Dispatch: How an indie band and their fans helped change the world

Even though going the indie route is all the rage these days, it certainly doesn’t guarantee success. Quite the contrary, with more bands than ever out there, the indie road is a long and difficult one. But, if a band does make it without the help of a major label, it’s a pretty safe bet that they have a devoted fanbase. Such is the case for genre bending Boston-based band Dispatch. The power trio gained popularity in the late 1990s, largely through word of mouth and by the early 2000s had amassed a large a cult following.

But as is true for many bands, with success came strife and in 2002, the band announced that they would be going on an indefinite hiatus. In July of 2004, Dispatch performed a farewell concert for their fans at the Hatch Shell in Boston dubbed “The Last Dispatch.” While original estimates for the show were 20,000-30,000, the attendance ended up being estimated at 166,000, with fans flocking from all over the world to see their favorite band.

But the members of Dispatch—Brad Corrigan, Pete Heimbold and Chad Urmston—were always a socially conscious bunch. And as is also true for many bands that go on hiatus, time healed wounds. So the trio, with the help of their devoted fanbase, decided that Dispatch could be used as a vehicle to do good in this world.

In December of 2005, Dispatch briefly reunited for one song during the encore of The Relief Project, an organization and benefit concert co-founded by Corrigan. Buoyed by the success of The Relief Project, which was initially started to raise money for those affected by Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters, the three members of Dispatch decided that they could do more, much more.

In January of 2007, the band announced “Dispatch: Zimbabwe,” a benefit concert to take place July 14, 2007 at Madison Square Garden. The money raised from ticket sales would go to help fighting disease, famine, and injustice in Zimbabwe. The first show quickly sold out, prompting Dispatch to add another night, which quickly sold-out. In total the band played a sold-out three night run with most of the proceeds going to help charities in Zimbabwe and the rest going to U.S. charities the band supported, most notably The Elias Fund, a grass roots organization that held a deeply personal connection for Chad Urmston going back nearly 15 years.

After graduating high school in 1994, Urmston was off to college. During that time he taught briefly in Zimbabwe where he met gardener Elias Sithole, who expressed to Urmston his wish that one day his three sons would receive a university education. The experience stuck with Urmston and he wrote the song “Elias” shorty after, which appeared on Dispatch’s 1996 debut album Silent Steeples and has since become one of the band’s most popular songs. The song also inspired The Elias Foundation. After the Madison Square Garden benefit concerts the band was able to donate over $20,000 to the nonprofit. But the MSG concerts also brought to fruition more charitable organizations championed by Dispatch.

Out of “Dispatch: Zimbabwe” came The Dispatch Foundation, an organization that addresses a myriad of issues in Zimbabwe including hunger and HIV/AIDS. All three members of the band also founded Amplifying Education, a non-profit that helps provide funding and volunteers for music education in schools. The band’s efforts have certainly not gone unnoticed, and in 2009 they played an acoustic show at the Kennedy Center at the special request of Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Since the band formally reunited in 2011, they have a put on a number of benefit concerts. But none of this great work could have been achieved without the support of their fans, and there is still a lot of good to do in this world. You better believe that Dispatch and their fans will be helping to lead the charge. Dispatch's story just goes to show that music really can change the world.

Dispatch will be hitting the road with Guster this summer for their “America, Location 12” tour, including a stop at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY. You can find Dispatch Forest Hills Stadium tickets on AXS by clicking here.