Since Buffalo’s Thursday night music club moved from Lafayette Square to Canalside in 2011, the evening has introduced plenty of nationally lauded bands to locals on site simply for the Adirondack chairs, free tunes and Blue Light. Whether Fitz and The Tantrums, Young the Giant or Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, bands that came in as relative strangers found the outdoor stage, dazzled, then hit the I-90 with thousands of new fans.
These are just a few past examples. Lake Street Dive is the latest example.
With a rapid fire succession of four-part harmonies, roadhouse soul and the incendiary lead vocals of Rachael Price, the Boston-born outfit reared back and put their stamp on Buffalo’s summer with a killer pre-weekend waterfront set.
Just like the rest of the previous bands referenced, Lake Street Dive didn’t arrive in Buffalo after forming last week. The Brooklyn-based quartet has been grinding it out in small bars and clubs since forming inside the New England Conservatory of Music in 2004. But after volleying between their varied education-based musical concentrations – whether roots, country, jazz or soul – it was their YouTube-distributed performance on a Brighton, Mass., sidewalk that broke them nationwide.
Harmonizing on a sassy, trumpet-backed version of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” not only gained them attention for their 2012 EP “Fun Machine.” It also caught the ear of uber-producer T. Bone Burnett, who booked the band for his “Inside Llewyn Davis” film promotion concert on Showtime. This not only revealed the cohesion of Mike Calabrese, Bridget Kearney, Mike Olson and Rachael Price to cable-subscribing denizens. It earned them a spot on “The Colbert Report,” accolades from Rolling Stone magazine, and a great chance to debut material off their newest album, “Bad Self Portraits.”
Thursday night, they unleashed these songs and more in a nearly two-hour show.
It didn’t take any longer than the opening tandem of “Stop Your Crying” and “What About Me” for Price to introduce herself to those unfamiliar with her stunning vocals and stage presence. Once at the microphone, she was part Tina Turner, part Adele, seducing the crowd with a swerve of her hips – then knocking all to their knees with her cooing howl. She was relentless, whether on the subtle confessional “Look At What Mistake” or blowing all away with the bluesy and scornful “Love Doctor.”
But Price’s voice alone doesn’t sway, flow or carry the night without the harmonies and cohesion of bandmates Calabrese, Kearney and Olson. Calabrese’s percussion guided Dive’s soul review vibe on “I Don’t Care” and “Rabid Animal.” Olson’s guitar and trumpet duties led the way on the two-sided “Bobby Tanqueray,” and Kearney’s scintillating stand-up bass solos highlighted tunes like the galloping “Henriette.”
Put it all together and you had a well-oiled pop-and-soul machine, one that danced their newest fans through the pre-encore bass strut of “Rabid Animal,” hand claps of “Seventeen” and snapping of “You Go Down Smooth.” Strangers to many at the start of the night, they finished with a flourish – which may make Adirondack chairs scarce on their next drive through town.
Before Lake Street, the Texas-bred Oh Hellos – led by brother-sister combo of Maggie and Tyler Heath, and a baker’s dozen of accompanying musicians on everything but the spoons – showed early arrivals why the band may soon have a much larger audience.
With an upcoming appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, the wild collective evoked comparisons to Head and the Heart and Of Monsters and Men with set of farmhouse stompers and percussion-led spiritual wailers.
Buffalo-based Uncle Ben’s Remedy also chipped in with a rockabilly-led set and an ambitious, amalgamated cover of Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf” and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”