Milton's Chadwick Stokes & The Pintos head to House of Blues for Calling All Crows benefit
The holiday season is always a time for charity events, and one of the best and most established benefits associated with rock 'n' roll is Calling All Crows, which celebrates its 15th annual show Dec. 10 at The House of Blues in Boston. Milton resident Chadwick Stokes, along with his partner, Sybil Gallagher, is the driving force behind Calling All Crows, which seeks to advance the cause of human rights, especially women’s rights, here and abroad. The show’s lineup will feature Chadwick Stokes and The Pintos, as well as special guests, four singer/songwriters from Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe record label.
The show "is one of those benchmarks,” Stokes said, “but it feels great to see the impact we've had."
That Stokes, 46, has time for such an endeavor is a bit surprising, since he’s a major figure in three different bands. Stokes was one of the founding members of Dispatch, a trio that plays folk-rock, funk and reggae, back when he and bandmates Pete Francis and Brad Corrigan were all attending Middlebury College in 1996. After graduation the trio moved to the Boston area and was soon selling out venues nationally and internationally. But by 2002 the threesome was weary of the road, and of each other, and the band broke up. Sporadic reunions led to a full-scale comeback in 2011, which lasted until 2013, and then resumed in 2017. In May 2021, Dispatch released its eighth album, “Break Our Fall.”
Stokes, between the on-again-off-again Dispatch work, founded State Radio, which played in all the styles his former band had, but added a much stronger reggae element and dealt with more topical, even political, lyrics. State Radio has a total of eight albums. A few years ago, Stokes unveiled The Pintos, which tend more toward acoustic folk-rock with reggae and funk flavors. Stokes noted that he relishes his chances to play with The Pintos, since he’s been busy all year so far with the latest edition of Dispatch.
“I would say over the last five or six years, since 2016, my schedule has pretty heavily leaned on Dispatch,” Stokes said. “We’ve been playing all over the world this year and right after this break, we’re back for a series of dates in Mexico. In this last stretch of time, Dispatch has released one live and three studio albums, so that’s where most of my musical time has been spent. I’ve been trying to do the Pintos stuff on the margins and I’m really happy to be able to get back to it for a while.”
Review:Norwell's Company Theatre stages 'lovely and lively' production of 'Matilda the Musical'
Stokes said he's also thinking about State Radio projects.
“State Radio being my most political band, given all the tumult of the past few years, it is ironic to admit that band has been mostly idle. But it’s fun to think about restarting State Radio, and the things we could write about,” he said.
The eponymous debut album, “Chadwick Stokes and The Pintos,” was released in November 2019, and shows the same intelligent and even provocative songwriting as his other bands. “Love and War” is a song dealing with a veteran readjusting to civilian life, while “What’s It Going to Take?” reflects on the epidemic of gun violence. The latest version of The Pintos boasts the addition of guitarist Matt Embree, who has been playing with Dispatch over the past few years and leads his own band, The Rx Bandits.
“We’ll be debuting a few new Pintos songs on Dec. 10,” Stokes said. “It’s still a little unclear, even to me, where exactly they’ll land, style-wise. Back in 2016, I think with the new initiative, it was obvious a little bit of State Radio’s sound seeped into Dispatch. The latest version of Dispatch is a little more manic and rockin’, but of course State Radio is a little unhinged and political. Dispatch is also political, but in a more folk-rocking element. The Pintos is a largely acoustic band, with my brother Willie on banjo. With Matt Embree joining us now, I think that could be like Crosby, Stills and Nash adding Neil Young. Matt is an incredible guitarist, and his ability gives us a lot of muscle, so I see us morphing into a more rock sound.”
The other acts on the bill come from the label independent artist DiFranco founded in 1990 for artists like her, who didn’t quite fit the major labels’ ideal of a female rock ‘n’ roller. Those acts include the duo Gracie & Rachel, and songsmiths Holly Miranda and Jocelyn MacKenzie.
“We’ve all been huge fans of Ani DiFranco since the mid-1990s when Dispatch opened for her,” Stokes said. “I saw her on Martha’s Vineyard this summer and asked her about playing. She suggested this group of amazing songwriters who will play together as a collective, singing and playing each other’s songs.”
Stokes’ own set will have some surprises.
“We’re going to have a guest, one of my old pals from elementary school, Darren Buck,” Stokes said. “Darren will be doing one song. He had The Hank Wonder Trio, which was unique in that they combined the musical styles of Hank Williams Sr. and Stevie Wonder.”
Quincy guitarist Fil Pacino:'The music scene has come back with a vengeance'
The thematic anchor of Calling All Crows has shifted over the years, addressing issues that come to the fore. One particular area of engagement has been the Here for the Music program, which focuses on females being harassed in concert environments. The idea of raising awareness of this problem has resonated with musicians, fans, security people and venue operators, with the most typical response being that the extent of the problem is obvious and providing support is essential.
“We like to dedicate a year or two to each campaign we focus on,” Stokes said. “But with this one it was so clear so much more needs to be done that we are continuing on with it. What has been surprising has been how receptive other bands, venues and staff around the music scene have been to it. We’re trying to emphasize training to end violence and harassment within the music industry and the reaction has been so huge we don’t see our program ending anytime soon.”
Stokes grew up on a farm in Sherborn and graduated from Dover-Sherborn High. These days his brother Willie, the banjo player in The Pintos, lives and works on that farm. All these years later, his music in all of his musical formats reflects a love of roots and good-time rhythms, while also being committed to lyrics urging people to try to make the world a better place.
Upcoming gigs: Susan Tedeschi comes home
THURSDAY: Contemporary jazz full of surprises when The Bad Plus takes over The Narrows Center. Old pal Jesse Terry sings again at The Spire Center. Archers of Loaf shake up The Sinclair. Tropidelic, the band celebrating the exotic beach music of ... Cleveland ... at Soundcheck Studios. Brockton rap collective Van Buren Records heats up the Paradise.
FRIDAY: Don’t forget the Tedeschi Trucks Band has its annual Boston run at the Orpheum Theatre, through Saturday. Pink Talking Fish – the tribute to Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish ‒ lights up The Paradise. Popster Rina Sawayama at Roadrunner. DJ Jason Ross at Big Night Live. Cape Cod’s quartet Crooked Coast warms up Brighton Music Hall. Jam out with Karina Rykman and her trio at Soundcheck Studios.
SATURDAY: Chicago Total Access ‒ and let's tip our hat for the historical resonance of knowing the band Chicago was originally known as Chicago Transit Authority, hence CTA ‒ is a tribute to Chicago at The Spire Center. Gary Hoey’s Ho Ho Hoey Holiday Rock Show at The Narrows Center. It’s A Swingin’ Affair of music from Sinatra and more at The C-Note. How about Yacht Rock Night with Duxbury group Blüfish at Soundcheck Studios. Street Light Manifesto rocks Roadrunner. Jazz fusion guitar ace Julian Lage at The Paradise. Montreal pop sextet Stars at Brighton Music Hall. Internet pop sensation Domenic Fike at The House of Blues.
SUNDAY & BEYOND: Sunday has Stephen Kellogg’s last band show for a while at The Sinclair. Sunday also offers Americana thrush Nikki Lane at Brighton Music Hall, and German indie-rockers Giant Rooks at The Paradise. Sunday’s biggest show has Morrissey at MGM Music Hall. Wednesday night, Blackberry Smoke rips it up at The House of Blues, while the Mike Casano Quartet provides softer, jazz sounds at The Spire Center. Keep an eye out for my fellow Stonehill alumni, The Ballroom Thieves, at The Sinclair on Dec. 10.
Calling All Crows
Where: House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St., Boston
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 10
Tickets: $35, with VIP packages available up to $125.
Info: livenation.com, houseofblues.com or callingallcrows.org
This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Milton's Chad Stokes & Pintos House of Blues Calling All Crows benefit