DJ Review: La Dispute in Philadelphia

La Dispute
La Dispute

Danny Rosenberg Daneri, a.k.a. DJ Slam Punk, recently saw La Dispute play a show in Philadelphia. This is his account of that fateful day:

On March 28th, the post-hardcore band La Dispute played a “seated show” to a sold out crowd in the chapel of the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. Not dissimilar to an “MTV Unplugged” event, the group performed semi-acoustic arrangements of their songs while a crowd of mostly teenagers practically fainted at the sight of their favorite band being so sweet and vulnerable. While I certainly consider myself a fan of La Dispute, this was the kind of show where you realize how much more into the band other people are.

The setlist was mostly comprised of songs from Rooms of the House (their latest, pretty boring) and Wildlife (they opened with a weak, tinny version of the album’s first track, “A Departure”). As someone who gets into bands like La Dispute primarily for their punk rock elements, the show was mostly a disappointment. For the more devoted fans who come to the band by way of Say Anything and Taking Back Sunday, however, this event was a dream come true. In between songs, vocalist Jordan Dreyer would make the teenagers giggly, and people like me uncomfortable, with his nervous and mostly uninteresting banter. In any case, once I was able to switch gears and begin to think of it more as an indie/emo show, the band at least commanded my attention.

They broke up the set with a Q and A with the audience that mostly consisted of predictable questions like, “What’s your favorite song of yours?” and “What’s your favorite album of all time?” For favorite album, Jordan Dreyer chose All Hail West Texas by the Mountain Goats, bassist Adam Vass chose a Saves the Day album, drummer Brad Vander Lugt chose an album called Time by an obscure new German composer, and guitarist Chad Sterenberg copped out with an album that he recently discovered in a box full of old funk records. It turns out that none of them are into punk/hardcore. My general frustration was calmed slightly when someone asked how their approach to composition has changed since their first (really shitty) EP, Vancouver, and Jordan Dreyer laughed and said, “When’s the last time anyone listened to Vancouver?

Just two days before the event, I was at a high-point in terms of my La Dispute fandom when I walked out of their (more traditional/standing/moshing/swarming) show at Union Transfer near Philly’s Center City neighborhood. While the venue was too large for my taste, the band played a solid set beginning with “King Park,” a fan favorite from Wildlife. The rest of the set was dominated by songs from Rooms of the House and Wildlife, but they showed signs of self-awareness when they ended with a flawless, gripping performance of perhaps my favorite song, “The Last Lost Continent” from their first studio album, Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair.

Ultimately, I’m glad I got to see the band from such different angles. It helped confirm some opinions that I suspect many La Dispute fans share—Somewhere… is their best album, they’re on the emo end of the post-hardcore scene, and jumping around and shouting at the top of your lungs is a lot more fun than sitting quietly in church.