Musician and activist Chad Stokes celebrated the holidays in the best way he knows how — with a new solo record and a hometown benefit concert.
The Boston native and frontman for bands Dispatch and State Radio played at the House of Blues on Dec. 21. Not only did this show wrap up the first leg of his tour, but it’s also the 12th annual Calling All Crows Benefit show, an organization Stokes and his wife Sybil founded nearly a decade ago.
With a career in social activism and producing politically conscious music, it’s no surprise Stokes’ new album tackles the toughest social, ethical and cultural issues of the day.
Each song is a self-contained story, from the tales of martyr Joan of Arc to the effects of war on service men and women, Stokes doesn’t shy away from confronting and challenging the listener with the harsh realities of today.
“We’re living in a crazy time, a very upsetting time. If we’re not protesting, there’s a problem,” Stokes said in a press release.
The lyrical content of the album is only amplified by Stokes’ seasoned backing band known as the Pintos. Although this album is the first time the band’s name is on the cover, it isn’t the first time fans have heard them play. After years of playing the album’s songs together, the tracks took on a life of their own in the studio, Stokes said.
“We could just get in there and play a song three or four times and then just choose their favorite take and then go to vocals. So it was really quick because we knew the songs so well,” he said.
What this translated to was a record that feels raw and cohesive — the sound of a group playing songs they know all too well.
“I just think we hit a stride as a band where we finally have our identity. And that feels good,” Stokes said. “I like the rawness that the live show has and that the recordings are clearly to me anyways. They’re clearly a band playing and not something kind of built in the studio.”
The House of Blues did not only celebrate Stokes and the Pintos’ new album, but was also a night benefitting the organization Calling All Crows.
From its inception, Calling All Crows has focused on women’s rights and gender equality, Stokes said, but with their new campaign Here For The Music, the organization has begun reaching out to women within the live music community.
The Here For The Music campaign focuses on informing and increasing awareness of sexual harassment at venues and concerts by working with promoters, managers and venues to help support patrons as best they can.
“We’ve been doing active bystander training at a lot of our shows. We’ve trained over 2,000 people to do what you just said, to have the tools to know what to do in case something happened to them or they happen to see something happening,” Stokes said.