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Lake Street Dive burns down The State Theater

“Welcome to our biggest show ever,” exclaimed Lake Street Dive lead vocalist and front-woman Rachael Price after the opening numbers of their sold-out performance at the historic State Theater in Portland, Maine.  Brooklyn darlings Lake Street Dive have a lot to be excited about these days. On the tail end of a grueling eight-week long national tour that took them from New York to Seattle and every place in between, the band has generated enough noteworthy buzz to earn recent appearances on both The Colbert Report and Late Night with David Letterman in promotion of their newest album Bad Self Portraits.

Formed in 2005 while at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Lake Street Dive take their name from a street in guitarist and trumpet player Mike “McDuck” Olson ‘s hometown of Minneapolis. The band consists of Olson, drummer Mike Calabrese, upright bassist Bridget Kearney and show-stopping singer Rachael Price. They’ve been playing together for nearly a decade and shortly after the commencement of their set at the State Theater it became abundantly clear that this band was no overnight phenomenon.

As if more proof was needed to illustrate Lake Street Dive’s meteoric rise to the mainstream, the penultimate show of the tour scheduled for Portland’s Port City Music Hall created enough demand to be moved up the block and across the street to the much more accommodating confines of the State Theater. The band rose to the occasion, sharing their infectious brand of danceable, jazz-infused pop tunes with an adoring audience for nearly two hours.

The packed-house show was filled with tight playing from the rhythm section of Calabrese and Kearney while Olson colored the band’s soulful tunes alternately with spot on guitar work and raucous trumpeting that drove a highly appreciative crowd in to a fervor on several occasions during the course of the evening.  The band also brought along Bad Self Portraits producer Sam Kassirer to lend a hand on the keyboards for a handful of songs.  Although there was nothing forgettable about the skillful and unlabored play of the band, it could be easily overlooked once Ms. Price began to sing.

Price’s background is in jazz and gospel and she excels in singing not only heartfelt ballads (The Neighbor Song), but also feisty, fiery barroom rhapsodies (fan favorites You Go Down Smooth and Seventeen).  Her powerful and passionate voice evokes the ghosts of jazz singers from generations past and from critics she draws comparisons to the likes of Etta James and Amy Winehouse.

On this Saturday night in Portland there was no need to make comparisons.  With striking talent and a bold presence that is rare in popular music as of late, the exceedingly attractive Ms. Price commanded the stage from the moment she stepped in front of the microphone.  The awestruck audience hung off each line she sang and erupted in loud applause with every sustained note.  Her band faithfully backed her through the lengthy set of music, taking only one extended pause so that she could snap a picture with her smartphone to document the crowd on hand (“I swear I’ve never done this before,” she explained).

By the end of the evening much of the crowd, comprised of equal parts mid-twenties hipsters, older couples, and excited groups of young girls, was exhausted, having been given ample opportunity to dance the night away during the course of the band’s stellar two hour performance.  Expect to see big things out of Rachael Price and Lake Street Dive in the future.  They came to Portland and made a loud, clear statement: They have arrived, and don’t expect them to be leaving the limelight any time soon.