After a five-year hiatus from visiting Australian shores, La Dispute made their second visit to Sydney in as many years to celebrate the release of their fourth studio album, Panorama. On a warm Sunday night, myself and many other patrons filtered into Sydney’s Metro Theatre to celebrate the band that is La Dispute.
After receiving an enormity of praise from La Dispute and fans alike following their set in support of the band in 2018, it was unsurprising to see Sydney’s own Sports Bra opening up the show. After making their way up from Melbourne in an old van without a working air conditioner, the self-described queer pop dreamboats began proceedings with an energetic and honest performance that had onlookers dancing along eagerly.
Driven by the band’s humour and charisma, those who made it out early to catch the four piece were subjected to an enjoyable set and while some sang along, I’m sure many unfamiliar with the group would have found themselves familiarising themselves afterwards. While I must confess that Sports Bra aren’t entirely my cup of tea musically, it’s not hard to see why they’re adored by their peers as I also found myself swaying along to their songs.
While some may have found their new favourite band in Sports Bra, for a lot of those in attendance it was just about time to see a band that they’ve considered a favourite for a long time. With an excited buzz in the air, the floor of the Metro Theatre filled quickly in the immediate moments before lights dimmed and La Dispute took the stage. Like we were embarking on the same journey that takes place on Panorama, the set opened just as the album does with the eerie “ROSE QUARTZ”.
As the unnerving calm of the “FULTON STREET I” took flight, the near silence was broken by the sound of a beating drum as the intensity of the performance rose almost exponentially. Spoken word vocals were quickly replaced by the thundering screams of vocalist Jordan Dreyer and the crowd alike as in unison they yelled “Will I ever put flowers by the street?”, while the uplift in power through the band’s instrumentals resonated throughout the room. From that moment, you could not only hear but feel every drum beat, every pluck of a string, every syllable, as La Dispute displayed in full view why they are revered by many.
From then on, the strength in the set never dropped for a second. As Dreyer stomped from side to side, the heads of doting fans swayed in unison, never once losing sight of the hypnotising vocalist as the band blasted through a set that jumped between fan favourites. Whether it be the daunting destruction of “Hudsonville MI 1956” or the trivial romantics of “Woman (In Mirror)”, the emotional intensity of the bands failed to decline. Some listeners crowdsurfed for their beloved songs, while others threw their hands in the air, or simply stood in awe watching the performance unfold.
For every morsel of energy that La Dispute gave, the crowd emulated it tenfold, only further challenging the five-piece to push themselves harder than they had been. Whenever the microphone left Dreyer’s lips, you could hear the entire audience shouting along, and every time Dreyer leapt onto the barrier, fans clambered over each other for the opportunity of a mic grab. To all in the room it was evident that La Dispute are a band that are in their prime, and have been for an extremely long time. There are very few bands who can capture such a concentrated feeling of atmosphere in a live performance like they can and there are even less who do it as well as them.
While Dreyer took the time to engage in banter with his audience, it was one sentiment that hit just as hard as any other moment within the band’s performance. Using the idea of community to segue into their performance of “The Castle Builders” echoed the importance of making shows like their own a safe space for all. It was a message accepted in unison, and the crowd which held such a diverse range of demographics stood together entirely to receive it.
You could see in moments like that how important bands like La Dispute are to their fans and the health of our music scene in general. With such a mix of people watching, many of whom were the beneficiaries of La Dispute’s music in their younger years, the messages of acceptance that the band projected were taken so respectfully while the show genuinely felt like a safe and welcoming space for all. Like every observer was trapped within their own individual panorama, everywhere you turned you could see smiling faced completely engaged within the performance.
With a set that truly felt like a journey as the band bounced from songs released ten years apart from each other, it all came to end with “King Park”. For almost six and a half minutes the song built towards the moment that every audience member anticipated when they bought their tickets. Time seemed to slow before the crowd erupted into the words “Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself?”, and it was in the moment that the set reached its most intense peak.
As the band filtered off the stage and patrons trickled out of the venue, there was an undeniable atmosphere of togetherness throughout the room. Even though Sunday night shows are never as fun when you have work the next day, there is no doubt in my mind that La Dispute make it worth it.[Photos courtesy of Ivan Souriyavong]