8/23/19. San Diego Civic Theatre.

Lake Street Dive brought their folksy soul to San Diego Civic Theatre on August 23rd. Following the release of their sixth studio album and an additional EP in 2018, the group set out to support The Avett Brothers on the road across July and August. The five members took the stage one by one, framing lead vocalist Rachael Price in center stage. The drum face, adorned with the latest album title, “Free Yourself Up”, served as an apt motif for the performance and the group itself.

The group opened with “Neighbor Song”, quickly introducing the characteristic Lake Street Dive essence: powerhouse lead vocal, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and jammy instrumental. This powerhouse is Price. She sings “I can hear the neighbors making love upstairs” and, through the lyrics, reflected on her own existence in relation to the fictional lovers. Her voice rang out across three tiers, from the orchestra to Row Z of the upper balcony, owning the theatre space utilized most frequently for touring Broadway shows.

In some regards, the Lake Street Dive act channeled this theatrical quality, equipped with a versatile lightshow, cheeky lyrics, and not much room for natural dialogue. That said, the group exhibited an organic comradery. They gathered in the center of the stage for several songs, covering “Everyday People” by Sly & the Family Stone, and laughing together through transitions. Towards the second half of the performance, Price announced her group members, passing over the spotlight for each performer’s solo. The dynamic talent of each musician was evident. Mike “McDuck” Olson traded his guitar out for a trumpet part-way through the act, while Bridget Kearney kept a grounding (standup) bass line and Mike Calabrese contributed a range of percussion to the work. Newest member Akie Bermiss fit right into the crew, adding a welcome set of backing vocals and keyboard to the mix. As they trickled into the theater throughout the performance, audience members found the groove: they headbopped, swayed, and, in fact, freed themselves up to the tune of Lake Street Dive.

The group has recently found a slightly political undertone in their work. Songs like Baby Don’t Leave Me Alone and Shame Shame Shame allude to the current state of affairs, citing a certain “old man” with “tiny hands on the button”, all of course, in a quintessential classy Lake Street Dive manner. These political leanings have translated to the group’s interactions with their fans and their environment. They’ve announced a commitment to carbon offset, as detailed here, and encourage concertgoers to carpool, metro, and/or walk when possible. Free Yourself Up and EP release Freak Yourself Out are both calls to action of sorts, pushing listeners to reflect and act upon their own state of being.

Although the Avett Brothers put on an undoubtedly fantastic performance, Lake Street Dive stole the show. Their musical prowess, extensive discography, and charming song selection are a testament to their ability to capture the crowd. Look out and look forward to their return to Southern California as a headliner act.