“Best night of my life.” A phrase that I will undoubtedly use again to describe something of monumental meaning to me in the near or distant future. But for this moment the title goes to Dispatch and their sold out performance at Radio City Music Hall. It was their first outing at the world famous hall, and mine as well. In fact, if I were to compare myself to many of the younger crowd, I’d say I wasn’t alone. From the time those golden curtains ascended, we all began the night on the same level: old friends, newcomers, on untouched land that we were about to stake as our own.
This show marked my fourth outing with the boys and, intriguingly, it felt like my first. They’ve got this crazy new energy about them. They no longer give off any vibes of hesitation or self-doubt. If for some reason they ever wondered if they’ve got what it takes, they know now what fans have known for years. It’s as if a new wave of collective agreement has been reached between the band and us fans. They now have a solid rotation of gems that they can pull from their bag o’ tricks.
They’ve got the upper hand for once. No longer are they playing to fans who’ve devoured their entire discography, live and studio, back to front. They can throw in the crowd favorites with new records and intertwine them so seamlessly that we no longer want to guess what’s coming up next. Old school fans not in attendance would look at you with Fry-like skepticism if you told them that they brought out The Parkington Sisters on strings (and accordion!) for their new song “Flag”. But I swear on the chills down my spine that it was easily one of the most incredible performances of the night. I mean with Bradigan rockin’ hard on his tiny uke, who could disagree? Halfway through the show, my new friend Chris and I decided to sit back (not literally, I don’t think anyone used Radio City’s plush red seats) and get down with the boys on stage and beautiful ladies in front of us.
I’ve never seen a band that doesn’t only make everyone feel included but actually does include everyone. From Reynoldo DeJesus (who should be considered the fourth member of the band) keeping the groove on percussion, to Boo Reiners lending us some smooth licks during a few records including “Two Coins” and “Beto”. They even brought out good ol’ Craigie D for a one-two combo on “Josephine” where he played keys and “Here We Go” where he soothed our souls with his “Saxamaphone”. It was the brief breather between the previous songs and the next (“Bats in the Belfry”) that we all slipped into some realm of timelessness. We all forgot how long we’d been there, forgot our age, and disregarded the stern (albeit gracious) Radio City ushers and danced our asses off in the aisle. Before we knew it we were singing “The General” at the top of our lungs all while trying not to think about the fact that the set was coming to a close. After treating us to a verse from “99 Red Balloons” we all screamed “Go now you are forgiven” so loud it was as if we were letting go of some deep seated grudge towards them for their temporary breakup years ago. They finally gained the New Yorkers’ blessing to tour the country again as they had in their youth, but as a band older and wiser yet somehow renewed. They ended their official set with class (Chetro on Repete’s shoulders aka “Squat a Friend”) as only Dispatch could.
Chalk it up to the amazing acoustics of Radio City, but it seemed as if we had only just started screaming the “Ole” chant when the band got back on stage. They kicked off the last leg with another new song “Get Ready Boy” that Chetro describes as a leaf falling from its tree so it can finally start its new life. Much like the leaf, the show was nowhere near its end with (IMO) the strongest version of “Prince of Spades” since All Points Bulletin with Phil Keagey. Even a popped guitar string during “Elias” could only add to the magic. The band interjected with bits of their “Cut It Ya Match It” rap while it was restrung. Bradigan and Chetro weaved through us all, popping up in different spots and throwing the crowd into a frenzy. By the time they regrouped on stage for the remainder of “Elias,” we all sang it with such vigor that I wouldn’t be surprised if Elias himself heard us in Zimbabwe. With a final bongo hit and the lights lowered, all that could be heard was a tumultuous roar from the crowd as we stood “so proud…so happy.” They thanked us, the house lights slowly illuminated; it was all over… or was it?
There was a strange energy in the Hall that throbbed with unfinished business. Don’t get me wrong, the show we had just witnessed was top notch and better than anything we could have asked for… but still the crowd seemed to be asking for more. I don’t know how many of you have experienced the phenomenon that is known as the Double Encore, but let me tell you, it is a wondrous thing. As some in the crowd began to file out, those of us who were in tuned with the energy of the hall decided to give ourselves an upgrade to first class and took the seats of those a step behind the curve. Without much delay, the house lights dimmed and you could see the outline of two mohawks streaking across the stage. In reality, there was no way they could have left just then after bringing the energy in the room to its peak. They rocked us with “Mission,” the quintessential closer for a band that shows no sign of quitting. When they reached the line of the song where they crooned, “We’re gone, goodbye, we ain’t never coming back, no…” I smiled knowing that they had just lied to my face. No, there was no triple encore, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d be rockin’ with my boys again.
“Best night of my life…” A phrase that I heard from this ten-year-old kid who was in the row behind me and rocked twice as hard as I had. He won the raffle to meet the band and I find solace in knowing that that same kid will probably go on to shake the music industry just as Chetro, Repete, and Bradigan have. There is hope yet.
“The list is long we are many strong, the ceilings are coming down!”