, his presence is not absent. The band is very vocal about their support and the support that Heimbold continues to receive from fans as they strive to destigmatize mental illness together.
The tour billed each show as an “Acoustic Evening with Dispatch,” and for the first set they played the new album all the way through in order. In my two years covering live music in the Bay Area, they were, without a doubt, the most down-to-earth band I’ve ever seen on that stage. Something about the wild nature of each members’ plethora of instruments, talents, and projections extends a living-room vibe into the crowd. In Santa Cruz earlier this year, I attributed that feeling to the intimate size of the Catalyst Atrium, but in reality that is just what Dispatch is all about…a meaningful connection with one another.
Just being a part of the audience, you can feel everyone resonate similar intentions, and Urmston isn’t afraid to point out the audience members that know the words better than the band does. False starts and jokes were flying, and in fact most of the crowd knew every word to every song, often empowering the vocals onstage. Even though it was one of the only shows I can recall recently where the Fillmore had an extra fence barrier on the floor, it felt like the band was in the middle of the room.
A short set break led to a short but very sweet second set. They returned with “Mission” from the band’s 1997 release, Bang Bang, before moving into “Steeples,” the title track to their 1996 debut. Next they jumped into “Fallin’,” a Bradiggan track that appeared on Dispatch’s 2004 live disc All Points Bulletin, recorded at the famous Boston Hatch Shell stage, followed by the title track, “Bang Bang.”
At this point in the show, Embry took to the center of attention to make a birthday announcement for someone who is no longer with us. He then took the band through a touching rendition of the classic Jimi Hendrix ballad “The Wind Cries Mary.” They ended the set with “Elias,” the closing track off of their debut album.
After a brief intermission, Urmston and Corrigan returned to the stage unaccompanied. They took some time to deliver a PSA on where they stand on our country’s obsession with guns before introducing a new song written only a month ago. Titled “Thoughts & Prayers,” the song is sung from the perspective of a parent who has lost a child to a mass shooting.
Following the touching ballad, the rest of the touring band returned to the stage and they closed the show with “Flying Horses,” the third track from the debut record. After they exited the stage, a thundering crowd and the mutual appreciation for the energy of the show drew them out for a second encore. The show officially ended with one fo their most notable tunes, “The General,” also off of Bang Bang.