“The following film is a snapshot in time; a glimpse into the life of the band La Dispute.” So we’re told at the opening to ‘Tiny Dots’, the excellent new documentary following the Michigan outfit through their international travels last year in support of ‘Rooms of the House’. With the band – along with those who work alongside them and fans who’ve come out to see them – all getting a chance to make their voices heard as the documentary goes on, ‘Tiny Dots’ becomes the perfect recount of one of the biggest journeys La Dispute have been on to date.
The series of soundbites that open the DVD do a good job of preparing you for what the next ninety minutes will involve. ‘Tiny Dots’ is far from just a live DVD, instead we’ve been given a chance to see a whole lot more. With how much La Dispute have come to mean to so many people, the chance to see the curtain pulled back on band and fans alike is a rare treat. London’s Bush Hall is the first venue we’re shown footage from, as the quintet who’d just become a quartet with the departure of founding member Kevin Whittemore dive into ‘Stay Happy There’, one of the standout tracks from last year’s ‘Rooms of the House’ release. It’s a great way to kick off the live portions of the documentary, in one of the most beautiful venues that London has to offer (possibly second only to the Village Underground). Whittemore’s exit from the band the month prior certainly didn’t dampen the now four-piece’s intensity, and the British audience is just as vocally powerful and supportive. Throughout the documentary we return to live clips from tracks like ‘For Mayor in Splitsville’, ‘Woman (In Mirror)’ and ‘Andria’ with crowds going wild in every instance, whether it’s London or their hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The first band member interview is with vocalist Jordan Dreyer, turning the clock back to the earliest roots of La Dispute; himself and drummer Brad Vander Lugt thrashing away in their parents’ garages. We also hear from Brad’s parents before he and Kevin Whittemore get to recount the fledgling months of the La Dispute adventure; the first of many history lessons the band offer up throughout the film. We get an extract of ‘Future Wars’ from very early in the band’s life, and there’s definitely an intention to show how La Dispute’s live shows have progressed in the ten years up to the ‘Rooms of the House tour.
There’s a lot of valuable insights that have you respecting and appreciating a lot more of the cogs at work in the La Dispute machine. As effective as social media and such things are for giving music fans anywhere a gateway into the bands or artists they love, there’s some things that the likes of Twitter, Vine and Instagram will never capture and ‘Tiny Dots’ does an incredible job of capturing that, not just stopping at the band to do so. La Dispute’s manager and merch guy are among those paying tribute to Brad Vander Lugt’s contributions to the band’s success, the first of many shows of appreciation throughout the hour and a half. As much of a labour of love as the documentary itself clearly is, if ever there was any doubt that everything the band do is just as heartfelt, this DVD will prove convincingly that it is.
There are no half measures with La Dispute anymore – if there really ever were. The segments detailing the making of ‘Rooms’ are a testament to that, and getting to watch everything come together in a way that it might not quite click for any other band is a real joy. La Dispute’s camaraderie is infectious even through just brief recollections, and the sense of closeness to the band that ‘Tiny Dots’ instils is fantastic. Whether it’s the work with Teenage Cancer Trust, their own accomplishments during the tour or Kevin’s amicable departure from the band after their US shows, it’s impossible not to come away from the documentary with a wealth of admiration for everything La Dispute have achieved, and what they’ve withstood in the process. Band documentaries are always a valuable watch, but ones that come together quite like ‘Tiny Dots’ are a special breed. Wherever the quartet go next, this 90-minute journey through everywhere they’ve been thus far is unmissable.
‘Tiny Dots’ by La Dispute is out now on Better Living/Big Scary Monsters.
Words by Antony Lusmore (@VilinskiKonjic)