Sounds Local: Dive into the new year
When Lake Street Dive takes the stage at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton on New Year’s Eve, the Signature Sounds recording artists will have plenty to celebrate. This past year has been a good one.
The quartet has been on the road constantly, playing concert halls and festivals and watching its fan base grow with every show. Anyone who witnessed the band’s knockout performance at this year’s Green River Festival understands why Lake Street Dive’s career is on the rise.
The band, which features powerhouse vocalist Rachel Price and stand-up bassist Bridget Kearney, drummer Mike Calabrese and Mike “McDuck” Olson on trumpet and guitar, had the honor of being chosen to perform at the “Another Day, Another Time” concert held in New York in September. The concert featured music from and inspired by the new Coen brothers movie “Inside Llewyn Davis.” It included an all-star roster of performers like Jack White, Gillian Welch, Joan Baez, Patti Smith and others. Lake Street Dive managed to stand out among this impressive lineup. Rolling Stone calling the band “unexpected showstoppers.” A film of the concert is airing on the Showtime network.
“It was very much an incredible experience. A friend of ours from the Punch Brothers, Gabe Witcher, was the one who turned us on to T Bone Burnett, who was producing the show. He got in touch with us to see if we wanted to play on it and I believe we unanimously screamed unintelligible sounds that meant ‘yes,’” wrote Calabrese in an email exchange written from England during the band’s recent first European tour. “It was one of the most inspiring experiences we’ve ever had, to have all that talent and all those minds on the stage, which included a lot of our heroes.”
Calabrese said that among the many high points the band experienced this past year, it is most excited about the new album its preparing to release. The disc, “Bad Self Portraits,” is the follow up to the band’s self-titled debut in 2010 and its “Fun Machine” EP in 2012. “Bad Self Portraits” will be released Feb. 18 by Signature Sounds of Northampton.
The four members of Lake Street Dive all met when they were students at the New England Conservatory in Boston and they have been playing together for about 10 years. The band’s music is a jazzy-folk pop mix that is as unique as the band’s name, which was taken from a neighborhood of dive bars located in Olson’s hometown of Minneapolis.
They are an accomplished group of musicians and Price, who started working as a jazz singer when she was a teen, has a strong expressive voice that has drawn comparison to a young Etta James. All of the members contribute to the song writing.
The band’s sound has evolved over the years and Calabrese said you will hear this growth on the new album.
“The first thing you’ll hear is a much more focused, thought-out sound. With the help of our producer, Sam Kassirer, we were able to hone in on the arrangements, performance vibes and sounds of the instruments to find the essence of what made each song come alive,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve worked seriously with a producer and it adds a cohesion to the entire album that we had hitherto not discovered. This is also our strongest writing to date.”
He added that listeners will also hear a lot more background vocals, more guitars songs and solos, more percussion and even some zany stuff thrown in.
The band’s previous release, “Fun House,” was a collection of cover tunes of songs like George Michael’s “Faith” and “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates. The band’s versions of these pop songs are a popular part of its live shows. In fact, a 2012 YouTube video of it singing the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” on a Boston street corner proved a huge boost to its career. Lake Street Dive transformed the bouncy pop song into sultry jazz number and when actor Kevin Bacon tweeted “This is Amazing! Gives Me Chills!” and posted a link to the video, it went viral. To date, over 1 million viewers have watched it.
“These things are heavily luck-based,” said Calabrese about the band’s YouTube success. “Our only concern was keeping the videos coming. It was work, keeping juices and attention flowing. And I guess if you make enough, there’s a chance Kevin Bacon will watch one and if he likes it, he’ll tweet about it and that’s how it happens in this brave new world.”
The New Year’s Eve performance will feature plenty of songs off the new album, which Calabrese said have long been mainstays of their shows. There will also be some cover tunes and maybe even some brand-new songs.
“We’re being joined by two great bands, David Wax Museum and And the Kids, and it’s utterly indecent to not take advantage of such an opportunity to collaborate with musicians like that. I’m sure we will be working something up,” said Calabrese. “Also, our producer Sam Kassirer will be attending the show and should be playing some keyboards with us. He did some bang-up playing on the record and we want to make it a wall of sound celebration!”
This show is being held on Tuesday, Dec. 31, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available at the Northampton Box Office, 76 Main St., Northampton, online at www.iheg.com or charge by phone at 413-586-8686. Please note this show is not part of Northampton’s First Night Celebration.
Also, mark this date on your calendar: Price will appear at the Institute of Musical Arts in Goshen on Sunday, Jan. 12, at 3 p.m., in an event being billed as “An Afternoon with Rachel Price.” Price will be interviewed about her musical life by IMA Artistic Director June Millington. There will also be a Q&A with the audience and a short performance by Price with the IMA Ensemble Workshop Singers. Tickets are $15 and are on sale now at www.ima.org.
Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.