Thursday, April 16, 2015
(Photographer: Joshua Pike)

USA’s folk-rock reggae jam band Dispatch are used to playing to very large audiences. Not hundreds, nor thousands: hundreds of thousands. They were the first band ever to sell out the 20,000 capacity Madison Square Gardens and have played to 166,000 fans in Boston in 2004. It’s safe to say these guys are kind of a big deal. And yet here they were at the Factory Theatre in Sydney, playing to a handful of fans on a Wednesday night.

As soon as the band began to play their cheerful Open Up the audience tunefully sang along, and everyone bobbed and swayed to the groovy vibe. The venue was packed with true fans that clearly delighted in finally seeing Dispatch play their first-ever Australian tour. With such a variety of genres melded to make their signature easy-going sound, the tempo was constantly shifting between songs. The set was full of funky slap bass solos, Hendrix-style distorted guitar riffs, lively bongos, harmonica, and stunning harmonies reminiscent of Paul Simon or Vampire Weekend.

There is no doubt that their cult following is due to their boundless talent. Each member constantly switched instruments, playing each with immaculate ease. Drummer Brad Corrigan emerged from the back to astonish the crowd with his perfect vocals- his Sting-like voice resonating around the room.

One of their most popular tracks Bang Bang had everyone singing in unison and waving their hands above their heads. The three musicians huddled together in an almost-embrace, jamming closely and laughing. It was heartwarming to see such highly acclaimed artists bonding on stage and genuinely enjoying themselves. And not only with each other, but they constantly interacted with their fans, on numerous occasions professing their genuine love and appreciation for Sydney.

It can often be a somewhat uncomfortable moment when a band crack out a new track that no-one knows, but not for Dispatch. One of the highlights of their set was a song that they had written only the day before in under four hours. It was a light, melodic, acoustic song, inspired by the culture of Australia on their day off in Melbourne. With lyrics like “we are bound by love…don’t worry take it slow… walk together in peace” the song was undoubtedly touching and intimate.

Amidst the well-known songs Dispatch amused the lively crowd with reggae renditions of Mrs Robinson and Madonna’s Like a Prayer and interludes of solos from each of the members. The set was not only bursting with remarkable talent and entertainment but also a notable happiness and warmth. Their soulful and touchingly humble performance was nothing short of beautiful.

Written by Cosima Wood

Photographer: Joshua Pike