At age 16 Chadwick Stokes, of Dispatch and State Radio, gave one of his first public performances. He sang “Flying Horses,” a song he wrote named after the carousel in Oak Bluffs, at the Wintertide Coffeehouse in Vineyard Haven.
The artist comes full circle returning to the Vineyard Friday night, July 12, for a solo benefit concert at Flatbread Company by the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. Local musician Phil DaRosa will open with a solo set.
Mr. Stokes formed Dispatch while in college in Vermont. Recently, the band finished a nation-wide tour where, he said, they performed “Flying Horses” at every concert.
All of the proceeds from the concert benefits Calling All Crows, a nonprofit organization Mr. Stokes and his wife, Sybil Gallagher, developed that helps musicians and fans partner with nonprofits to create change through hands-on service and activism.
“We help hook-up bands with service projects they are interested in supporting when they [are] playing in different towns,” he said. “We have been doing this for so long now [that] we just dial them up with our network so the groups can work alongside the bands.”
Calling All Crows has raised more than $250,000 and invested more than 20,000 hours of service in local communities across North America and Europe, addressing issues such as gender inequality, hunger, marriage equality, education inequity, global women’s rights, and the environment, according to their website, callingallcrows.org.
Stokes is Mr. Stokes’ stage name and his middle name. His surname is Urmston. He lives with his wife and two young children in Jamaica Plain. He grew up in Sherborn, west of Boston, and spent most of his summers growing up on Martha’s Vineyard, at a family house his grandparents purchased in the ’40s.
One summer 21 years ago, when he was 16, had a particularly significant impact on the young musician, jump-starting a life that has focused on public service and music.
At 16, he volunteered as a counselor at the Martha’s Vineyard Cerebral Palsy Camp known as Camp Jabberwocky, beginning a relationship that lasted into his 30s. “It was amazing. For me as a teenager to be exposed to people with disabilities, to learn that there was this whole other world, this kind of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’” he recalled. “I just worshiped the older counselors there. They were all listening to Black Sabbath, Alice in Chains, and running around barefoot. We would jam every night after the campers went to bed. I love that place. ”
“After camp was over for the season in 1999 [Mr. Stokes was 23], we created a news crew with some of the campers. We went to Europe and traveled all around this country filming short documentaries. I’m the one in the background with the long dreadlocks,” he said. It resulted in a feature-length film called “How’s Your News” and a TV series that had a short run on MTV.
Mr. Stokes’ most recent solo CD, Simmerkane II (2011), was inspired by his freight train jumping adventures across the U.S. with his brother and a cousin, and was produced by John Dragonetti of The Submarines, with guest appearances by Carly Simon, Matt Embree, Rx Bandits, The White Buffalo, Blake Hazard, The Submarines, and Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars.
Mr. Stokes said that on Friday he will sing “Dispatch,” “State Radio,” and some of his solo songs. He said that he wouldn’t be surprised if friends showed up to play with him. Local musician Phil DaRosa, a member of the Vineyard-based band Dukes County Love Affair (DCLA) will open with a solo acoustic set. The show is presented by Mr. DaRosa’s The Print Shop and Flatbread.
Chadwick Stokes and Phil DaRosa, 9 pm, Friday, July 12, Flatbread, 17 Airport Road, Edgartown. 21+, $15. For more information, visit flatbreadcompany.com.