Dive bars are the number one choice for cheap drinks, entertainment (read: drunken brawls and cover bands), and quarter pool. Rarely, though, do they offer the sort of croon tunes that come from Lake Street Dive, even if the band fancies such jukebox black-holes its namesake. Come Friday night, the catcalls of nearby dives will be drowned out all together by the carefully manicured, bell-clear soul sounds drifting from the North Park Theatre, where Lake Street Dive arrives from Brooklyn by way of Boston.
It’s a big-band sound at times, padded with a heavy cream voice that lead vocalist Rachel Price milks across jazz and swing-influenced trots that round out with indie pop-rock hooks. The "free country" canon upon which Price, Mike Olson (lead guitar, trumpet), Bridget Kearney (standup bass), and Mike Calabrese (drums) formed Lake Street Dive marries jazz improvisation with the honky-tonk charm of dive bars, particularly those on Lake Street in Olson’s hometown of Minneapolis. The result is rich in both composition and performance. But of course, these are classically trained musicians.
The foursome met while students at Boston’s New England Conservatory and came together under Olson’s urging. It took a decade for them to break out of near anonymity, despite the release of a debut album. It wasn’t until they went YouTube viral for a music video they filmed on a street corner in student-occupied Brighton, Mass., in which they huddled around a microphone to sing a cover of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” That video eventually caught the attention of famed producer/musician T-Bone Burnett, who booked the group to perform the show that put them in the public eye and -- securing their imminent rise -- led them to earn the Colbert bump.
But it has been earned. Lake Street Dive’s sophomore effort, “Bad Self Portraits,” which dropped earlier this year, blends the group’s classic roots with contemporary lyrics (the title track is a reference to the ever-hated, always-participated selfies) and a playful bounce that’s driven deep by Price’s dramatic pipes. It’s the sort of performance that’s sure to will any dive into a concert hall, as if by magic. What that means for the North Park Theatre on Friday night, we can only guess.
Hannah Lott-Schwartz, a San Diego native, recently moved back to the area after working the magazine-publishing scene in Boston. Now she’s straight trolling SD for all the music she missed while away. Want to help? Hit her up with just about anything at all over on Twitter, where -- though not always work-appropriate -- she means well.