The name Lake Street Dive doesn’t exactly invoke classy connotations. The band name makes me think of smoky bars in backwoods towns where shiftless people drink cloudy beer and think shiftless thoughts.
The band that hit LL Bean’s outdoor stage on Saturday night (7.20.13) was anything but shiftless. With lush, tasteful harmonies, beautiful pop grooves, and soulful gravitas, Lake Street Dive captivated the Freeport audience with everything good about pop music. By the end of the first song, it was clear that we were in the hands of four musicians who knew their instruments and were all pulling in the same musical direction.
Lead singer Rachael Price is magnetic. Few frontmen/women are able to hold court the way that she does. With only her big, soulful voice and her arms planted firmly on her gyrating hips, she had us eating out of her pop diva hands. Her voice is a nuclear power house one moment, and a sultry whisper the next. It’s the kind of voice Homer had in mind when he envisioned his Sirens. I might drive my boat into a jagged shoreline if it meant getting closer to that voice.
Here’s the deal with Lake Street Dive, though, every member of the band is adept at his or her instrument. Bassist Bridget Kearney played funky, jazz-laden bass grooves song-in and song-out. Her version of “I Want You Back” had James Jamerson smiling in bass player heaven. Mike Calabrese held it down on the drums, playing a four-on-the floor beat when appropriate, and opening it up and letting it rip when the song called for big playing. And who has a guitarist who also kills it at the trumpet? Lake Street Dive does in Mike Olson.
It’s no surprise that these guys met at the New England Conservatory. They do not disappoint in the musicianship category. What’s most impressive about this classically trained band, though, is that they don’t overplay and they don’t get in each other’s way. When Price pushes on the gas pedal of her voice, the rest of the members pull back to let her vocals shine. And that goes for every member of Lake Street Dive. The band listens to each other and steps back when someone else steps up. So refreshing to see, especially from a band comprised of such real-deal talent.
You want more props heaved upon this band? Here you go. They all seem to share songwriting duties. It was common for Price to say, “This next song was written by our drummer” or “Here’s one Mike Olson wrote.” They kill it on their respective instruments and they write songs.
You want even more? Their harmonies are so tight, so present, so heavenly that at times it sounded like they had an organist. Apparently, singing brilliant three-part harmonies is a prerequisite to get in this band.
Don’t let their name fool you. This is no backwoods band comprised of half-drunk schleps. Lake Street Dive is armed with conservatory chops and soulful pop music, and they’re ready to take on the world.