Lake Street Dive, from Brooklyn, took the stage at Pisgah Brewing Co. on Friday. Local indie-folk collective Holy Ghost tent Revival had already done a fine job warming up the at-capacity crowd (it’s worth noting that $2 from each ticket was donated to LEAF Community Arts, netting the organization about $6,000), and Lake Street Dive appeared to enthusiastic cheers. The band immediately launched into “Godawful Things” from its new album, Side Pony.
That first song — with front woman Rachel Price’s voice all molasses thick and equal parts sweetness and ferocity — set the tone. Lake Street Drive was impeccably rehearsed and moved seamlessly from ’60s pop to soul to indie-rock to ’80s alt-pop. The musicians synthesize all of those influences into their own sound. “I Don’t Care About You,” sultry and gritty, let Price’s voice unfurl while her band mates filled in on background vocals. Mike “McDuck” Olson’s turquoise semi-hollow body guitar gave a huge tone and, for just four people on stage, they managed to sound like a much larger band.
Introducing the title track from Lake Street Dive’s new album (performed with a giant blowup pony onstage), Price said a side pony is not just a hairstyle, “It’s anything you do that’s weird and unique to you and supercool.” That’s a theme — this is a band that flew under the radar for years before becoming YouTube sensations. Now the musicians are in demand, they way they should have been for quite some time. But they perform with absolute joy, their passion contagious.
Price led the crowd into a singalong on “Clear a Space.” That song, with its rhythm section opening, showcases what an astonishing performer upright bassist Bridget Kearney is. Dynamic and melodic, she plays the acoustic standup bass like its an electric bass. Kearney also penned “Better Than,” a smooth and slowed-down number with a kind of heart-beat thump and plenty of gloss. That song started with McDuck on trumpet — a crowd pleaser.
Drummer Mike Calabrese plays with a kind of electric tension, his arms flying and feet dancing. But even as he powers the songs, there’s a lightness to his performance — a deftness of mood and technique. And really, each song kind of lives in that space of being fully realized yet not taking itself too seriously. “Hell Yeah” was a fan favorite (how could it not be?) and, set to streaks of red and yellow lighting while the dusk sky glowed deep teal, it fit the spirit of the evening.
The band also made a statement about House Bill 2 by covering The Kink’s “Lola” and saying that “everyone has the right to be who they are. They should love who they want to love. They should celebrate and live freely.” It was the perfect night for reveling in exactly that sentiment, and Lake Street Drive provided a stellar soundtrack in which to revel.