The name Chad Stokes will always be attached to one of the most unusual success stories in rock history. As singer-guitarist for Dispatch, he was part of a band that stunned the music world by selling out three nights at New York City's Madison Square Garden in 2007. These reunion shows (which raised money for Zimbabwe) came five years after Dispatch had disbanded.
The group was popular enough to sell out theaters when its breakup came in 2002. But obviously, many more people had discovered Dispatch in the years following, thanks to music from the group's six albums having been circulated on the Internet. By the time of those historic Garden shows, Stokes was fully immersed in his new band, State Radio, while his Dispatch bandmates, Pete Francis and Brad Corrigan, had moved on to solo projects.
Oddly enough, for all the attention the Garden shows received, and the huge audience Dispatch obviously had, that popularity hasn't carried over to any of the three musicians' post-Dispatch projects.
"I think the three of us, when we started doing solo [projects] or bands, we thought it was going to be easier maybe, like there would be more of a crossover," says Stokes, whose current Massachusetts-based band will play two nights in Boulder. "We still play shows and people will come up and be like, 'Wow, you sound just like the guy from Dispatch.'"
But things have started looking up for State Radio more recently. Last summer, the band received considerable attention for performing with Rage Against the Machine at an anti-war rally that coincided with the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and followed it up with a fall Take the Country Back tour of swing states. During the tour, fans were encouraged to vote, get involved with local action groups, and learn more about a range of issues relating to human rights.
The concerts, coupled with strong reviews for State Radio's current CD, Year of the Crow, have raised awareness of the band and its politically charged songs, which blend reggae, punk, pop and folk. Meanwhile, Stokes, Chuck Fay (bass) and Mike Najarian (drums) have been hard at work on their third CD, which, Stokes says, will keep the rocking edge of Year of the Crow but with a slightly different vibe.
"It sounds pretty rocking to me," Stokes says. "I think it carries on with some of the Year of the Crow-ness, but there's something about it that feels even less I guess, less thought out, in a way. It feels more like a band getting in a room and just playing together."
For now, State Radio continues to tour behind Year of the Crow, but Stokes promises to give fans a sneak peek of the upcoming album.
"Year of the Crow has 13 songs on it, and we'll probably play five or six of those a night," he figures. "And then, there will be two or three new ones from the new album, two or three from the first album and then maybe ... I was thinking of bringing in some older ones that aren't really properly recorded even, but that we used to play two or three years ago. So it's always a mishmash. We like to keep each other on our toes."