By Carter G. Shelter
On Dec. 5, Chadwick Stokes will bring his “Forced to Flee” tour to the Bowery Ballroom. Stokes has achieved success as a member of the bands Dispatch and State Radio, and is currently finishing up his first tour in support of an upcoming solo album, “The Horse Comanche,” which will be released in February. WSN spoke with Stokes, over the phone, about touring, his experiences in New York, and his political activism.
Between his various projects, Stokes has played differentiating sized venues, in recent years. He’s played some of the country’s biggest arenas with Dispatch, but for his last solo tour Stokes took a different approach, performing completely solo and acoustic in the homes of fans, with average crowds of about 50 people. “The bigger stuff with Dispatch feels like it’s not very real, it almost feels like it’s pretend or it’s like a dream world,” Stokes said.
His so-called “Living Room Tour” was like a return to his roots. “The majority of my relationship with the guitar was spent playing in barns and campfires, so playing in living rooms feels really natural.”
With all of his bands, Stokes has a habit of changing up the set list, nightly. On his current tour, a five-member backing band has been learning both his old songs and tracks from “The Horse Comanche,” to support Stokes.
“We really had to choose when we were practicing. I couldn’t teach them everything so… we basically went out on the road with 27 to 30 tunes in the bag so we could change up the set list enough for it to be fun, but I wish I could have taught them everything.”
In a career that has spanned almost 20 years, Stokes has many fond memories of performing in New York., but he points to playing Terminal 5 with State Radio as the local show that stands out the most.
“They were just crazy. We had Anti-Flag open up for us. There were giant mosh pits and kids diving from the balcony. They told us at the time that we had the record for most kids getting kicked out of the club..”
Stokes briefly attended NYU in the mid 1990’s, and immersed himself in the local music scene.
“I used to just hang out on Bleecker St. and go into every single bar where I heard music,” he said. “If I couldn’t get in, I would spend a lot of time with my face just plastered to the window listening and watching.”
In addition to his music, Stokes is also one of the founders of the nonprofit organization Calling All Crows, which tries to create a strong bridge between music and social and political activism. While much of their work centers around women’s rights, his current “Forced to Flee” tour has also helped raise awareness and aid for Syrian refugees.
Carter G. Shelter is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org