FRIDAY, MAY 5—GENTILLY STAGE, 2:05 P.M.
Lake Street Dive has earned quite the following in recent years with a modern take on the old-school pop sounds of the ’50s and ’60s. Fronted by singer Rachael Price, a graceful diva with more than enough chops to justify the confidence she exudes on stage, the band manages to blend impeccable musicianship, catchy melodies and vintage style. They may not have the most original sound out there—the band’s love for Motown, the Beatles and Phil Spector is unapologetic, after all—yet their retro approach is elevated by a commitment to near-perfect technique and high-quality showmanship. It’s a refreshing thing to hear in an era dominated by Auto-Tuned pop singers and computer-generated electronic music, even if it is steeped in nostalgia for a time and place the band’s target audience never knew.
“It’s not like we’re against electronic music or produced music,” says drummer Mike Calabrese. “It’s just that, from the outset, we realized this is what we’re able to do so let’s do it. I think there’s just enough vintage in our songs, which has become popular, but the fact that we don’t go full retro or full indie rock helps us stand out.”
Formed at the prestigious New England Conservatory in 2004, Lake Street Dive’s members juggled a variety of projects before devoting themselves fully to the band in 2012. In November of that year, Price, Calabrese, bassist Bridget Kearney and guitarist/trumpeter Mike Olson hit the studio to record Bad Self Portraits, though contractual issues would keep the album shelved until early 2014. It was a breakout success for the four-piece, which spent much of the ensuing year taking their high-energy live show on the road.
“We finally started making a living, which was great,” Calabrese explains with a laugh. “All jokes aside, this business is not about money—or it wasn’t for us anyway—but we were all starting to get older and wanted to do things with our lives. We wanted to live somewhere, for instance, and eat food.”
Things have only gotten better since Bad Self Portraits put Lake Street Dive on the map. In 2016 the group released Side Pony, a worthy follow up they recorded in Nashville with producer Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell). The album debuted at number one on the Billboard alternative chart, and a few months later they were performing for President Obama at the White House. Venues don’t really get more exciting than that, yet they’re still thrilled to be playing the Fair Grounds.
“A lot of places tout how much of a music town they are. Few can truly claim to be the place where entire musical styles were born,” Calabrese adds. “In a way it’s like a pilgrimage to all the influences we first came out of.”