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Leaning slightly into the microphone with hands planted firmly on her hips, Lake Street Dive frontwoman Rachael Price sings directly to every single person in the Sinclair. To the girls squeezed up center stage, to the man posted up on the wall next to the bar, to me crooning down from the corner balcony, Price sings to us each alone. She dances and she dares, she accuses and she laughs; she converts every single concerteer into her sound.
And she does not do it alone. Along with Price, upright bassist Bridget Kearney, drummer Mike Calabrese, and guitarist/trumpeter Mike Olson cultivate the soulful jazz of Lake Street Dive. The quartet is currently based in Brooklyn, New York, though they met and formed while attending Boston’s own New England Conservatory of Music in 2005.
“Our musical development has been like Google Earth,” explains Olson on the band’s website, “going from the entire universe to a specific place. That’s how we’ve honed in our sound. We had the whole world of music at our fingertips, and we were unsure of what direction to take, but now we’re zeroing in a little closer.” The band is currently touring to promote their fifth studio album, Bad Self Portraits, released on February 18th. Previously, the band has released In This Episode in 2006, Promises, Promises in 2007, Lake Street Dive in 2011, and Fun Machine in 2012.
With five covers and one original track, Fun Machine first thrust Lake Street Dive into their well-deserved spotlight. The band’s soulful infusion is particularly goosebump-inspiring in Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl” and Michael Jackson’s “I Want You Back.” The latter was delivered as a final farewell to the audience at the Sinclair in a truly stunning display of style — but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Lazer Cake, Lake Street Dive’s Tigger-like Brooklyn neighbor who opened the show must not be forgotten. Although the band is rather classically composed of a guitarist (Tom Deis), bassist (Grant Zubritsky), keyboardist (Alan Markley), and drummer/lead vocalist (Robby Sinclair), they are far from typical. The band pairs driving drum beats with impossibly high soprano vocals and eighties reminiscent synthetic keyboard jams. Their new and unreleased treat, “Circles,” had the whole house grooving, perhaps inspired by the bassist’s excellent ‘running man’ while playing. Although Lazer Cake may be fundamentally quite different from Lake Street Dive, I cannot imagine a more fun band to start the show.
“We never stay away from here too long, this is our home town,” said Price after the first song, “And we’re so happy to be starting our senior release tour with alla y’all tonight!” Price is both childishly emotive and intensely raw in her singing style. Her presence onstage may have been almost overwhelming if it were not for the equally large personalities of Olson, Calabrese, and Kearney. In a grey blazer and pigeon-toed black converse, Olson gave an incredibly meek first impression. But once he belted his first trumpet solo of the night on “Clear A Space”, the artist gained an entirely new light. On the other hand, from the moment he set down to drum, Calabrese sported the joyful personality of ten. There was not a single moment when a smile did not delightfully plaster his face, even whilst singing. Last but definitely not least, playing my personal favorite instrument with the sweet swing of a jazzy rooftop Aristocat, Kearney absolutely made the show. She ends a sensationally syncopated minute long upright solo with a subtle downward smile and single nod. I could not have had more chills.
My favorite of the evening undoubtedly goes to “Better Than,” a song from Bad Self Portraits written by Kearney. It may be slower than the majority of Lake Street Dive’s songs, but there is something about it’s meticulous calculation that feels purely human. “Better than pretending to know what’s wrong and what’s right / better than being some fool’s bride,” Price and Calabrese harmonize between trumpet bursts. It lulls you deep.
The crowd was humming the final encore tune before Price sung a single word. Kearney and Olson led us in with intertwining trumpet and bass, flowing smooth into “When I had you to myself I didn’t want you around / Those pretty faces always make you stand out in a crowd.” Price plays with Michael Jackson’s “I Want You Back” as if it were her own all along. The song captured the impeccable best of each of these four musicians, only to end far too soon in a whispered final lyric, “I want you back.”
Thankfully, they will be. April 6th at Royale. I’ll see you there.