Lake Street Dive (LSD) is two parts jazz, one part pop, and one part sex appeal. Alright, that formula is based on absolutely nothing, but it seems appropriate to me. Their sound is a type of mishmash between different genres, but in the end it’s a fun, quirky blend of pop tunes with a heavy soul and jazz influence. A new school twist on an old school genre.
Rachael Price, a Jazz Studies graduate from the New England Conservatory, has a voice (and the looks) that make your jaw drop. She makes up most of the sex appeal and pop; she contributes a healthy proportion to the jazz side too (I would love to hear her start scatting). Her voice drips with honey; its thick, full sound has no problem stretching to great lengths with formidable ease. She commands the stage with a playful brand of confidence that translates to a looser audience. She’s a seductive redhead with the type of vocal chops that impress as soon as she opens her mouth. Like you weren’t expecting her to be that good, but then start questioning why you would think that she wouldn’t be that good. All you can do really is stand there with a beer, eyebrows raised, and soak it up. Goosebumps, for sure.
The balance between all four members of LSD is what makes this band special. Price may garner the most attention, but that comes with the territory of being a singer. All the other members are as equally talented in their respective roles; this isn’t a diss on Price, but a salute to the other members. Mike Olson’s sharp guitar/trumpet playing is the perfect counterpoint to Price’s soft, round voice. Whereas Bridget Kearney (bass) and Mike Calabrese (drums) hold down the fort on the rhythm section.
Most impressive was Kearney’s bass playing. She’s at least a part and a half of the jazz. On the double bass, Kearney displayed some plucking skills on par with any of the old masters. She could tackle some Ron Carter songs and not break a sweat. Heck, hardly even a smile. Like Price’s voice, Bridget’s fingers traveled up and down the neck of her bass with formidable ease. I was trapped staring at her fingers for longer than I should have, but the bass has always been a mesmerizing instrument to me. It’s just so cool. Only cool cats play the bass. I may have romanticized the instrument in my head a little, but knowing that still won’t change my opinion: the bass is the coolest instrument on Earth.
Anyway, The Electric Owl was peppered with salty hair. LSD’s brand of music attracts the higher end of the age scale, but that doesn’t mean the dancing is any less passionate. Within the first few songs, couples were swing dancing, bebopping, head bobbing, and shoulder shrugging. Some were doing a weird version of a rigid Dosey Doe. But, in the end, the important part is that they were trying, right? Lake Street Dive made them forget how bad they were at dancing. And so, the crowd attempted to match Price’s swinging hips to no avail. Most were content standing and doing their best impression of a satisfied chicken.
LSD’s bank of cover songs, from their Fun Machine EP, “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 and “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates, were met with cheers by the Baby Boomers. Not found on Fun Machine was a cover done of George Michael’s ‘80s pop hit “Faith”. Yet it was “I Want You Back” that took the prize as crowd favourite. The song’s popularity stemming from a viral video made by the band performing the song on a quiet sidewalk in Boston. That’s another thing LSD has going for them that isn’t easily found in popular music these days – a Motown flair. These covers display LSD’s abilities as artists to transform songs into a different genre and make it their own creation.
Lake Street Dive is a fun, easygoing band that has fun on stage. Their music is backed by a talented group of highly talented, trained musicians, and fronted by some serious powerhouse vocals. Their songs are relatable, if not recognizable, and initiate some serious dancing (albeit awkward at times). Their set on Sunday night at The Electric Owl was flawless. Every note was hit by Price was on point and every string plucked by Kearney was on groove. Calabrese kept the beat while Olson switched between his horn and his axe. Rarely do you see a band as comfortable as LSD on stage, which is an important factor into how the night pans out. Their brand of jazz-pop was well received and well executed. Basically, they ended their North American tour with an exclamation mark!