Trumansburg, N.Y. — One singer. One drummer. One upright bassist. One guitarist/trumpeter. And a whole lot of beautiful, jazzy, soulful music.
The quartet Lake Street Dive rocked GrassRoots 2014 Friday night at the Infield stage, then came back for an encore and led an enormously popular sing-along rendition of “Rich Girl.”
The crowd loved it.
But where did LSD’s trippy sound come from? How was it birthed and grown and honed before exploding into gloriously full view before thousands of adoring fans in Trumansburg Friday night?
Let’s take a look.
Lake Street Dive is comprised of four musicians who met at the New England Conservatory of Music.
Its members — Bridget Kearney (upright bass), Michael Calabrese (drums), Rachael Price (vocals) and Mike Olson (guitar/trumpet) — were brought together by Olson nearly a decade ago. The band was named “after an actual neighborhood of seedy bars” in Olson’s hometown of Minneapolis, according to the band’s page.
Price, the singer, had already received some acclaim at the Montreux Jazz Festival’s International Jazz Vocal Competition and was the youngest competitor in the history of the Thelonious Monk Institute Vocal Competition, according to music blogger David Kanigan. Price also won the 2006 Independent Music Award for Best Gospel Song with My God, My Adores One.
The band’s members have described their music-making process as the product of their friendship as much as anything else.
“The first four years of rehearsals were more like glorified dinner parties,” Olson says on the band’s website.
A TV interview with the band also shed some light on how the group’s time together allowed it to develop a special sound. All four members are involved in writing the music.
“We made a playlist of the music we could listen to together in the long stretches between cities, and Paul Simon came up a lot, The Beatles came up a lot, Bob Dylan came up a lot,” Calabrese, the drummer, said in the interview.
“So we were like, ‘Let’s do that instead, maybe.’ ”
Kevin Bacon makes a difference
Sometimes a big hit or a big show can propel a band into the national spotlight. For Lake Street Dive, it took a Tweet from Kevin Bacon.
The band had recorded a cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” but it hadn’t generated much attention.
“We posted [the video] and it didn’t do anything for months,” Olson told Syracuse.com’s Chris Baker. “Then Kevin Bacon tweeted it. Then it picked up on Reddit. We didn’t see it as our ticket to stardom or anything.”
The video quickly picked up steam. It soon eclipsed one million views, then two million.
Major gigs followed. They played a concert with music from the Coen brothers’ movie Inside Llewyn Davis, which will play on a Showtime special, according to the band’s page.
The New Yorker’s editor-in-chief was at the event.
“I can’t imagine … that Lake Street Dive, a quartet led by an amazing young singer, Rachael Price, won’t be getting some air time soon,” David Remnick wrote.
Remnick was right.
‘Jazz? Oh, then why do I like your music?’
Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert enjoys needling his guests when they appear for interviews on his show, “The Colbert Report.”
And, as is often the case, that teasing combined with an kernel of truth when he had Lake Street Dive on his show in February 2014.
Colbert asked what Lake Street Dive had studied at the New England Conservatory of Music. Price, the vocalist, said that the band focused on jazz.
“Jazz? Oh, then why do I like your music?,” Colbert said.
Price laughed and responded in good humor.
“Well, we took other influences and put them into the music that we make,” Price said.
(She would elaborate in an interview with Rolling Stone: “We came out of the institutional jazz scene … so it was a mischievous and crazy thing to decide to play three-chord pop.”)
For all the fun with Colbert, the appearance also provided a serious boost to the band’s fame.
“The bump in attention after the appearance was immediate and significant,” Price told Iowa Public Radio.
‘The cusp of stardom’
Paul Krugman is a Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist who has penned major works on liquidity traps, currency crises and stock market trends.
So he certainly knows the value of an appreciating asset. Even when it comes to music.
“OK, I’m way behind the curve here — they’ve already been on Colbert and Letterman, and their upcoming concerts in New York are sold out (alas),” Krugman wrote on his Times blog this spring.
“But that’s no reason not to share 3 minutes and 51 seconds of happiness,” he wrote, linking to a video of an LSD performance.
Still, as Syracuse.com’s Baker notes, the band is yet to receive major airplay or record charting hits.
— Meredith DiMenna (@meredithdimenna) July 19, 2014
But with huge crowds coming out during its upstate New York tour — including in Buffalo, Syracuse, and, of course, Trumansburg — there’s certainly reason to be optimistic that it’s just beginning to reach its potential.
“Lake Street Dive find themselves on the cusp of stardom,” the band writes on its website, “though they insist they will always be the same people whose stage outfits once consisted of matching sweater vests.”