Gaining momentum with their uniquely brilliant sound, Boston-based band Lake Street Dive breathes life into the rich style of music that has lost its allure in the ever-evolving pop market. Artistically, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly which genre they fit into. Folk-rock doesn’t quite describe their colorful sound. They have too much of an edge to identify with 60’s soul-pop. And it’s pretty difficult to envision jazz-country as a combo that works well together, much less how it fails to portray them to their fullest extent. Regardless of how their music is characterized, their sound hits a chord with an audience of all ages, as was evident at their October 14th House of Blues show in New Orleans.
After a stellar performance by their opening act, The Congress, the audience was warmed up and ready for the main event. With the slight aroma of beer wafting through the crowd, front-woman Rachael Price took the stage with the rest of the band – Mike Olsen on trumpet and guitar, Mike Calabrese on drums, and of course the crowd favorite, done up in a side ponytail and equally retro outfit, Bridget Kearney. Clearly not newcomers to The Big Easy and the level of enthusiasm that New Orleanians have for live music, Rachael proclaimed her love for “the greatest city in the world” and the music rolled in.
A feisty but flawless performance of “Stop Your Crying” set the tone for the show. With her hands on her hips, flirtatious hair flips, and ruby red lips, Rachael gave the crowd exactly what they wanted as they lifted their beer cups in gratified response. Continuing to feed the crowd’s fervor, the band decided to follow up with their hit “Bad Self Portraits,” written by the one and only Bridget. This song had everyone swaying to the rhythm as Rachael’s coos and croons could be heard above the audience singing along. The band really showcased their Motown influence with their next song, “Clear a Space,” packed with just the right amount of doo-wops and body rolls. Mike Olsen of course left everyone no less than blown away with his prowess on the trumpet.
The pace slowed as Rachael debuted a new unreleased song in which she boasted a lower register reminiscent of the late and great Amy Winehouse. Right as the audience seemed to be cooling down, out comes “Rabid Animal” from the bag of surprises. The handclaps accompanying the “how will I find you” chants created a sense of unity in the venue; it was truly something special to witness such a diverse group of people coming together as a community of music lovers to share in their common love for this group of talented musicians.
Listen: “Rabid Animal” (live at Mountain Jam 2015) – Lake Street Dive
Immediately after introducing another new song, “Close to Me,” the band decided to reveal what the audience could have presumed from all of this new music – a new album is on the way. Bringing back the sense of familiarity from all of the new music, Bridget got her chance to shine as they covered Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass,” and as such, was rewarded with a unified chant in her name.
The balcony audience went wild for the next performance of “Use Me Up.” Mike’s time to shine came during his drum solo as the lights above flashed dazzling indigo and magenta with every beat. However, the shining moment for the band had to be on “What I’m Doing Here,” a beautiful ballad that began in a cappella and exploded into an enormous demonstration of Rachael’s pipes, triumphant at times, vulnerable at others. During an intimate moment of the song, an “Oh my god” of disbelief and satisfaction was uttered by a truly awestruck fan in the audience.
Single spotlight on Rachael, the fog shrouded in for “Just Ask” as couples paired off and shared in the unspoken understanding of this earnest moment. A slinky performance of “Seventeen” came next, followed by yet another new song that begged for some rowdy audience participation. Closing off the show, The Congress was invited back onstage to join in on an absolutely champion rendition of Paul McCartney’s “Let Me Roll It.” Promising to return to New Orleans soon, the band left the stage with “You Go Down Smooth,” leaving the crazed audience stomping their feet and demanding an encore, which was happily answered with one more final new song that showcased a more rock ’n’ roll side to their sound, complete with guitar licks and vocal acrobatics.
Strictly producing songs that are no less than excellent, Lake Street Dive is a must-see and will continue to prevail in the industry as the band that puts on a live show that dominates their sound on record.
Listen: “You Go Down Smooth” – Lake Street Dive
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Bad Self Portraits – Lake Street Dive