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Published: 2012/09/25
by Alex Baker

Dispatch: "Feels So Good" Again

The album’s title track, for example, is the story of Larry Perry, a wheelchair-bound adrenaline junkie who could only communicate with his eyes and fingers. Chad met Larry while working at a camp for disabled people in Martha’s Vineyard, Camp Jabberwocky, and pretty soon Larry was a mainstay in the front row of east coast Dispatch shows, Braddigan recalls. Hanging out with Larry and his fellow “disabled” campers soon became a cherished event for the guys in the band.

“We got to learn so much about Chad and who he is, and about this world of the quote-unquote disabled, and realized they’re not disabled – if anything they are freer and more confident, more filled with life and less insecure than any of us.

“So, the story is, back in the space race in the late 50’s, we were putting monkeys and the Russians were putting dogs into outer space. So, Chad looked at Larry’s story and just knew that the further you go back in time, the more the disabled community was undervalued and seen as expendable. He started thinking relative to how governments often work, they probably tried to send someone up into outer space who was perceived as a vegetable.”

Now, the irony is that far from being a vegetable, Larry was an adrenaline junkie. However, only about 15 years ago – when he was already in his mid-40’s – did someone realize he’d been trying to communicate with his eyes and fingers the whole time. Once people started to understand him, they realized he wanted to do things like go right to edge of the Grand Canyon, go out into the ocean and roll down hills in his wheelchair.

“Any adventure the guys would present to Larry, he’d say, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ And the more they would have fun and push him to his edge, the more his eyes just lit up – so there’s this kind of legendary story that if, in fact, Larry did get sent up to space, he would have chosen to. More than just an expendable person, he would have been the first to go and he would have come back with a smile bigger than the whole world. So, the whole story is in memory of Larry and to honour his independent, crazy spirit.”

Corrigan’s contributions to the album are more sober than the foot-tapping folk rock style of the title track. He wrote two songs, “We Hold A Gun” and “Flag,” both dealing with issues of social conscience that create a more moody, provocative tone.

“’We Hold A Gun’ is the picture of, largely, the American education system and the fact that we are raising up kids to hold out their hands, we’re really not equipping them. So many schools receive funds based on grades and standardized testing, so you can have illiterate kids going through the system who don’t have a clue about who they are and what they were made for.

“That song is meant to be a little bit jarring in the imagery, but at the same time, absolutely we can make a change, absolutely we can take better care of our kids. The title of the song is a bit of an attention grabber because the gun is seen as such a violent instrument, but the primary symbol that inspired the lyrics is watching some old footage of Jesse Owens running a race in the Olympics, and you hear the gun go off.

“Watching these brilliantly disciplined, prepared, well coached individuals run a race – ‘We Hold A Gun’ meaning we can actually equip our kids and expose them to their dreams, teach them well and love them and nurture them and inspire them and set them up for the race of life.”

“Flag” is a song Brad is even more personally invested in, as he calls it “my first stab, and the band’s first stab” at describing the plight of native Americans. It is an attempt to “understand what life is like up there, understand our part in trying to lend a helping hand, and also extending ourselves in forgiveness and reconciliation for so, so, so much wrongdoing and deceitfulness.”

“I don’t mind pulling the veil back a little bit,” he says. “I feel like the best way to get a hold of the masses, and the best way to present a story, is to present the truth – present beauty, but also present tragedy. If you linger too much on one without the other, you miss the boat.

“In my experience, whether I’ve been in Nicaragua or on reservations or anywhere in the world where there’s tragedy, there’s also beauty. If you can present the two together, I think people really do stay engaged, they start to believe we can really make a difference.”

Which brings us back to the fans – those dedicated, loyal and ne’er-forgotten masses who Brad calls “the warmest fan base of all time.” The 110,000-plus who gathered in downtown Boston in 2004 for what became the largest independent concert event of all time. The legions in Europe, Canada, Australia, South America and around the world. The fans who have been there since the beginning, friends and family of Brad, Pete and Chad, who helped create the “fingerprint legacy” of passing their albums person-to-person, hand-to-hand, and who helped make Dispatch a social sensation. Now, with new material, a new generation is being exposed to the kind-hearted fervor that is a Dispatch show.

“We’re just getting started – it always feels like you’re starting over, and I think that maybe that’s the special sauce, that’s the x-factor – if our band can always feel like we’re starting over and it’s always new, we’ll just have to keep going on this amazing journey.”

In other words, they’re not messin’ around.

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