Bluegrass band Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen comes from Washington, D.C. The front man has been called a “monster mandolinist.” His band includes Mike Munford (2013 IBMA Banjo Player of the Year) on banjo,Chris Luquette (IBMA Instrumentalist of the Year Momentum Award winner) on guitar and Dan Booth on doghouse bassist. In its bio, the group describes its sound as “a bluegrass/newgrass stew from instrumental, vocal and songwriting skills so hot, they also earned 2012 and 2013 Best Bluegrass Band honors from the Washington Area Music Association.”
The band performs at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall on Saturday, Jan. 18. 9 p.m. $10 in advance / $12 at the door.
Xpress: You got your start in Alaska. Is there a bluegrass scene there, and, if so, what’s it like?
Frank Solivan: Well, actually, I started playing in California where I grew up. I come from a large musical family and moved to Alaska when I was a teenager. When I got up there, Ginger Boatwright gave me my first “real” bluegrass job. I had been playing some bluegrass up to that point, but mostly orchestral music in high school and electric fiddle in some country bands. The scene in Alaska was open-armed and extremely welcoming. It was like family.
Your website says that, along with being a musician, you’re a hunter, a fisherman, a gourmet chef and a poet. Do all of these pursuits inform your music, and do you think that creativity depends more on focus or on an array of influences?
I love the outdoors and Alaska was the perfect place for me. I miss it everyday. My mother was in the restaurant biz most of my youth and she showed me the basics of cooking. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s until I started honing my culinary skills. I worked in a couple of kitchens to make ends meet, did some catering, but really all I wanted to do was play music. I kept honing my cooking by way of experimenting with recipes at the house, hosting lots of dinner parties and eventually that led to my own style. Of course there were some experiments that didn’t turn out. Just like with music. I do think all of my life experiences influence my musicality… but it is important to have focus on the task at hand. If I’m cooking, that’s really all I’m thinking about. The same goes with music. It’s kind of like medicine for me.
I understand that Dirty Kitchen is a big draw at festivals, but there aren’t too many outdoor shows happening in January! Do you take a different approach to your indoor and listening room concerts? What can you accomplish in a venue that you can’t on a festival stage?
We usually end up playing smaller listening venues, performing art centers and indoor festivals held in large convention center hotels. The smaller venues seem to be very intimate and we definitely make a different type of connection. Maybe more of a friendship than fanship. Either way, we just want to connect and share our excitement about what we are playing and singing wherever we are.
I love this line from your bio: “The physicist curious about the mysteries of tone, timing and taste would do well to spend some time around Frank.” What can you tell us about your own forays into the mysteries of tone, timing and taste?
In the mandolin and violin clinics I teach, and especially my private lessons, I lean heavily on the “Four Ts.” Finding the right TECHNIQUE that gets great TONE, leading to TIMING and playing with a metronome… then challenging yourself while incorporating the first three “Ts” by increasing the TEMPO. If one of the “Ts” is not happening, then start over and play brutally slow.
What can you expect from your Saturday, Jan. 18 show at the Isis?
Oh man. You can expect new material intermixed with some fan faves delivered with some serious energy. We love to perform live and wear our hearts on our sleeves every time. You can expect to laugh, maybe cry and hopefully walk away feeling revitalized after our show. That’s our goal at least. In my opinion, seeing a band live is the best way to experience any style of music.