MANHATTAN, NY—Mike “McDuck” Olson was a student at the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts, when he selected fellow students to implement his vision for an indie country, jazz and soul band in 2004. The guitarist/trumpet player recruited lead vocalist Rachael Price, who was from outside Nashville, Tennessee, stand-up bassist Bridget Kearney, an Iowa native, and drummer Mike Calabrese, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Price and Kearney both grew up singing in choirs, most of the members had classical music training growing up, and all of them had developed a background in jazz. Olson named the band Lake Street Dive after a street with many dive bars in his hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The band submitted a song written by Kearney to the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in 2005. Kearney won the jazz category, and with the cash and 1000 CDs award, Lake Street Dive recorded and pressed a debut CD in 2006. Lake Street Dive later gained national buzz via YouTube with a video shot on a street corner in Brighton, Massachusetts, featuring the band gathered around a single microphone performing a cover of the Jackson 5 song “I Want You Back.” In December 2013, T Bone Burnett asked Lake Street Dive to perform at the Another Day, Another Time show at Town Hall in New York City featuring music from and inspired by the film Inside Llewyn Davis. The press raved about the performance, and Lake Street Dive went from playing for friends to headlining venues around the world. The band is now based in Brooklyn, New York, and released the Bad Self Portraits album in February 2014.
Lake Street Dive strolled on stage tonight at the Bowery Ballroom as Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat?” blasted through the house speakers. The quartet launched into the rolling mid-tempo “Got Me Fooled” to cheers and applause. Price then thanked the fans for coming out to the show and added, “We can’t tell you how happy we are to be at home.” The band then performed “Stop Your Crying” like a 1960s Brill Building tune and the cast was set; it would be an evening of pop and soul songs, with several songs highlighting four-part harmonies.
Although all four members are songwriters, Price was the band’s centerpiece. She sang with a powerful voice, but her juicy style and commanding inflection impressed more. She did not always reach her notes clearly, but the imperfections were masked easily by her enthusiasm and by the musical arrangements. When Price stepped back, Olson frequently filled in the soft spots with modest guitar licks and trumpet blasts, giving pep especially to “Neighbor Song,” a song about being kept awake by your neighbors’ sexual activities, and “Hello? Goodbye!” Kearney danced with her upright bass and it was the engine driving hard grooving lines on “Henriette” and “Bobby Tanqueray.” Calabrese’s smooth drumming stayed where it was supposed to, in the background, but his backing vocals gave life to “Seventeen” and other songs. Sam Kassirer, the producer of the band’s most recent album, joined the band on keyboards about halfway through the show and filled out more of the sound. The band closed with “You Go Down Smooth” and returned for a one-song encore, a lengthy cover of Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl.” That final blue-eyed soul connection spoke volumes, linking Lake Street Dive’s present style to a long history of soulful pop radio standards.
Visit Lake Street Drive at www.lakestreetdive.com.