Posted by Devin Weakland on 08/31 at 03:07 PM
Last night’s Dispatch concert was definitely one to remember. The show was one of few the band has performed since its 2002 hiatus. Nonetheless, this American indie/roots band brought its unique reggae sound mixed with some rock, ska and even rap to the Bryce Jordan Center (BJC) without any hesitations. I think it’s safe to say that Dispatch is back and better than ever.
The band took the stage at approximately 7:30 pm. Vocalist Chad Urmston greeted the crowd and was surprised to say that it was the band’s first Penn State appearance. The BJC was surprisingly empty during the first few songs since some audience members anticipated an opening band performance. They were disappointed to find out that they missed the opening songs since Dispatch was the solo act of the night. People came pouring into the BJC during the second and third numbers, anxious to find their seats and watch the show.
Thankfully, the latecomers made it in time to hear the band’s hit “Passerby” from their album Who Are We Living For. From my concert experiences so far, I’ve found that it usually takes a while to get a crowd warmed up and ready to rock out with the band. The exact opposite was true last night. Dispatch had no problem exciting the audience enough to get them dancing and singing along to this classic song. Personally, I was pretty impressed with this feat, especially because there was no opening band to set the scene.
Dispatch showed off their musical versatility by constantly switching out instrumental positions, giving each band member a chance to play something different. The most common switch was substituting a musician on Brad Corrigan’s drum set so he could play strings or another percussion instrument. Dispatch is known for its use of percussions, and I finally saw why last night. The band incorporated a bohemian feel into some songs with the steel drums and conga drums. Later on, they featured the banjo and harmonica in some songs, creating a more high-energy set.
“Bang Bang” was another crowd favorite. Corrigan kept signaling the crowd to clap along to their songs, which wasn’t really necessary because everyone was clapping along anyway. The band’s set and the audience feedback combined to create a positive, fun energy that really pulled you into the performance.
Then the concert moved into a mid-show acoustic set, where Dispatch played “Bridges” from the album Silent Steeples and “Valentine” from their new Dispatch EP, which is the first studio work from the band in 10 years. The band’s incredible ability to harmonize voices was very apparent during these songs.
“Two Coins” from the album Bang Bang was obviously a huge hit. The crowd cheered and clapped as the band began to play this popular tune. I didn’t know it was possible, but the crowd’s response to “The General” was even crazier than this one. The whole BJC erupted in screams at just the first few chords of the song. The song is usually played acoustically, but they performed it on electric guitars, adding to the intensity of the performance. Everyone at the concert was singing along and showing off their best dance moves.
Dispatch thanked the crowd for a great night and left the stage. However, the audience wasn’t ready to leave yet. Fans stomped the bleachers, chanted “Dispatch!” and screamed for an encore. The band eventually returned to “play a couple more songs.”
What happened next is something I haven’t ever seen at a concert before. Guitarist Pete Heimbold remained onstage playing his acoustic guitar while Drummer Brad Corrigan and Vocalist Chad Urmston disappeared from sight. A few seconds later, they both appeared at random spots in the crowd with microphones, singing along with Heimbold. Fans swarmed to different sections of the BJC, hoping to be lucky enough to touch one of the band members or snap a picture with them. It was such a fun idea—definitely a creative way to engage the audience in the performance.
Dispatch acknowledged its slowed touring status toward the end of the night. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been a touring band,” said Urmston, “but this is turning out alright.”
The band ended the night with something a little different from their ordinary style—a beat boxing/rapping performance. Heimbold and Urmston played acoustic guitars and rapped while Corrigan played the conga drum and beat boxed. They sounded like a legitimate pop-rap group, again exemplifying their musical versatility.
Overall, my first Dispatch experience was beyond amazing. The group is so musically talented. I was really impressed with their ability to smoothly switch positions and improvise song instrumentals. They definitely know how to put on a show, too. The energy of the band and crowd filled the entire BJC. I hope Dispatch makes another visit to Penn State soon. You’ll definitely find me in the front row.
Author: Devin Weakland
Bio: Devin is a junior at Penn State double-majoring in print journalism and marketing with a minor in international business. Playing the piano since age six, Devin has come to love and appreciate the art of music. Her favorite genres include indie rock, techno and pop punk, but she also has a soft spot for acoustic stuff. You’ll almost always find her listening to Two Door Cinema Club, Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, Blink-182 or Ben Folds. In her spare time, Devin enjoys reading, writing and traveling.
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