Lake Street Dive appeals to folks of all backgrounds, except for a certain 72-year-old with tiny hands.
Filing into the Wang Theater in Boston for Lake Street Dive’s concert was like entering a kind of multigenerational party. Most bands seem to have a specific target demographic that comes to their shows—screaming preteen girls, tattooed 20-somethings, or well-dressed older folks—but rarely do you see all three represented at one show. Admittedly, I was probably the closest thing to a screaming teenage girl there, but as the theater filled to the smooth soul jams of opener Jalen N’Gonda, I noticed a diversity of ages and types of concertgoers that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. A middle-aged man took a hit from a Juul while waiting outside the theater, and inside youngish men in cargo pants hollered their affection for lead singer Rachel Price as the band walked onstage.
It’s hard to say what it is about Lake Street Dive’s music that attracts so many different people, but something about their mixture of classic jazz instruments like an upright bass and their upbeat songwriting, along with the undeniably gorgeous croon of Price’s alto, can captivate almost anyone. They’re fun enough for the younger crowd, but not too offensive for older folks.
But their wide appeal doesn’t mean the band doesn’t have anything to say. With the releases of their two most recent albums, Side Pony and Free Yourself Up, Lake Street Dive has slipped some subtle political messaging into their songwriting that came through loud and clear at their concert. 2016’s “Call Off Your Dogs” sounds at first like an apologetic breakup song, but the lines “What’s with the wall?/If we’re strong we can win it” hint at the band’s dissatisfaction with the politics of the time. On this year’s album, the political themes continue in “Baby Don’t Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts,” another ostensible love song with a political slant, and “Shame, Shame, Shame.” Before playing the latter song, Price described it as an ode to the frustration that comes with feeling like you can’t change the world around you. She didn’t name names, but the song’s lyrics spoke for themselves as red, white, and blue lights flashed to the beat: “Little hands hold the gavel” and the challenge “I bet you think you’re a big man now/But you don’t know how to be a good man too” are not-so-subtly aimed at our president.
As much as the band seems to love throwing lyrical shade at Trump, their overall message is an uplifting one. Price posited music as a possible cure to what ails our world, and the end of “Shame, Shame, Shame” truly felt unifying as the whole audience sang along to the refrain: “Change is coming, oh yeah/Ain’t no holding it back.” As the song ended, several generations came together to hope for a brighter future. Maybe that’s why so many different people love Lake Street Dive. The trumpet solos don’t hurt, either.