Riot Fest: La Dispute

Michigan hardcore troupe prove why they're one of the scene's most vital bands

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There are few bands around today, contemporaries or otherwise, who can compete with the intricacies and complexities that La Dispute infuse into their music and lyrics.

Yet as intelligent and elaborate as those both are, there’s no pretension to anything they do - their songs might be literary explorations based as much on fictional or historical events, but there’s as much truth to them as the most confessional songwriter could muster. That’s clear just from listening to their records, but seeing the Michigan post-hardcore outfit live really rams it home. It’s in the way that singer Jordan Dreyer flails about as his words course through him, practically forcing themselves from his throat as they escape from his body; in the way that the band shift from brutal, scorching riffs to tender moments of more quiet contemplation; in the way that the gathered crowd seem to lose themselves in the band’s semi-historical, semi-fictional universe, as if they are the characters in the songs.

Interestingly, there are no songs from the band’s debut album, Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair - their most musically aggressive and straightforward album. Instead, most of the set is comprised of the slightly more mellow tunes from this year’s sublime third record, Rooms Of The House. But whether it’s the insistent, portentous tension of HUDSONVILLE, MA 1956, the disaster narrative of Stay Happy There - multiple lives and worlds and times colliding violently in a swirl of force that sees Dreyer’s limbs nearly detach themselves from his torso - or the gentle, soothing lilt of Woman (In Mirror), the band perform them as if it’s for both the first and last time, as if nothing will ever be as important for them as this moment right now, wherever and whenever right now actually is. They close with the epic King Park, from 2011’s Wildlife, a deconstructed tale about an accidental but fatal shooting that ebbs and flows like the panic of the situation it describes. As the crowd take on the part of the killer in the song’s crescendo - hundreds of voices joining Dreyer to bring the pleading and existential torment of the killer as he shouts, over and over: “Can I still get into Heaven if I kill myself?” - there’s no reprieve from the magnitude or intensity of what’s happening. Sure, it’s just a song, but it feels so much more real than that, and it’s utterly brilliant.