It can be a very satisfying experience to catch a live music act like Lake Street Dive in the OLG After Dark series tent at the Ottawa Jazzfest, and this night blew way past any expectation or anticipation held from checking the band out on Youtube, or even listening to their tracks on services like Rdio in advance.
Simply filling up a tent to near capacity might seem like a success, but numbers aren't necessarily important for repeat customers. By the end of the show, everyone was interacting with the band and experiencing the same effects of an incredibly well-practiced line-up of talent performing before their eyes. This was evident in the dancing, bouncing, beat clapping in-concert as directed by the sultry vocal lead Rachael Price. Of course at the bitter end, when she offered her thanks to the energetic crowd and promised to return, everyone pleaded to make it happen, with a few ready to throw in the money to book the show.
If you have a listen to some of their motown influenced, soul-driven tunes without ever seeing them, you might just think the band would have a set of backup singers, a horn player and one of those drum assistants that cover things like tamourine and cowbell. Seeing them live, you'll quickly find out that every musician is multi-talented and all of the vocal backups are all done by the supporting drummer (Mike Calabrese) and acoustic double-basser (Bridget Kearney). These aren't simple harmonies, and you'd expect some backup singers with choreographed moves at this level, they were a bit busy being the band and are also the kind that separate simple four-piece bands and superhero style talented musicians.
Early in the set, it appeared like a few people knew of the band well while the majority were there to discover. When the band attempted to get some crowd clapping going, it didn't pay off right away, but a few songs later, they had everyone at their beckoned call for interaction. There may have been some sing-a-long action too, but seeing alot of live music at Jazzfest in the span of a week starts to play mind-tricks ;)
Price had most people melting with her incredibly sexy voice and style, and basically fixated on her while she moved to the music around the stage. One guy compared her to Scarlet Johanssson (probably without ever hearing SJ sing and was actually just referring to a similarity in complexion). This kind of scientifict data was collected under strictly controlled conditions obviously.
If the guitarist, Mike "McDuck" Olson, were a super hero, his super power wouldn't be playing guitar, then trumpet, then guitar again, but keeping his sk8tr dude cap on perfectly adjusted to the right without it EVER MOVING ONCE. He may have had on of those food stylists in beforehand to keep it in place, much like they do when they pin burger toppings to the meat for a mouth-watering photoshoot.
He had some well placed tasteful licks, while not really needing to be a fancy-pants speed demon. He stayed between the lines expected and needed by the tunes. Calabrese's drumming and vocals were really impressive due to his perfection. His super power would be the ability to continue playing the drums with one arm and his feet, while beating the tambourine with this other hand to his chest, WHILE singing. Maybe that's not a super power yet, but it came to be quite handy.
Kearney's Bass and vocals squared off the quartet, and she was equally impressive. A double-bass can seem gimicky to some, but they are usually matched up with a musician that can make them sing, which she did figuratively and literally. While the sound of the bass had those tonal qualities of the acoustic, it was rightfully heavy for the soul induced grooves that got people dancing.
It was nearly a two-hour show since they provided an encore until about 12:20 am which included their slowed-up rendition of "I Want You Back". That song has a very identifyable and hook-important bass line and Kearney pulled it off really nicely for this. Since this was the end, it will hopefully go down as the epic first show that Lake Street Dive performed in Ottawa. It might be lip service to promise to be back, and how great the crowd was, but they will certainly have a guaranteed 200 of everyone there, plus all of their friends, show up at their next Ottawa gig.