by Steven Pisano
The summer season of mostly free concerts in Prospect Park as part of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival got off to a sometimes silky-smooth, sometimes rollicking start with the jazzy, poppy, retro-soul band, Lake Street Dive.
Originally formed as a band in Boston and now based in Brooklyn, Lake Street Dive spins out song after song so impeccably played and sung, it's like watching the flawless execution of a top-flight Major League Baseball team on a winning streak. They just do everything right. But sometimes that perfection can come off as a little tame. I am twice their age, and yet at times felt as if I was listening to performers from an earlier generation, the way I remember as a kid watching Perry Como on the Kraft Music Hall, or the King Family Show on the tiny black-and-white TV in my Italian grandmother's living room.
My college-aged daughter was with me, and she sort of agreed, having seen the group kill it previously at a smaller venue. But their friendly warmth just seemed to dissipate in the slightly chilly air of Prospect Park. It's funny how some performers revel in an open-air setting, and others just get swallowed up by the outdoors.
That said, I could feel the warmth when I was in the photo pit taking pictures. Up close, these bandmates are having a fun time up on stage, even after having played for more than a decade together. Rachael Price, whose extraordinarily muscular voice is at the core of the group, is just mesmerizing to watch. Even though the band regularly plays over 100 gigs each year on the road, she inhabits each song as if she were singing it for the very first time. She was backed up by Mike Calabrese on drums, Mike Olson on guitar and trumpet, and notably by Bridget Kearney on upright bass, who on more than one occasion reeled off a brilliant solo that left the audience spellbound.
Lake Street Dive was a perfect choice to start the summer season. The audience was a diverse mix of suits and cocktail dresses (BRIC was holding its annual gala in a huge white tent next to the stage), 20- and 30-something couples in Birkenstocks with a baby on their backs, silver-haired ex-hippies (the men with ponytails behind their bald spots, the women still wearing flowery prints and beads), and college-aged kids who have found a place for the band in their hearts (WFUV broadcast the concert live on the radio.) I even heard a few professional music people talking in clusters. So, there was a strong multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and multi-gender appeal that ensured an enjoyable, if a little safe, musical experience for all.
Check out the remaining Celebrate Brooklyn schedule here. Whether its folk, blues, world music or indie pop, there is literally something for everyone!
More photos can be found here.