There is a common thread that dominates most discussions about music among people of my generation, the central theme being, "today's music sucks". Although not without some evidence based merit, this is a mostly closed minded view, as if somehow the creative well dried up after 1980, and suddenly a whole generation of musicians were incapable of playing instruments, singing melodies, and writing lyrics.
It's mostly a generational issue, my parents thought the Beatles sucked, I'm sure their parents thought that young girls in bobby socks swooning over "Frankie" was just a teenage fad and the bow tied crooner would never amount to much. Who knows maybe even Beethoven and Mozart fans were disgusted by the adulation heaped on Tchaikovsky 40 years later. "He's no Ludwig" was probably muttered at many a late 1800's dinner table.
While I will admit that it is sometimes difficult to sift through the musical sludge to find the hidden gems, they do exist, as evidenced by the Boston based group who call themselves Lake Street Dive.
When dynamic lead singer Rachel Price strolled onto the stage Wednesday night at the College Street Music Hall in New Haven and stood, almost defiantly in front of her band with her hands on her hips , it not only felt like something very special was about to happen, it also felt like she might have been saying "tie this to your whipping post" to any skeptical baby boomers sprinkled throughout the audience.
I happened to be one of those baby boomers in attendance but I wasn't skeptical. I had been a casual fan prior to the show based mostly on watching their creative covers of classic songs on You Tube.
I wasn't familiar with any of their original songs and certainly hadn't yet listened to any of the 10 tracks off their week old album Free Yourself Up.
None of that mattered, the normal anticipation, the waiting for the familiar songs and big hits was not going to be part of the equation at this concert, and it didn't make a difference.The music coming from the stage was so infectious that there was never a moment when it felt like I was hearing these songs for the first time.
When watching Lake Street Drive(or as their cult like following of fans chant when the house lights go down..LSD) perform it's easy to get swept up and carried away by lead singer Rachel Price. As stand up bassist Bridget Kearney describes it, each song is a "vocal fireworks display" and it's an apt description. She is definitely the center of attention and it's her unique vocal style that drives the band, but this is a group of talented artists whose music is the sum of all of their parts, it's not just Rachel and the Lake Streeters.
Mike(McDuck) Olson, guitar and trumpet, drummer Michael Calabrese and keyboard player Akie Bermiss, along with bassist Kearney are all essential elements to the tight knit music this band creates. and the background vocals of bassist Bridget and keyboardist Akie Bermiss are essential to it's sound.
It's difficult to put Lake Street into any specific musical genre, they seem to run the gamut from funk infused pop, to torch song ballads, and even a touch of 60's girl group soul. Whatever the genre, Rachel's voice is able to slide comfortably into that pocket,her vocal style seems to meet somewhere at the intersection of Amy Winehouse and Ronnie Spector. Drummer Calabrese's assessment of the Lake Street sound is that they want their music to feel like The Beatles and Motown had a party together, and that seems just about right.
I had to do some post concert research to find out the names of the songs I considered highlights although the truth of the matter is, every single song was a highlight. As each song ended I couldn't wait for the next one to begin.
Ultimately the band only performed two cover songs, Shania Twain's Still the One reworked into a reggae infused soulful ballad , and the last song of the night, their own funky take on Hall and Oates Rich Girl.
Although never an overtly political band, in interviews after the album was released Rachel admitted that events since November 2016 did influence much of the new material.They opened the show with a new song titled "Baby Don't Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts" which focuses on the need for an emotional connection in a world gone crazy.
"An old man, an old man
has got his little hands on the button
feels like nothing anyone can do
people out there , cracking up cracking up
and I'm just trying to keep it together
notice that I feel better when I'm holding you"
They closed the first portion of the show with a song titled "Shame, Shame, Shame" another poke at the small handed occupant of The White House, prefacing the tune by announcing the presence of a group in the lobby of the theater who were there to register people to vote.
But mainly this show was all about the music, because that's what Lake Street Dive is, and as I write this now three days after the show, the music I witnessed that night is still resonating.The first encore, the title track from their 2014 album What I'm Doing Here, showcased everything that makes Rachel Price one of the most captivating singers I have ever seen. Accompanied by only soft piano, Rachel's remarkable voice echoed and resonated into every corner of the theater, crystal clear and note perfect, the emotional weight of the lyrics and her vocal making every nerve ending in my body tingle. At that moment it was clear that any discussion about the demise of current music was moot, it is alive and thriving and living in a dive on Lake Street.
Saturday, May 12, 2018
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