IF YOU GO
* What: Nightfall concert series featuring Lake Street Dive.
* When: Friday, June 28, Lake Street headlines at 8 p.m.; Ten Bartram opens at 7.
* Where: Miller Plaza, corner of M.L. King Blvd., Market and Cherry streets.
* Admission: Free.
* Phone: 423-265-0771.
* Website: www.nightfallchattanooga.com.
* Related links at chattanooganow.com.
2007: "In This Episode ..."
2008: "Promises Promises"
2010: "Lake Street Dive"
2012: "Fun Machine"
When Lake Street Dive came into existence nine years ago, its lineup of upright bass, vocals, drums and trumpet looked something like a musical platypus -- all spare parts mysteriously mashed together. Even more baffling, the quartet of jazz students from Boston's New England Conservatory of music were attempting the inexplicable task of playing sawdust country.
The problem -- one of several, as they eventually realized -- was that none of them actually knew how to play country or even enjoyed the genre.
"I'm not sure why we thought that [country] was a good idea at all," says bassist Bridget Kearney, laughing.
What they did enjoy, Kearney says, was vintage rock, soul and R&B, which they enthusiastically began tackling, resulting in tight compositions that exude upbeat pop zest and plaintive soul.
Although the music doesn't swing the way their jazz backgrounds might suggest it would, it is tightly composed with tongue-and-groove arrangements that reflect their classic education.
Named for one of the main drags in guitarist/trumpet player Mike "McDuck" Olson's hometown of Minneapolis, Lake Street Dive started off playing only a handful of dates a year. Since then, it has grown slowly, rather than rushing recklessly into an expanded schedule, Kearney says.
"We're sort of taking the tortoise approach to being a band, slow and steady," she says. "We definitely wouldn't have been ready to play as many shows seven years ago just because we didn't know what kind of band we were yet.
"Now, we've got all that stuff out of the way, and we're ready to be out there playing for people."
Friday night, June 28, Lake Street Dive will make its Chattanooga debut as this week's Nightfall headliner as part of a national tour that will keep the band on the road through mid-September.
Lake Street's lineup has remained rock solid since the beginning, an all-too-rare claim in the music world. The key to that consistency and the band's ability to perform dozens of back-to-back dates with the same amount of enthusiasm is the unpredictable nature of its shows, Kearney says.
Thanks to the musicians' collective familiarity with improvisation, each night is completely different, she explains.
"Just from night to night, that's one of the exciting things about our live show," Kearney says. "It's always going to be different.
"There's no going on autopilot. You have to be right there, in the moment. That's super exciting and fun for us and hopefully for the audience, too."
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...