The depth of the stage in a typical rock ’n’ roll club is probably no more than 12 feet. But when you move from the back to the front, that distance can seem like miles.
Bridget Kearney, the bass player in Lake Street Dive, sets up near the rear when the band prepares for a show, although its recent success has pushed the quartet into larger venues with bigger stages. In the meantime, Kearney has moved front and center to lead her own band as she tours behind “Won’t Let You Down,” her first solo record.
“It’s really exciting,” says Kearney about becoming the focal point of the group, which visits the Southgate House Revival Saturday night. “I’ve done several solo shows, just me playing a guitar, but this is a new venture. I’m fortunate to have a great band of people that I have worked with in different capacities that I can trust and lean on.
“But I have some increased anxiety when I’m leading the show. For one thing, I’m singing lead and playing guitar, which is an instrument that I’m not as familiar with as the bass … so musically that’s more of a challenge. Also, I’m now responsible for the flow of the show, like talking to the audience. That is a big job that I’m lucky not to have every night in Lake Street Dive.”
Kearney might suffer from fear of the unknown, but it’s unlikely it will surface here after a week on the road. She might be new to the spotlight, but this is a woman who played in multiple bands while earning dual degrees from Tufts and the New England Conservatory of Music in addition to moonlighting as a vendor at Fenway Park. To use a bad analogy, this is peanuts.
“I suppose there’s an element of showmanship that maybe translates,” she says, laughing about pitching snacks and souvenirs to Red Sox fans. “Music and sports are similar as to what the experience is for the audience. You go to a place where you can relax and enjoy something you like. That’s such a nice thing to be around.”
After just two major-label albums – “Bad Self Portraits” in 2014 and last year’s “Side Pony” – Lake Street has become one of the hottest bands in the land. It will play PNC Pavilion July 25 after a rollicking sold-out show at the Madison Theater last summer. Being an integral part of one successful enterprise is enough responsibility for most folks, but as Kearney says, she likes to “stay busy.”
“(The solo record) is definitely a labor of love type of thing,” she says, laughing. “It’s something I became accustomed to in college, everybody is always looking for a bass player. I sort of grew up in a world where I was playing in 8, 10 bands at a time. It was enriching to have that much music in your brain everyday.”
Kearney’s head has been drenched in music since she picked up the bass in fourth grade. Lake Street came together during the players’ college days, and now Kearney lives in Brooklyn where she revels in the diversity of sounds that surround her.
“There is an incredibly rich, active live music scene. I love to go see friends’ shows around town,” says Kearney, whose friends, including Margaret Glaspy on guitar, populate her band. “(That music) will definitely – an unavoidably – influence the kind of music that I’m thinking about and which inspires me.”
It’s likely the audience will love what she is selling.
Bill Thompson is co-host of “Blue Snakes & Banjos,” 6-8 p.m. Wednesdays on WAIF-FM (88.3)
IF YOU GO
What: Bridget Kearney with Fit Club
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Southgate House Revival, 111 E. Sixth St., Newport
Tickets: $15, $12 advance
Information: 859-431-2201; southgatehouse.com; jbmpromotions.com; bridgetkearney.com
At Cincinnati.com: Watch the video for Bridget Kearney’s “Won’t Let You Down”