By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
This Thursday you don’t want to miss Chadwick Stokes of Dispatch at the Pickle Barrel Nightclub. He’s bringing his friend Brooke Annibale to open the show. Chad said she’s a great singer-songwriter. I had a great chat with Chad about what he’s up to now and the many times I’ve worked with him in the past.
I first saw Dispatch at The Muse in Nantucket in 1998 when they were known as One Fell Swoop. I was the DJ there. They instantly became a favorite of mine. In 2002, I was working with Atomic Pro Audio and got to see Jack Johnson open for them in Central Park West. Chad exclaimed how crazy it was that he opened for them. In 2005, I brought Chad’s other band State Radio to Snowshed for a college concert. I saw Dispatch a few times over the years in-between and then in 2021, I opened for him and his younger brother Willie at Hermitage Ski Club at Haystack Mountain. This past summer I got hooked up with 7th row seats at SPAC to see Dispatch, O.A.R. and G. Love. That was amazing. Chad was surprised I’ve seen them for as long as I have. I think “Wow” was his reaction.
Chad has a new project with his band The Pintos and they’re starting a tour in March. They just played at the House of Blues in Boston for the Calling All Crows benefit weekend. That’s the charity he started with his wife fifteen years ago that connects music fans with feminist movements for justice and equality.
Chad is working on a rock opera. It’s been a lifelong project of his that is finally coming to fruition. Chad said, “I’m using these tours to kind of kick me in the ass to get the songs and the band dialed in for hopefully a much bigger concept.” He’s had the idea for about twenty-five years. Chad added, “Some of my favorite records as a kid were Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair. It’s one thing to have a song that tells a story but to have fifteen songs tell one story with just a thread that combines them all. I’ve always kind of toyed with the idea and made half-hearted attempts to combine songs and see the story they’re telling but never started with the story and brought songs into it. I’m just trying to do it intentionally for the first time after thinking about it forever.”
The tour with the Pintos will feature seven or eight new tunes that Chad wants to gear towards the opera, try them out to see where they’ll fit. He said, “I’ve kind of done it backwards lately and Dispatch did too. We used to play our songs live before we recorded them and then as bands mature, they stopped doing that. They’ll record the songs first and then go play them live. It’s almost like they don’t release the songs until the record. I’m kind of swinging back to that other modus operandi and just want to play the songs live a bunch. The band gets a lot of feedback from how it feels from the energy in the room. I’d like to go back to that model to make sure these tunes are as good as they can be. It’s super helpful.”
We talked about this past summer’s tour with O.A.R. which Chad loved. He said, “We haven’t hung out with those guys in about twenty years. It was really cool to catch up. Everyone’s so different now and older and fathers. It was fun but also strange to have all that time pass. It was fun to get to know them again and see where their musical journey took them and where it had taken us. It was fun to play all those great venues.”
In Killington, he plans on trying out some new songs like this instrumental he’s been playing the last year that should be a part of the opera. His show on Thursday will consist of those, some State Radio and Dispatch songs plus some of his own. This summer Dispatch has some festivals they’ll be a part of.
He described his show and said, “Massachusetts farm boy who grew up listening to Creedence sings some of his own songs.” Chad grew up in Sherborn, Massachusetts which is out in the sticks and now lives in Milton, just outside the city. He grew up with music in the family. Chad’s father was a musician who played the piano. His mother, aunt and uncle were the music listeners with a big record collection. Chad said, “My appreciation for rock and roll came from them. My dad was always playing the piano in the house, and we were just drawn to it. My siblings (two brothers/one sister) and I played horns growing up through high school, as well as guitar. It something we leaned into and were attracted to, the music, and we ate up all the public school had to offer us.” At Christmas they would all play Christmas carols together at home. When Chad’s grandfather died, they were the Dixieland band that played at his service. Chad said, “We get together on special occasions, and everyone chimes in with whatever instrument they play.”
Chad’s first band was with the Willis brothers who in 2010 founded Bully Boy Distillers, Boston’s first craft distillery. They grew up in Sherborn too and in Junior High, they started this band together. They were called Electric Mayhem which they stole from The Muppets. Chad met his Dispatch bandmates (Pete Francis and Brad Corrigan) when they were freshman at Middlebury College, here in Vermont. Pete and Chad were roommates the following year. When they left school, they toured full-time.
Chad does a lot of humanitarian work. He just played a virtual show to raise money for the earthquake victims in Turkey. If you want to donate on Thurs or find out more, he’ll steer you in the right direction. His charity Calling All Crows teamed up with Oxfam America for that and a bunch of other stuff. Besides all the social media, Chad’s website is www.chadwickstokes.com. His charity is www.callingallcrows.org and they’ve teamed up with www.oxfamamerica.org.
Chad loves what he does and said, “I like being on a team. I like the work that goes into it. It’s kind of like a game day when the show comes. Let’s get our parts. With music, and sometimes sports too, you’re always shooting for that other dimension. Not every show gets there but it’s always fun to try for it. It’s that other kind of world where the magic is. It’s good to have little doses of magic in life to help you get by.”