The Inimitable Quartet That Is Lake Street Dive

by Jonathan Frahm

16 March 2016

Lake Street Dive find the perfect foundation between unbridled soul and incredible technicality at Tucson's Rialto Theatre.
Photo from the cover of Side Pony (2016) 
cover art

Lake Street Dive

23 Feb 2016: Rialto Theatre — Tucson, Arizona

Comprised of four members who met while attending one of the most prestigious music schools in the country, it’s understandable, to say the least, that Lake Street Dive have maintained a special sort of talent since their inception over ten years ago. Chockful of tight instrumentation and vocal prowess courtesy of Rachael Price (lead vocals), Bridget Kearney (upright bass), Mike Calabrese (drums), and Mike “McDuck” Olson (guitar), the band reflect the breezy, radio-ready songs of love and lust circa the ‘60s and ‘70s.

An inimitable quartet, the only not-so-understandable factor to consider about their success is why it was a slow burn to the top. Their latest tour, associated with the recently released Side Pony, marks a time in their lives when they are, after 12 years and seven separate notable releases, finally receiving the recognition they well should have for their catchy and uniquely soulful criteria within the modern pop music market.

One viral video, one Rolling Stone label as “Best New Band”, two new studio albums, and three separate appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Show with David Letterman, the T Bone Burnett-fronted Another Day, Another Time concert in celebration of American roots music and Inside Llewyn Davis later, the Lake Street ensemble finally saw their way to Tucson, Arizona’s historic Rialto Theatre for a blazing night of fun with the Old Pueblo crowd. They made sure to bring their A-game to the revered venue near the beginning of their tour with their trademark sound, finding the perfect foundation between unbridled soul and incredible technicality, making the traditional long wait for the main act well worth the time.

Opening for LSD throughout each of their tour dates are the Suffers, an up-and-coming soul-fusion band founded from out of Houston. The band maintains a mammoth amount of members compared to the typical outlet, rounding out at ten between lead vocalist Pat Kelly and the slew of instrumentalists on board for the project, from drummers, to a horn section, guitar, and bass. As musicians, the band holds their own across a variety of sounds ranging from R&B, to country, and to Latin influences, Kelly working the stage with enough verve to rouse the crowd for the lead act. Despite the bizarre amalgam that is their broad set of influences, the band do their thing smoothly with an impressive air of professionalism, authenticity, and confidence.

The headliners are, of course, the evening’s crème de la crème, electrifying the crowd following a half-an-hour wait period for setup’s sake with an enthusiastic “Hell Yeah” from their latest. The majority of the multigenerational crowd stood and began to groove along to the music straight from out of the gate, and with good reason, as Price and her compadres came roaring out with an inspiriting performance fronted by a chorus worthy of a singalong. Another moment is an impromptu drum solo from Calabrese, wherein he brings the audience through a ritualistic shout of “I say ‘side’, you say ‘pony’!”, much to even his band members’ surprise. Needless to say, the audience began to reciprocate, and between his rip-roaring solo and Kearney’s incredible plucking at her upright alongside him, it’s the night’s largest staple.

Other standout performances include one of their surprise hit, “You Go Down Smooth”, from their first album, Bad Self Portraits, which the band performs with a significant air of confidence as the crowd enthusiastically sings along, and a beautiful rendition of “So Long” that is focused on perfected harmonies amongst the quartet, which often has otherwise rambunctious audiences totally silent. Elsewhere, Price pulls out a few LSD-branded scrunchies to toss into the audience in hopes that they would rock their very own side pony – talk about cool branding. The band wrapped up the night with a meet-and-greet alongside the Suffers to sign merch and talk with fans after the show, still humbled in spite of their growing success.

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