Artists: Chadwick Stokes & The Pintos, Daniel Rodriguez
Venue: The Troubadour
Date: January 10, 2019
For anyone who undertook higher education in the early 00’s, Dispatch was your college rock band. They were a thinking-man’s Dave Matthews Band, or O.A.R. with more edge. Each member of the group was a talented singer/songwriter in their own right, but Chadwick Stokes was the first to really capture my attention with his mid-00’s band State Radio, who added a bit more hard rock, reggae and direct political commentary to the Dispatch‘s folk-rock sound.
The last few years, Chadwick has release a number of solo albums, and last year released a self-titled album with his newest band The Pintos (read our review of the album here). On Friday night, the group brought their latest collection of thoughtful yet raucous jams to The Troubadour.
Daniel Rodriguez, best known for his work in Elephant Revival, opened the show with a collection of mostly chill, laid back acoustic songs to warm up the crowd. Opener “Back Roads” had a light, bluesy touch to it, while the second song’s lyrics hit some poignant emotional notes (“There’s no redemption here, just a blue sky so clear”) and exquisite harmonizing with his drummer. The next number brought a bit more bounce to his set, while “Johnny”‘s surfy guitar conjured images of dusty western streets. Closer “Dolores” unassumingly began as a mellow moseying tune, before breaking big at the chorus, leaving the audience in a perfect place to hear some noisier tunes from the headliners.
Stokes and his three-member Pintos (including his brother Willy on banjo) hit the stage with a convivial air, looking like the lovable, frisbee-playing hippies who would always be hanging outside your dorm room inviting you to join a game of ultimate. But all it took is their first song, “Pine Needle Tea”, to be reminded that these guys are a professional, road-tested band, as they took it from a hymn to full-hearted bash. Stokes’ fans were dedicated, passionate and ready to have a good time. Their eagerness to singalong with “Joan of Arc” upped the energy throughout the room, though they had even more fun with “Hit the Bell With Your Elbow”, and the call-and-response part of “pants down low”. This track also showcased the group’s perfect four-part harmonizing, which they would continue to use to great effect the rest of the evening.
After surprisingly moving, reggae-fied cover of Bob Dylan‘s “It Ain’t Me Babe”, the band brought our Matt Embry of RX Bandits fame to join them for a few songs, including a cover of State Radio‘s “Calling All Crowes”. Embry was given a chance to shine with a soaring and sliding guitar solo which made me want to go back and listen to his band’s 2001 album Progress. After Embry departed the stage, Stokes introduced their next song as a new, unrecorded number. The track played on the heavier side, replete with synchronized head banging as the rhythm section took off.
With the rhythm section having had their moment in the sun, Willy then took over the spotlight to let his banjo rip for one of the highlights from their new album, “Chaska”. The track got the whole band riled up, ramming heads and pushing backs together for some coordinated rough housing that was like watching the WWE if the wrestlers also played instruments. Simply put, it was ridiculous and joyous.
Following playing “Coffee and Wine”, the group left the stage, but did not keep the audience waiting long. As they hit the stage for the encore, Stokes answered one of my biggest questions regarding their latest album – the story behind “Second Favorite Living Drummer”. He revealed it told the story of State Radio‘s show years ago at the Troubadour (which I potentially was at), and the rock luminaries who were in attendance that night (some mentioned were Slash, Travis Barker, Flea, and Jerry Cantrell), but the sad fact that one of his favorite drummers, Rage Against The Machine‘s Brad Wilk, was stopped from coming in by the bouncer, who did not recognize him. Hearing the song again in that context, I was able to catch a number of extra references I missed previously. The group played “I Want You Like a Seat Belt” before sending the audience their heartfelt thanks and leaving the stage.
While the musicianship is top-notch and the songs themselves are electric and spirited, what made the show was the sense of camaraderie that Stokes has not just with his band, but that he creates with the audience as well. There was a tacit acknowledgement that the fans in the room had been following Stokes for his nearly two-decade career (while in line outside, I spoke to a fellow old-school State Radio fan who had purchased tickets for the earlier soundcheck show, and I sad next to an older couple inside who had flown in from Utah for the show). No matter what the project, Stokes engenders loyal devotion from his fans, and makes sure he earns it with his live performances.
See the group if they come to your town, and listen to their latest release, as well as Daniel Rodriguez‘s most recent EP, below: