Photographs by Neil Van
Having met the band from Michigan moments prior to their Toronto show, La Dispute seemed to be having fun and not taking anything too seriously. They were tossing beer caps into cups, talking to other interviewing fans, and casually talking about their work. When I got to talk to La Dispute, I was welcomed but I was not greeted by the serious and emotional band I hear on their albums. I was talked to by everyday fun guys. Once they took the stage and began performing to a crowd full of screaming, young fans, the serious band I expected came out.
The set up was basic and straight forward; A few lights shined at the crowd the entire show whilst never changing or moving, projected images of scenery were placed over the band’s faint floral logo, and the band themselves stuck to their stationary positions the entire show. They definitely felt the music, but they stayed reserved. Jordan Dreyer spoke and sang his lyrics emotionally, and even his talking in between songs was collective and softly said, but he never forgot to throw a quick “thanks” immediately after every song. The guitar feedback would linger between songs, creating an ambient atmosphere, and each song was pleasantly led into. La Dispute felt like a beat poetry group of our modern age that commented on mental illnesses, identity crises and anti materialism. They had messages they wanted to get across. The fans treated the show like a typical rock show, however, as they screamed every word Dreyer would quietly say.
That’s the interesting part of the show. For the band, their music was an outsourcing of anguish and confusion. For the audience, it was a time to enjoy themselves. Were they celebrating the ability to release tensions, or were they just so excited to see their band perform? Whatever the reason, this contrast was something I haven’t quite seen at many concerts before, and it made my first La Dispute show a unique event. Needless to say, the band never got riled up by the excitement of the fans themselves, as they kept the feelings they were going for consistent. Sometimes it felt as though Dreyer’s discussions with the crowd weren’t being heard, as he would discuss something that was very personal to him, and the crowd would cheer because they knew what song was coming up next. Keeping with the beneficial aspects of this contrast, it never seemed like Dreyer minded: It was just enough to say what he intended on saying.
The band played a lot of mellower material, and it created a relaxing set full of lush touches and swirling timbres. When the band would break out into more upbeat material, like Stay Happy There or the latter part of the song Andria, the impact of their performance could be felt. They used their upbeat songs as focal points and punctuation marks, not just as a means of balancing a set. Brad Vander Lugt’s watery drumming would guide each song initially no matter what tempo or mood they would resort to being, and his exquisite work on his high hats and cymbals would sew all of the sounds together. Kevin Whittemore and Chad Sterenberg would create many textures with their guitar playing and each note would resonate for eons, while Adam Vass would compliment these wailing highs with a bass sound that wasn’t too deep (which would have resorted in an uncomfortably distorted sound) but heavy enough to add a running river underneath the land we stood on. The music was very close to how the band sounds on album, and while that isn’t always a good thing, for La Dispuite this was almost essential (and it was pulled off with ease).
La Dispute put on an interesting show that felt fairly different to most post hardcore shows I have seen. They spoke volumes while never overly exerting themselves, they energized the audience despite being fairly down to earth on stage, and they were ever so grateful of their fans despite keeping to themselves. La Dispute’s music works well at extracting humanistic responses from the listener while being a personal form of therapy for the band, and this magic works its way into a pleasantly commendable concert.