FROM COFFEE HOUSES AND MICRO CLUBS TO NATIONAL SENSATION, LAKE STREET DIVE BRINGS ITS SWEET GROWL AND SOUL GROOVE
BY MATT SCANLON
If any band is pulverizing the notion of single genre labels, it’s Lake Street Dive, a delicious and unaccountable jazz/soul/groove/pop/funk quintet, which now splits its digs between Beantown and Brooklyn. Forming sixteen years ago at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music where lead singer, Rachael Price, met upright bassist, Bridget Kearney the band later acquired drummer, Mike Calabrese, and brass player, Mike Olson, and began the at once thrilling and fraught slog of acquiring buzz. Though they shy from describing the journey as arduous, many years of playing coffee houses and micro clubs might have made even this gathering of indefatigable optimists question the vocation, but it helps to know your calling young.
Price began singing jazz at home when she was 5 and took to public engagements just a few years after famously early YouTubed in 1998 belting out a version of “Dedicated to You” at a concert in Spain when she was all of 12.
It was another YouTube moment that catapulted Lake Street Dive from journeywomen (and men) troubadours to takeoff velocity a 2012 version of The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” which at press date had racked up just over six million views. Taped on a Brighton, Massachusetts street corner, the languidly paced cover was a perfect sampler of what the group is capable of: unexpected tempo changes, perfect counter play between Price’s low, sweet growl and the instruments, and an abiding wit. Pretty much ever since a sexily bopping and contagious 2014 performance on The Colbert Report of their single, “You Go Down Smooth,” there’s been a feast of national notoriety.
“In a pinch we call ourselves ‘soul pop,’ but basically we believe that genres are dead,” Kearney explained. “We just want to find music that we love.”
Amid its own work (five albums and counting), the band is famous for covers, and recorded the almost all cover Fun Machine in 2012, one of our favorite discs of the half decade. They’ve also taken on a fifth member, Akie Bermiss, on keyboards and vocals, and their latest road show, the Lounge Around Sounds Tour a “sing along” revue of their catalog of songs will be coming soon.
Your music reporter could take pages de constructing how these five manage to mash Motown with jazz and pop so fluidly, never mind how they synergize even broader styles into the latest album, Free Yourself Up (2018), but sometimes it’s best to just shut up and take in a dose of the wondrously unexpected.
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