116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It's a homecoming in several respects for Bridget Kearney. The Iowa City native is returning for a sold-out show with Lake Street Dive at Hancher Auditorium on Tuesday night, Jan. 24, 2023.
The vocalist/bassist played the former Hancher building in seventh grade when her first band, Metro Pilot, won a contest in which then-U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Coop, appeared.
“It was for an event encouraging kids not to smoke, and our song was called ‘Live,’ which was inaccurately pronounced,” Kearney said. “It was a pretty good song for a bunch of seventh-graders.”
Kearney, now 37, remembers the lyrics to “Live.”
“When you’re young, you think nothing can take your life away/You think nothing can ever hurt you/ You are immortal/Then you find someday that's not the truth/ You find that nothing lasts forever/Don't find out the hard way.”
Metro Pilot is in the rear view and it’s been all about Lake Street Dive since Kearney and her classmates at the New England Conservatory of Music became friends and formed the group in 2004.
Lake Street Dive, which delivers soulful pop-rock with elements of jazz, folk and funk, played one of its first gigs outside of Boston in Iowa City in 2004.
“We flew into Iowa City and borrowed my parents’ minivan as our first touring vehicle,“ Kearney said while calling from Cabo San Lucas. ”Before we hit the road, we played in this ice cream store that doesn’t exist anymore, which was next to the public library. We were supposed to play somewhere else, but that wasn’t going to happen, and the ice cream shop said, ‘You can play here.’ So that was my first show with this band in my hometown.“
Lake Street Dive has a loyal fan base that enjoys its loose, eclectic music, often filled with socially conscious lyrics. Kearney said the band — which also includes Akie Bermiss on keyboards; Rachael Price on lead vocals, ukulele and guitar; Mike Calabrese on drums; and James Cornelison on guitar — owes much of its unique style to the New England Conservatory of Music.
“The fundamental building blocks were all learned (there),” Kearney said. “There was great emphasis on personal style. So much was about developing your own sound and being inventive with the way things are built (sonically).”
Kearney also credits the Iowa music scene for impacting her career.
“When I was growing up, I would see shows at Sanctuary and then there was the Jazz Festival and summer arts festivals,” she said.
Kearney chose the bass while she was in the fourth grade, since she could join the school band a year early if she played that instrument.
“I just thought I would go with the bass that year and switch instruments the next year,” she said. “But after I started playing bass and got to know it, I decided to stay with it. The cool thing is that if you’re a bass player, there’s always demand. There were points in which I was in 12 different bands.”
The West High alum, class of 2003, releases solo albums and jams with other bands, but her main focus is on Lake Street Dive, which is on its “Gather Around Sounds” tour.
“What we’re doing is playing around one microphone,” she said. “We’re playing acoustically. It’s a pared-down set up. We’ve done this in the middle of our shows. We love doing songs in that format. It’s a more intimate tour and we’ll play songs from our entire catalog.
“It’s going to be fun coming back home. I always look forward to it.”
Kearney returns to Iowa City to visit her parents three or four times a year, especially for holidays, but there’s nothing like performing in her hometown.
“It’s my favorite thing,” she said. “I’m back for Christmas and Thanksgiving and I love it, but I really enjoy coming back home and performing before familiar faces. My parents said that a lot of people I know we’ll be out.”
Kearney also will hit some of her favorite haunts.
“I always go to the Java House and the Natural History Museum,” she said. “Some of the coolest places are in Iowa City.”
That’s high praise, considering Kearney resides in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I love where I live in Crown Heights,” she said, “but I really enjoy Iowa City.”