Lake Street Dive Curates Amourasaurus Festival in Florence, MA (FESTIVAL RECAP)

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Love is Not Extinct” was the motto of the day when the Amourasaurus festival made its debut August 30th at the beautiful Look Park in Florence, Massachusetts. Curated by the jazzy pop band, Lake Street Dive( who chose the name based on a fictional character they created) in conjunction with their record label, Signature Sounds Recordings, the sold out  Amourasaurus festival was as memorable as its mouthful of a name. Headliners Lake Street Dive were joined by Winterpills, And the Kids, Parsonsfield and rocker JD McPherson, (the one act on the lineup who does not record for Signature Sounds.)

The self- described chamber pop band Winterpills, who are celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, opened with a career spanning set that delighted those who had arrived early enough to catch them. The five- piece band is marked by the glorious harmonies of singer Philip Price and Flora Reed as well as the infectious melodies heard on songs like “Broken Arm” and “Rogue Highway.” Winterpills, who will re-release its self-titled debut on vinyl this fall, perfectly set the tone for a day of excellent music.

And the Kids are one of the newest acts on the Signature Sounds label and the music they play is as bright and sparkling as the glitter that adorned their faces. The trios set was fun, original and downright exciting at times.  Lead singer Hannah Mohan captivated the crowd with a voice that is capable of rising to a banshee wail and lyrics that often have a level of darkness underneath the surface sheen. While Rebecca Lasaponaro’s powerhouse drumming and Taliana Katz’s rock steady bass work kept the sound moving forward. Most of the material the trio played was off its debut, “Turn to Each Other,” and each song was a sonic revelation.

And the Kids and Winterpills both lent a indie vibe to the festival, but that was quickly erased once Parsonsfield took the stage.  This is a group who favor accordion, mandolin, banjo, standup bass and saw ( yes, a saw)  over an electric guitar any day. Parsonsfield’s set consisted of rowdy roots music played with a nod to the rock n’ roll these young guys grew up listening to. There was a lot of swapping off of instruments and sharing of vocals going on and at times the group would blend their voices together to create a loud, joyous noise. Parsonsfield’s foot stomping music sounded somewhat like a ragged version of the Avett Brothers and the crowd loved it.

Parsonsfield got everyone on their feet, but it was Oklahoma based JD McPherson, who had them dancing on the lawn from the moment he opened with a cover of a Billy Boy Arnold blues song, “I Wish You Would.”  McPherson and his excellent band play music that is rooted in the rock, blues and rockabilly of the 1950s while remaining firmly planted in the present. McPherson is a dynamic front man and ace guitarist whose vintage guitar sound  defines much of his music. McPherson’s band was lean and tight especially stand up bassist Jimmy Sutton, whose opening solo on the song “Bossy” won cheers from the crowd. Ray Jacildo’s tinkling piano provided a menacing edge to “You Must Have Met Little Caroline?” McPherson drew heavily from his new album, “Let the Good Times Roll,” but his high energy set also included favorites like the bouncy “Fire Bug” and “North Side Gal” from his 2010 release “Signs & Signifiers.”

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Darkness had crept in once it was time for Lake Street Dive to take the stage. Survivor’s “The Eye of the Tiger” blasted through the speakers, as the band members entered the stage one by one-drummer Mike Calabrese, followed by bassist Bridget Kearney, trumpet player/ guitarist Mike “McDuck” Olson and finally singer Rachel Price. The group launched into the upbeat “Rabid Animal” one of the many songs they performed off its breakthrough album, “Bad Self Portraits.”

Lead singer Rachael Price has a voice unmatched by few in the contemporary music world. Hers is a bold jazzy instrument that conveyed gut wrenching pain on the ballad “What I’m Doing Here,” was full of sass on “Wedding Band,” and rich and soulful on a reworked version of Annie Lenox’s “Walking on Broken Glass.” Price’s vocals may be the focal point of the group, but her band mates are accomplished musicians whose contributions can’t be ignored. Olson added some nice trumpet and guitar solos throughout the set, while Kearney’s slapping bass work and Calabrese driving beats and percussion proved equally essential to the mix.

This was Lake Street Dive’s party and you could tell by the constant grins hey were having a great time. The fact that it was Price’s 30th birthday, (an event that was acknowledged by the crowd), added to the festivities. The group had fun interjecting a bit of Van Halen’s “Jump” into “Bobby Tanqueray” and were also generous with the new material, playing a few songs including the poppy “Hell Yeah,” from an album slated to be released next year. The night ended with “You Go Down Smooth,” a fitting tune to conclude, with considering how smooth this debut event had gone. A birthday cake for Price and a cover of Hall and Oates’ “Rich Girl” were the finishing touches to a festival that was hopefully the first of many.

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