By Siddharth Jejurikar
Post-hardcore outfit La Dispute left their mark on the stage of the Royale on April 19th. The Michigan-based band provided for attendees, many of whom deeply involved members of the Boston punk community, a Friday night full of thrashing, moshing, crying, and unequivocally good music. As a more recent listener to La Dispute, it was a pleasure to see both new-arrivals like me and long-time fans walk away from the concert equally enthralled by the unique experience they brought.
I wish I kept a tally at this show of every crowd-surfing attendee that was lifted up by the audience around them, transported to the barrier, grabbed by the bouncers, and subsequently released to walk around and back into the audience. For the night, the Royale was transformed into a self-sustaining organism of riotous energy. This circular system of crowd-surfers was only half of its intake-output process—coupled with an ever evolving and nigh-perpetual mosh pit in the center. On the band’s hardest tracks, it expanded to encompass nearly the entire pit, thus turning it into a mess of pushing and crashing bodies. When Dreyer’s famous lyricism hit the heartstrings of the crowd, the ‘mosh pit’ was more like an anarchist’s ideal group therapy session; with long-time fans, feeling the songs in their very bones, belted memorized lyrics at each other.
None of this is to say, however, that the Royale was made a hostile place by La Dispute and their fans. To the contrary, the punk outfit made sure to live up to the what is, in some sense, a critical aim of alternative communities: to be inclusive. The band paused the set between songs on multiple occasions to ensure that, for the night, the Royale was a safe space for women, queer people, and people of color. Noting how being in an alternative community often gave people the mindset that they were above reproach, Dreyer stressed the importance of alertness and ally-ship within punk. This is reflected in the band’s longstanding commitment to charitable causes. These causes include mental-health awareness programs, sexual assault prevention resources, and children’s creative education non-profits.
The show, a part of the tour for their new album Panorama, opened in the same way as the fourth LP itself does. The ethereal “ROSE QUARTZ” marked their entrance to the stage and led directly into both parts of “FULTON STREET”—mimicking the first three tracks of the album. On a musical level this was an apt opening choice. These tracks immediately put the audience in the mood to cry while steadily building the steam necessary to boil over from brooding shoegaze into raw hardcore proper. The setlist later returned to some of the key tracks from Panorama, like my personal favorite “RHONDITE AND GRIEF” which stands as a testament to the band’s versatility. The tracks inclusion of diverse instrumentation is as much a part of this as its peaks and valleys of energy as the lyrics and volume itself. Also from Panorama, the band also played the fan-favorite “ANXIETY PANORAMA” and the comparably noise-tinged “FOOTSTEPS AT THE POND.” This is not to say, however, that long-time fans were left wanting. The plurality of songs on the setlist were from their acclaimed 2011 sophomore release, Wildlife. This began with “a Departure” as the fourth track in the setlist, filling the Royale with powerful music and poetry conveying a unique sense of reckless hopelessness. The closing two songs “a Broken Jar” and “You and I in Unison,” are also from Wildlife and, just as they tie up the album, tied up the concert beautifully. These, complete with Dreyer’s fragile yet forceful voice, brought to a close an evening of pure, unadulterated, post-hardcore.