Live Review

Gender Neutral? Yes. Party Music? Hell Yeah! Lake Street Dive Plays Asheville, NC

Lake Street Dive on June 3, 2016

Singer Rachael Price (center) with guitarist Mike Olson and bassist Bridget Kearney. Not pictured: drummer Mike Calabrese.

With its retro-soul and R&B sound, Lake Street Dive has built up an impressive collection of original music, including the break-out success of its new album Side Pony.

But it's the group's selection of cover songs which gets much of the attention.

Friday night June 3 in Asheville, N.C., Lake Street Dive rocked a sold-out Pisgah Brewery. After a high-energy start with originals like Godawful Things, Hell Yeah and Spectacular Failure, singer Rachael Price introduced their first cover song with a nod to equality and tolerance. The opening chords of the Kinks' Lola rang out and the crowd roared. Clearly, Asheville is an island of progressivism in this conservative state, and with the green mountains, tye-dye shirts, craft beers and food trucks, this could have been NC --  northern California.

Price's introduction was brief, but it was the words of the classic Kinks song which rang through the crowd. And it was hard to miss the ink-jet printed sign taped on the door of each porta-potty: "Gender Neutral Restrooms" in rainbow-colored type.

But then? The party continued, with Price belting out a string of group's own hits, including Olson's paean to the gin-and-tonic, You Go Down Smooth. Other highlights included a drum solo from Calabrese, a touching tribute to Prince with So Long, and the Side Pony hit, Call off Your Dogs.

The band had started promptly at 9 p.m., and with a mandatory noise-ordinance curfew of 11 pm, it seemed the concert was ending prematurely around 10:30 pm. But there was time enough for two encore songs. First a quiet, nearly-acapella rendition of What I'm Doing Here as they gathered around a single microphone with stunning 4-part harmony.

But it was back to a cover for the last song. The band's first breakthrough was a video of the group singing the Jackson 5 song I Want You Back on a Boston sidewalk. The group also has a fun tradition of releasing a cover song & video each Halloween.  In this spirit, they finished the concert with a rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," that was fun and note-perfect -- with Olson's trumpet mimicking a guitar solo. It's clear the group has an affinity for the 1970s, and their choice of Freddie Mercury's gender-bending masterpiece was a perfect ending to the evening.