Oct. 30, 2014
An all-ages crowd filled The Neighborhood Theatre in NoDa Tuesday night for The Lake Street Dive. The heavy red curtain opened to reveal a backdrop with red letters spelling the band’s name in neon lights. From stage left emerged drummer Mike Calabrese. Tapping on his kit and keeping rhythm with a tambourine against his chest, the stage was set for the rest of the band to follow. Bridget Kearney (upright bass) and Mike “McDuck” Olson (trumpet, guitar) entered one after another, playing the opening chords of “Rabid Animal” from the recently-released Bad Self Portraits. Cue Rachael Price. Her strong, velvet-like vocals cut right through the music, taking the audience by surprise. Shortly thereafter, though, the lot was singing backup on the chorus, which seemed like an unspoken agreement between artist and fan. As the song came to a close, the audience broke into a roar of applause. Price responded, “Good evening, Charlotte!” Lake Street Dive has performed four times in Charlotte since the band’s Boston beginnings in 2004. Price joked about their first Queen City appearance at an “empty” Evening Muse, but that she loves coming here to play.
With her hands on her hips, tossing her hair about and pulling her fans in with her flawless stage presence, Rachael Price seemed to almost dance with the songs they played. She also had the Theatre shoulder-shaking and head-bobbing to “What About Me,” another cut from Bad Self Portraits, and “Clear a Space” from sophomore album Fun Machine. Mike Olson hypnotized the crowd with a trumpet solo, stealing the show with his pipes. With Mike Calabrese tossing his head about to the beat of his drums, the band played the end of the song as if it was the encore. The stage fell dark and the only sight was of the Lake Street Dive neon-letter backdrop and Price’s silhouette. The house was all hers.
As the lights came back up, Olson’s trumpet led the way into “Look at What Mistake.” Rachael and Bridget’s voices melded through the harmony, shaking the core of the listener. The raw honesty of the lyrics and tone caused the engaged audience to sway. Price, too, stares off while singing of the pain and all too close history of her “Mistake.” This is one of the most beautiful moments in music: the connection between artist and appreciator. The baring of the human condition through assembled sound and word. This is why we desperately cling to live music. He knows how I feel,or, She’s talking about me. The language we all speak. A line of banter after the song brought the mood back up. Bridget volunteered that her mistake earlier on Tuesday was going for a Queen City stroll after dark and falling, bleeding in front of a bus station. The comedy continued as Price admitted that her mistake was bicycle-related. Calabrese boasted that he had a perfect day and the audience roared, forgetting their “Mistake” but holding on to the moment.
Lake Street Dive jolted the masses into a sing-along with the title track from Bad Self Portraits. The crowd sang at Price’s volume and camera phones popped up everywhere. The song everyone knows. Again, Price rendered fans breathless, skipping a beat and singing a note behind and then ahead, playing with the indie-jazz style for which she is so known. Price made is seem so effortless with so much soul in her tone.
A few tunes later, the band unveiled some new songs from their upcoming album. They sounded familiar, though a little more rock-infused. Before playing the second of the new songs, Price asked, “Is anyone in the crowd is named Daniel?” Second row, dead center. “This is your lucky, awkward moment,” Price laughed as the aptly-named “Daniel” kicked in. A groovy guitar riff played on a loop behind lyrics about Daniel lighting her candle. The gentleman in the second row surely won’t forget his five minutes of fame anytime soon. “Daniel” was written by Kearney, who had played a stellar bass solo during the song’s bridge. The female upright bassist slapped and pulled on the strings so vigorously, one may have thought she was going to pull them out from the headstock.
After playing the last song from the upcoming album, Olson shared that Lake Street Dive is committed to helping local charities in the towns that host them for the evening. On Tuesday, Second Harvest Food Bank received merchandise from the group to generate funds for the cause.
Rachael Price broke the praise of the announcement with a string of familiar tunes. The stage lights glowed like a halo around her blonde locks as she sang about heartache, mistakes and hardships. The band gathered around the lead vocalist for a special performance of “What I’m Doing Here” and “Wedding Band” off of a similarly-named 7” which was released in the summer. Once again Price drew in the crowd with an a cappella opening of the two song set. Everyone knew it was coming: the end of the show. Lake Street Dive didn’t disappoint, finishing the set with “Just Ask,” a love ballad that assumes an intimate peek directly into Price’s soul. Everyone was completely still; affected. The emotion was worn on her face as she sang, like a stain on a beloved sweater. After “Just Ask,” the crowd seemed to thin a little, as the band wrapped up with Bad Self Portraits highlight “17.” The remaining witnesses danced freely, like middle schoolers at basement birthday party. The band departed from the stage after an outstanding engagement with the onlookers left behind, but the crowd wasn’t done, and neither were the artists. Lake Street were joined by opening band The Congress for a superior cover of “Take it to the Limit” by The Eagles. Rebellious and insuppressible brilliance. With full hearts, the music lovers littered North Davidson Street, buzzing. Live music at its finest.
Listen to album Bad Self Portraits by Lake Street Dive
Watch Live & Breathing sessions Lake Street Dive performing “Bad Self Portraits”