The Valley’s cheeriest new festival doubles in size for its second year
The hip cats that comprise Lake Street Dive must be halfway through their nine lives by now. Since the four members met at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music in 2004, their sound has changed a lot, jumping gleefully from pop, folk, and jazz to Motown, rock, and country.
For years, they were passionate part-timers, playing live and recording with scraps of free time. Before they teamed up with Signature Sounds and released their self-titled album in 2011, it wasn’t clear that the group could commit to packing the tour bus for the long haul.
Now, Lake Street Dive plays hundreds of shows each year, and judging by the gigs lined up for the fall, this band — to borrow one of their lyrics — don’t need anybody else to row their boat. In September, they’ll rock the Gorge Amphitheatre for three days with Dave Matthews Band. In October, they play the Wang Center in Boston, then Radio City Music Hall in New York.
But first, they’re with us, here in the Valley. And they’re bringing their friends.
Amourasaurus II is a sequel, in some ways, to last summer’s inaugural festival, curated by Lake Street Dive and produced by Signature Sounds. That day of music at the Pines Theatre in Look Park featured Lake Street Dive plus four acts (Winterpills, And The Kids, Parsonsfield, and JD McPherson). Amourasaurus II is, fittingly, a two-day affair, with an expanded lineup of nine acts from here, nearby, and elsewhere.
“Last year was such a success, we knew we had to expand it,” says Emily Lichter, Lake Street Dive’s manager. “That gave us a wider range of musical acts to pick from.”
“It’s very exciting for us, curating a diverse line-up of bands that we’re super into,” says the band’s lead singer Rachael Price. “We were more hands-on with choosing the bands this year.”
As the festival’s host band, Lake Street Dive assembles a wish list of performers, then works with Signature Sounds to try to make those wishes come true. “The list started with heroes of ours,” she says. “People we were just dreaming of being able to play with.”
Case in point: Mavis Staples, the iconic R&B and gospel singer. Staples, now 77, will perform Saturday night. “She has an inspirational spirit,” Price says of Staples. “Anyone who comes in contact with her is left in awe of the energy she has. And she’s been at it for so long … She’s an example of how to do all of it right.”
In 2014, Lake Street Dive found themselves onstage with Staples at the Newport Folk Festival. In truth, all of the acts playing Amourasaurus this year are connected in some way. Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band, an act Lake Street Dive used to open for, is a natural fit for Amourasaurus. Some performers — like Erin McKeown, Look Park, and The Suitcase Junket, have well-established local followings. Others come from further afield: Son Little is from Philadelphia, Christina Courtin makes her music in Brooklyn, and Thao and the Get Down Stay Down hails from San Francisco.
“Concerts can feel like a treadmill sometimes, particularly in these days of LiveNation and House of Blues,” says Jim Olsen, president of Signature Sounds. “We’re more about creating events with a more thoughtful presentation to them.”
Olsen caught Lake Street Dive at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls back in 2009, before they had fully cohered into a professional band, and got them on board the Northampton-based label as soon as he could. “Their talent is just so unbelievable,” he says.
After several years on, the band moved to Warner Brothers and Nonesuch Records, which released its new album, Side Pony. Signature Sounds became the group’s local concert promoter, producing recent shows at the Green River Festival, the Parlor Room, and the Academy of Music. As Lake Street Dive’s popularity grows, so have the venues. “We realized,” Olsen says, “that we could always produce another concert with them, but it would be cool to do something more than that. Something more like a collaboration.”
“I always feel like they’re one radio hit away,” he adds. “If their career trajectory keeps up, they might outgrow this.”
Perhaps, but not yet. The whole idea of Amourasaurus — a made-up word that seems to describe the scale of the band’s love of good vibes — is to stay connected to the Valley. At the beautiful, naturally woodsy Pines amphitheatre in Look Park, that feeling of communion comes easily.
“It’s just a really different energy,” says Price, “when we’re all out under the stars in the summer.”
Contact Hunter Styles at [email protected].