What happens when you loan a frontman your common room: A one-night adventure with Chadwick Stokes
Getting piggyback rides, adapting his song lyrics to fit what the crowd thought were the right words and sleeping in one of their beds, the State Radio and Dispatch lead singer wasn’t uncomfortable making an impression when he hosted his latest concert in the living room of three Washington University students this weekend.
When most students were using their common rooms for study parties or drinking games, seniors Rachel Goldstein, Mil Dranoff and Elisabeth Housman offered up the main room of their University-owned apartment on Kingsland Avenue to an internationally renowned musician on the St. Louis leg of his tour.
Pausing in the middle of his songs to crack jokes and discuss current events in Venezuela and the Ukraine, attendees said they were struck by how genuine and relatable he was.
“Basically, he’s just super-liberal and awesome,” Goldstein said. “We talked a lot about current events, human rights and activism…He was excited to talk to us because we’re pretty politically engaged.”
Stokes closed the set with State Radio’s popular single “Right Me Up.”
“It’s very hard to tell what the lyrics are…so we told him that we couldn’t understand [them],” Goldstein said. “It changes between ‘why so many’ and ‘wise old Manny.’ So then he played the song for us and sang it, but by the end of the song he was singing ‘wassle me.’ He told us to keep on wassling when he left.”
Goldstein emailed rock/funk artist Stokes’ team in November offering to host an evening of his ongoing living room tour. They advertised not only their bar stools, couches and home-cooked food but also their multilingual roommates and musical ability on instruments ranging from the guitar and French horn to the piccolo, ukulele and kazoo.
After getting a confirmation from Stokes’ representatives, Dranoff emailed their residential college director, saying she and her roommates were planning to host his performance and promising to confirm a week before the event. Their RCD thanked them for telling her.
Months of planning culminated in Stokes performing an acoustic set in their apartment Saturday. Because it happened three days after Dranoff’s birthday, her friends described it as a belated birthday present for their roommate who’s been a fan since 2005.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and we are super-excited that it happened,” Dranoff said.
The address of the performance was kept confidential to everyone except ticket-buyers, who learned of the location two weeks in advance.
Maddy Salzman, who graduated from the University last spring, said it was an awesome birthday present for her friend and an unusually intimate venue.
“It was really awesome—it was very cozy,” Salzman said. “They put a lot of blankets on the floor, and it was really funny because we knew probably half of the people there. The other half were just random Dispatch followers.”
Salzman said she was particularly impressed with how open Stokes was, interacting with the small crowd and hanging out with it after finishing.
“It was just very easy for him to be personable—he would kind of make a mistake in the song lyrics and just stop and start talking about it,” Salzman said. “I’ve never been to a concert of that size with someone that famous.”
It’s a night she doesn’t plan on forgetting, for more reasons than the dozens of photos documenting it on Facebook.
“He called my phone and left a message because they were talking about me and I had left,” Salzman said. “So I have a voicemail message from Chad Stokes on my phone that I’m never deleting.”