The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


September 1, 2013

Lake Street Dive bringing sounds of pop soul to Johnstown venue



An unexpected combination of music makes this group a world of fun.

Lake Street Dive will perform for the Summer Concert Series at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at Peoples Natural Gas Park, 90 Johns St. in downtown Johnstown.

The band of classically trained jazz musicians has been described as infectious and naturally exhilarating.

After forming the group in 2004 while students at New England Conservatory in Boston, band members consider themselves full-time musicians since last September.

“We all studied jazz,” said drummer Mike Calabrese.

“Then we started playing music together and have had the same lineup. We were scattered at the beginning, but now we’re out on the road for a couple weeks at a time. We’re back on the road now until November.”

Other band members are Bridget Kearney on upright bass, Rachael Price on vocals and Mike “McDuck” Olson on trumpet and guitar.

After recombining jazz schooling, a love for classic pop and everyone’s collective experiences, the resulting music is a largely acoustic, groove-driven strain of indie-pop.

“We’re a pop soul band with some rhythm and blues,” Calabrese said.

“We’re fans of the ’60s British invasion and the rhythm and blues of that era. We do mostly original music and some covers.”

Those covers include “I Want You Back” by the Jackson Five, “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates, “Let Me Roll It” by Paul McCartney and “Faith” by George Michael.

“We try our best to bring our own sound into the covers,” Calabrese said.

“We do ‘I Want You Back’ slower, so it’s reconcepted as a ballad.”

The group’s two CDs are “Lake Street Dive” and “Fun Machine.”

A live album is available for download only from the band’s website at

When they came to New England Conservatory, band members were from all over the country, with Price from Tennessee, Kearney of Iowa, Olson of Minneapolis and Calabrese from Philadelphia.

They are now based on the East Coast, with Olson in Boston and Price, Kearney and Calabrese in Brooklyn.

The four intended to play country music in an improvised, avant-garde style, but the combination, they said, ended up sounding terrible.

Now, they’re known for their joyful live shows of pure pop fun.

By incorporating the unlikely elements of upright bass and jazz-inflected trumpet along with more traditional rock staples of drum set and electric guitar, the band is equally at home in a jazz club or a festival stage.

The group’s personal strain of pop is refracted through the band members’ rich backgrounds – Kearney’s sinewy Motown bass line; Calabrese’s drumming mixing timekeeping with more adventurous jazz outbursts; Olson’s nimble trumpet; and Price’s virtuoso vocals.

It all blends together to make a sound with familiar roots, but with a slant that is entirely their own.

“We’re having a good time,” Calabrese said.

“We love playing to a crowd where they can stand up and dance. We suggest bringing comfortable shoes. At festivals in the summer, everyone is ready for a good time. We’re excited to come to Johnstown. We enjoy coming to a new place.”

Opening acts will be from Johnstown and Pittsburgh.

Johnstown favorites Southside Strays are so much fun to listen to because of their knack for morphing from one song to another without missing a beat.

The Strays can make unwieldy shifts from The Beatles to Pink Floyd or from the Grateful Dead to Lou Reed.

“We’re unsure where some of our music is going to take us,” said Ernie Petersen, the Strays founder and rhythm guitarist.

All band members agree that these over-the-top musical transitions are a real crowd-pleaser and a real blast for seasoned musicians who make up the band.

The four-piece Pittsburgh band, Neighbours, plays rock with influences of Motown soul, the Beach Boys, Elvis Costello and The Jam.

The rock tunes on the band’s debut CD, “Prime Numbers,”  range from soulful to sweet.

Neighbours can stay reined in for a soft love song or let it all hang out for a jam-style anthem.

They write catchy new tunes reflecting the elements of classic rock while avoiding replicating the past.

The band played its first show in July 2010 and became the go-to band for area venues.

Ruth Rice covers features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at

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