Martha’s Vineyard gets stoked for Chadwick Stokes

Chadwick Stokes, who integrates his childhood love of the Island into many of his songs, will perform at Union Chapel on July 30. —Laura Barisonzi

The Island hits all notes of nostalgia for singer-songwriter Chadwick Stokes, the man behind the sounds of Dispatch and State Radio. On Saturday, July 30, alongside his brother Willy and friend J.R., Mr. Stokes will bring his laid-back jams and hypnotic harmonies to the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs.

This is the Island where it all started for Mr. Stokes, with childhood summers, a job at Camp Jabberwocky, memories of Five Corners, and endless bonfire acoustics. One of the first songs he ever wrote was about the Flying Horses Carousel — just ask the place about all its missing rings.

Mr. Stokes still has family ties on the Island, but will return with his own squad. “I have two kids now, so it’s fun to have them see the Island, the ferry ride, and the power of the ocean,” Mr. Stokes said in an interview with The Times. “All that wide-eyed stuff I went through as a kid.”

Mr. Stokes switches his work up between bands Dispatch and State Radio and his solo work: “The solo stuff is pretty acoustic; I’ve been doing that a lot lately,” Mr. Stokes said. “If I want to play something loud and distorted, State Radio is my physical release. Dispatch has its moments too, but more on the acoustic side.”

Expect a little bit of everything next Saturday at the Union Chapel, a venue Mr. Stokes has yet to try out. Mr. Stokes has performed at many of the “back-in-the-day” Vineyard spots such as Wintertide, the Hot Tin Roof, Flatbread, and the Atlantic Connection. He’s ready for the beauty and intimacy of the Union Chapel. “I like when there’s a smaller stage and everyone feels like they’re part of the show,” he said. “When the band and the crowd kind of melt together.”

Mr. Stokes returned from a European tour alongside Dispatch earlier this month. He highlighted some offstage moments, getting lost in the romance of being overseas: A three-hour hike with a promoter in Switzerland, a preshow pickup soccer game with a group of kids in Austria, the makeshift whirlpool in an aboveground pool backstage at a castle venue. “The Europeans thought we were out of our minds,” he said.

Then, of course, there was the music. “We got to play a bunch of our new stuff, which is always really fun,” he said. “Willy and I wrote this song ‘Insulin,’ and it has a few Island references, like Stonewall Beach and an old ghost house in Vineyard Haven.”

What music inspires their sound? For Mr. Stokes, it’s garage rock from the late ’60s: “It was just a rad time, when they started whaling up the amplifiers and getting all that distortion. There’s this energy of lost hope, maybe it’s a little desperate — when you realize that all that utopian stuff that everyone was hoping for is starting to fold in and crash — but the result is some really great rock and roll.”

Mr. Stokes is also heavily involved in social movements and activism. He started the organization Calling All Crows, which partners with musicians and fans to raise money, target legislation, and initiate change in women’s rights issues. Its current focus is with gun control and domestic violence.

If a European tour, a solo tour, and an active social justice movement aren’t enough, Mr. Stokes still has more on the radar. Dispatch is working on a new album, which they plan to record on the Island this fall. “We’ll tour pretty hard in 2017,” he said.


Chadwick Stokes: Saturday, July 30, 8 pm. Union Chapel, Oak Bluffs. Tickets start at $25. For tickets and more information, visit


This article by Brittany Bowker originally appeared on