Lake Street Dive

by Jane Spietz

7 PM May 27 Turner Hall,
Milwaukee with The Congress
6 PM July 16 at
Waterfest, Oshkosh with Cory Chisel’s Soul Obscura and special guests Sly Joe and The Smooth Operators
$10 before 6 PM, $15 before 7 PM, $20 after 7 PM
Vets and kids under 12 are FREE
Info: Perform

concertwatchWatch out for the up and coming Lake Street Dive (LSD). This super talented indie pop-soul quartet is well on its way to great things. Members Rachael Price (lead vocals/ukulele/guitar), Mike “McDuck” Olson (trumpet/guitar player/vocals), Bridget Kearney (standup bass/vocals) and Mike Calabrese (drums/vocals) met in 2004 and begin performing together while they were students at the New England Conservatory of Music. Olson says the name of the band originates from the abundance of dive bars located in a neighborhood in his Minnesota hometown. The band submitted a recording of a tune penned by Kearney to the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in 2005 and she won in the Jazz Category. LSD used the winnings to record their debut CD, in this episode, in 2006.

LSD’s big break came in 2012 after the four gathered around a single microphone on a Boston street corner and performed an inspiring cover of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back.” It was posted on YouTube and went viral after Kevin Bacon tweeted it. In December 2013, iconic producer T Bone Burnett requested LSD to contribute musically to the performance of Another Day, Another Time show, featuring music from and inspired by the Coen Brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis.

Although their original common denominator was jazz, LSD’s music now additionally blends in influences of the British Invasion and soul, pop, and folk. The beautiful simplicity of their mostly acoustic instrumentation further highlights their exceptional talent. All four perform vocally and take turns with songwriting. They are huge fans of the Beatles. Their 2012 EP, “Fun Machine,” contains great covers of McCartney & Wings’ “Let Me Roll It,” Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl,” George Michael’s “Faith” and The Drifters’ “This Magic Moment.” The band has also put together fun Halloween tributes to the B-52s, the Mamas & the Papas, Fleetwood Mac, the Starland Vocal Band and ABBA. As a personal disclosure, I am a huge ABBA fan and thought that LSD did a great rendition of “Take a Chance on Me” in 2010! The title song of their new album, Bad Self Portrait, was written by Kearney and takes a jab at selfies with references to loneliness and regret.

As lead vocalist and the focal point for the group, Rachael Price’s amazing voice is strong yet smooth, exuding hints of Bonnie Raitt and Amy Winehouse. Price belts out songs with natural enthusiasm and fullness, wrapping effortlessly around each note. Members of LSD exhibit an easy kind of comfortableness with each other but don’t let that fool you. They are tightly knit and totally on target with their exquisite four part vocal harmonies and instrumentation. LSD has been performing across the U.S. and Europe and sold out concerts are common these days. A performance with Grace Potter & the Nocturnals at Red Rocks is well worth watching on YouTube. They recently completed a tour to Australia and New Zealand. The band has been receiving critical acclaim. In 2014, LSD was named one of this year’s “artists to know” at Bonnaroo and Rolling Stone called LSD “this year’s best new band.” Do not miss an opportunity to see LSD in concert – you won’t be disappointed.

I connected with Mike “Mc Duck” Olson not long ago to learn more about LSD.

Jane Spietz: How did the Australia/New Zealand tour go?

Mike “Mc Duck” Olson: Fantastic. Great crowds, lovely festivals, and marsupials. What more can a band ask for on their first time to a new hemisphere?

JS: How did the four of you get together and start up Lake Street Dive?

McD: That’s my doing. I wanted to play in a band, like a real band, not just jam with random, different people all the time. I had a few startups going, but LSD was the one that stuck. Which is was cool, cuz it was the only one that had a singer, and none of us were really writing a lot of original music with lyrics, so this really forced us to expand, and quickly.

JS: How would you describe Lake Street Dive’s musical style?

McD: We like to say we live at the intersection of the British Invasion and Soul music. We’re massive fans of both styles, and can’t help but have those things shine through in our writing and playing styles.

JS: Talk about Lake Street Dive’s love of the Beatles and their influence on the band’s music.

McD: Well, in our humble opinion, the Beatles are the best rock/pop band of all time. They were great musicians, great writers, great arrangers, and in the relatively short time they were around, they changed their sound more ways than you can count, but it always sounded like the Beatles. I think we are chasing their legacy (isn’t everyone?) in that we don’t want to be hampered by one sound, and hope that we can retain a band personality even if we are writing and playing in ways we haven’t even imagined yet.

JS: A tweet by Kevin Bacon helped your YouTube cover of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” go viral in 2012! Share the story about that experience.

McD: Talk about surreality. When it happened, my first reaction was “wait, is Kevin Bacon a real person?” It’s so easy to think that nothing you ever do will ever have an impact on the life of someone like him. It’s like we live on two different planets. But getting access to his followers and fans was a major windfall for us, and it came at the same time as a few other big things, like getting shared on a few big blogs, like Wimp and World Star Hip Hop, of all things. I don’t know if we’ll ever understand how things like this happen, but the stars really aligned for us two years ago, and we’ve been grateful of it ever since.

JS: Talk about the experience of playing Bonnaroo for the first time last year.

McD: Well, it was hands down the biggest thing we’ve ever been involved in. It was pretty amazing, walking around and experiencing what is, essentially, a mid-sized city devoted exclusively to the consumption of music. Talk about a community. But we had an excellent time, interacting not only with the fans, but with the other bands and musicians and festival organizers. Also, Elton John. Hello? Amazing. We hope to go back again!

JS: What can your fans expect when you play at Turner Hall in Milwaukee on May 27?

McD: We’re trying to mix up the show a little bit this year, because we’ve played every major market in the country at least once in the last year two years, and we want our fans to be excited each and every time we come back! We are also working on a new record, so you’ll for sure hear a few new songs, but we don’t want to give the whole thing away, so we’ll probably be reaching further back into our catalog and playing so old favorites, maybe some new covers…who knows! We’re brainstorming ways to make it fun and fresh but still the same old LSD.

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