In full disclosure: first concert in 537 days (seriously), so every aspect was enthralling, right down to the bleep of the ticket scanner. What a way to come back: watching Lake Street Dive bust out their richly-layered joyous grooves before a sold-out SummerStage in NYC’s Central Park. It’s a strange feeling right now, to be in a crowd, even a clearly responsible one who’s had their vax cards reviewed at the gate. Some post-lockdown folks seemed to ponder for a split second: why are we all standing outside sweating? Carefully toggling our masks on and off between sips of expensive liquid? Reshuffling in a slide puzzle attempt at sold-out social distancing? Oh yeah, that’s right! Because once the bands get going and the people around you start gasping and cheering over the same musical highs, you remember: this is that feeling I missed so badly. And each minor CDC-respectin’ adjustment becomes easy and forgettable as the skillful musicians bare their souls – live! In the present and in your presence.
Tuesday night began with its own ethereal sixties-esque film soundtrack thanks to the peaceful music of Allison Russell. Creating an introspective atmosphere and calming the crowd before Lake Street Dive, the talented singer worked magic over lovely harmonized backup vocals. The vibe of her multi-instrumental music twisted and turned like a gentle river: shifting from bucolic and comforting to worldly and psychedelic. Russell performed songs from her latest album, Outside Child, and also wove spoken word poetry into the rich tapestry of her sound.
As beams of light carved the smoke machine haze and painted the sky, Lake Street Dive – the seasoned multi-genre band formed in ‘04 at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston – connected right away by personalizing the set for New York. In opener “Bad Self Portraits,” lead singer Rachael Price added the line, “It’s like we’ve been together, New York,” and went on to intone warmly, “It’s good to be home,” at the end. Her jazzy blues-steeped voice was like a soulful siren’s call at Central Park, coaxing out screams and smiles that were perceptible beneath masks. Kickass solos and flourishes by keyboardist Akie Bermiss danced with Mike Calabrese’s polished drumming and Bridget Kearney’s radness on both standup and electric bass. Lake Street Dive also introduced their new guitarist, James Cornelison, who added even more funk to their mod, eclectic sound.
“New York! We made it! We’re here! We’re all together! Wow,” Price noted excitedly. “I’ve just been looking forward to this so much. I wasn’t even sure if it was going to happen. I want to thank everybody for making sure that we put this event on safely, and for all of you all. We’re at the beginning of touring again. We’re kind of getting used to this live thing again and I’m pretty nervous. Feels good.” LSD’s thirteen-song set bounced around four of their albums and concluded with a cover of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.” Coming across like old classics, songs from their new record, Obviously – like “Hush Money,” “Hypotheticals,” and “Making Do” (a sweet run early on) – clearly impressed the audience, who swayed in time happily and applauded with fervor. Rachael Price also used the stage time wisely between jams, sharing a personal part of her lockdown experience that taught her to be more fearless.
“In the year and change that I had a lot of free time that I wasn’t expecting, I found that sometimes, when you just sit in your apartment all day, mistakes that you’ve made sort of come to your brain. And you go, ‘Oh, I wish I wouldn’t have done that.’ You have so much more free time for your brain to ruminate over those things,” said Price. “So I kind of had to change the relationship I’ve had to remembering these mistakes that I was making. And with music, you have to learn to play through the mistakes. You know, we’re a little rusty, since we weren’t playing for a while. So, we’re making some mistakes, but we’ve gotta play through them. We do that because you have to teach yourself not to fear making those mistakes. You just make it and say, ‘Okay that’s not a big deal.’ Sometimes in life, you have to make a mistake sort of knowing that it’s going to happen and everything’s going to be okay. And afterward, you’re going to learn something from it. And that’s what life is all about.”
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley