“We’ve been called the biggest band nobody’s ever heard of,” says Brad Corrigan, one of Dispatch’s three singers and multi-instrumentalists. “People either know everything about us or they know nothing. There never seems to be any middle ground.”
He’s not kidding. When Dispatch called it quits in 2004, their farewell show at the Hatch Shell in Boston drew 110,000 fans from around the world, making it one of the largest independent music events in history. Not bad for a band that formed in college and only put out three albums (Silent Steeples in 1996, Bang Bang in 1998, and Four-Day Trials in 1999), and never managed to get any significant radio play.
Nine years later, Brad Corrigan, Chad Stokes, and Pete Francis briefly reunited, performing at New York City’s Madison Square Garden to raise funds for Zimbabwean humanitarian efforts. When the show sold out, marking Dispatch as the first independent band to sell out the storied venue, they announced two more shows—both of which also sold out immediately, raising even more for relief efforts. In 2009, the band would go on to perform an all-acoustic show, held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., at the request of Zimbabwe's Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai.
In June 2011, Dispatch officially regrouped for a sold-out U.S. tour that included three shows at the TD Garden Arena in Boston, three shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, and the first-ever concert at New Jersey’s Red Bull Arena. Their passion for social responsibility still a major driving force, they introduced their ‘Amplifying Education’ campaign during the tour, donating one dollar per ticket sale to local school systems. They also offered several Dispatch-sponsored volunteer events throughout the tour. “I'm always amazed when people show up for these volunteer events, because everyone's busy and has a lot going on in their lives,” Stokes says. “But our fans are so passionate about the band, and that seems to lend itself to wanting to do more than just come to the show.”
The band also continued to release new material, including a six-song EP and their first full-length studio album since 2000, 2012’s Circles Around the Sun. The album features cinematic, expansive production by Peter Katis (Interpol, Jonsi, The National), ultimately creating an eclectic all-American rock and roll record that delivers the gutsy storytelling, radiant harmonies, and good-time grooves. In 2013, the band released a double-disc live recording, entitled Ain’t No Trip To Cleveland: Vol. 1, which includes both classic and new material. Currently, the band has been spending time in the studio working on writing the next record.
For the band, all the whirlwind begins and ends with the fans. “It’s a dream to know that your music is actually a part of people’s experiences and becomes tied to special moments in their life,” Corrigan says. “That makes it all worth it. Also, it all just feels fun again. We’re so fired up to be great friends and to travel the world and see places we’ve never been before. I mean, come on. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
On July 11, 2015, Dispatch’s musical and social awareness history will come full circle as the band takes the stage for a second time at Madison Square Garden. With one in six people struggling to put enough food on their table, the smallest big band in the world is looking forward to doing their part.