By ANNIE CHAMBLISS
"Under the Radar," the title of the new DVD showcasing underground rockers Dispatch, says it all. Dispatch, a trio of musicians who met at Middlebury College in Vermont, has a devoted grassroots following, but in spite of the intense underground buzz, MTV and other mainstream outlets have yet to pick up Dispatch on their radar.
Despite a lack of mainstream acknowledgement, Dispatch has received much critical acclaim, including a nod as one of Rolling Stone's top releases for their album Who Are We Living For, released in 2000 and listed on Billboard's top 20 Internet sales chart. The band has a unique sound that blends elements of folk acoustic pop, funky reggae and improvised jamming that is best showcased in a live setting.
"Under the Radar" is a one and a half hour glimpse into the world of Dispatch. The DVD gives the viewer a taste of the live Dispatch experience, a dynamic alternative to listening to studio albums.
"Honestly, we love doing studio recordings, but the way we look at it is that CDs are just for when you can't see us live," said Dispatch drummer and vocalist Brad Corrigan. "If we had to choose one or the other, albums or concerts, we'd love to be the band that everyone says, 'you gotta see them live.'"
"Under the Radar" is the best of both worlds, offering viewers a virtual live concert experience in the comfort of their own home and at their convenience.
The DVD features clips from live performances at legendary venues such as the Fillmore in San Francisco, New York City's Irving Plaza and Roseland Ballroom, Boulder, Colo.'s the Fox Theater, Boston's Orpheum Theater and the Electric Factory in Philadelphia.
The various footages were shot during their 2001 tour. The band had more than 250 hours of original footage and was faced with the arduous task of paring it down to a decent length.
"For every 100 hours of film we watched, we had to throw 99 of them out of the window," Corrigan said. "We had a lot to choose from, but in the end I think we picked the best stuff."
The track list showcases Dispatch songs from all their studio albums including "Cover This," "Mission," "Two Coins," "Passerby," "One Truth," "Open Up," "Time Served," "Elias," "Bulletholes," "Walk With You" and "Bang Bang."
The DVD shows the talented band members at their best â€”performing in a live setting, improving and trading instruments, each taking his turn on the drums, bongos, harmonica, electric guitar, keyboard and acoustic guitar. Unlike their studio albums, the visual experience of the DVD allows fans to see the band jamming and truly enjoying making music.
In between songs, the film cuts to clips of dialogue with the band members. One of the most interesting bits is footage of them talking about the influence of Napster and online music trading. Unlike many top music acts, Dispatch believes that file-sharing services are beneficial to artists because it gets the music into the hands and ears of the public.
"The Napster thing was huge for us," Corrigan said. "I don't really get musicians' arguments against it. I feel that if you put quality music out there on the Web, people will seek it out and that will lead them to coming to see you live or buying a CD. I think it's a great thing."
"Under the Radar" will be released Oct. 15, but fans in select cities across the nation have the opportunity to see it at promotional screenings. The Knitting Factory in Hollywood hosted a screening Monday night, which included a question and answer session with Corrigan afterwards. Corrigan also played a short acoustic set with long-time friend Rich Price, a singer/songwriter.
Price and Corrigan played several of Price's original songs as well as a few Dispatch tunes. The audience, in typical Dispatch fashion, was small but devoted. A few hundred Dispatch fans turned up for the screening and though they were small in number, their enthusiasm made up for the lack of physical volume.
"Under the Radar" will likely be another release from Dispatch that goes unnoticed by mainstream audiences. But who knows, just maybe it will catapult Dispatch onto the radar of something bigger.
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