Former Juneau resident Frank Solivan and his Dirty Kitchen Band are returning to Alaska for a four-city tour which includes headlining the Anchorage Folk Festival. They will perform one night only at the Juneau Gold Town Nickelodeon on Feb. 1.
Solivan and his wife Leah Sturgis, a jewelry artist, have maintained strong ties in Juneau since they left the state nearly a decade ago, and are excited about the trip. They have scheduled a meet-and-greet at 6 p.m at the Gold Town before the show begins.
“It’s sort of homecoming-ish,” Sturgis said.
Solivan and Sturgis moved to Washington D.C. from Juneau in 2003 so Solivan could take a position as electric guitar player in Country Current, the United States Navy’s elite country-bluegrass band; he also played mandolin and fiddle in the group. He left the band several years ago to devote himself to his own music full-time.
His last performance in Juneau was in 2002.
“So much has changed— we have a full band now,” Solivan said.
Solivan and his band have been making big waves down South. Their debut CD, “Frank Solivan & DIrty Kitchen,” was listed on the “Ten Indie Albums Worth a Listen” on CMT, and was enthusiastically reviewed in No Depression and Vintage Guitar magazine, as well as Bluegrass Unlimited and The Bluegrass Special.
“I would say ‘remember the name–Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen,’ except that anyone who hears even a bit of this music will never forget its point of origin,” wrote reviewer David McGee.
Solivan’s music has even captured the attention of comedian and bluegrass banjo player Steve Martin, who said in an interview with The Boot last year that Solivan and Dirty Kitchen banjo player Mike Munford were among the musicians he was enjoying at the time.
One of the things that makes the Dirty Kitchen Band unique is the fact that Solivan, in addition to being a stellar fiddle and mandolin player, is a gourmet cook. For “The Dirty Kitchen Experience,” Solivan first feeds, then entertains his audience, often at private house parties organized for groups of 20 or more. A sample main course: herb roasted cornish game hens with caramelized onions, garlic, and saffron rice. Solivan’s motto is “food and music bring people together.”
Both were held in high regard in Solivan’s family. He grew up in Modesto, Calif. among numerous illustrious musicians that include both his parents and his cousin Megan McCormick (who is also making a name for herself in the music industry and was recently featured on CBS’ the Early Show). By the age of 12, Solivan had won several fiddle and banjo contests, later mastering the cello, guitar and mandolin, and performing in the symphony. He moved with his family to Alaska in 1995, where he joined the University of Alaska Symphony, taught students and toured with Ginger Boatwright.
He released his first CD, “I Am a Rambler,” in 2002 on his own label, Fiddlemon Music. Four of the songs on the CD won top awards in the Alaska Public Radio Network’s Song Of The Year contest. His second CD, “Selfish Tears,” was released in 2006 and included eight originals and a guest appearance by his mother, Lorene, who sings vocals on “Once in a Very Blue Moon.”
“Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen,” his third CD, was released in 2010. It includes six originals, and features guest appearances by McCormick, John Cowan, Rob Ickes and Moondi Kline. Band members in addition to Solivan are banjo player Munford, guitar player Lincoln Meyers and Stefan Custodi on bass. Custodi recently left the band and was replaced by bass player Danny Booth, another Alaskan musician -- he is originally from Anchorage -- who is now touring with the band. Booth met Solivan when Solivan was 18 and playing with Booth’s dad, Greg, in Rank Strangers. Danny Booth soon joined the band himself, while still a teen, getting to know Solivan in the process. The two musicians will visit the Juneau Community Charter School to play music during their stay.
Sturgis, Solivan’s wife, is a former downtown business partner and co-owner of Rock, Paper, Scissors. She also worked at the Juneau Co-op Preschool as a teacher. She now makes her living making and selling jewelry, some of which will be for sale at the event prior to Solivan’s performance.
“I am calling it a happy-hour meet and greet prior to the show to chat, catch up and create some homey community,” Sturgis said. She will be sending her jewelry collection over to Annie Kaill’s for the February First Friday.
Dirty Kitchen’s four-city Alaska tour starts in Fairbanks, then hits Anchorage, Juneau and finally Kodiak. They’ll be headlining the Anchorage Folk Festival from Jan. 24-29.
Solivan said he’s learning to adjust to lots of time on the road.
“It’s a balance,” he said, when I’m on the road i get antsy for home, and when I’m at home too long I get antsy for the road. I’m constantly seeking the balance.”
KTOO and KRNN are sponsoring the Juneau show and tickets are $22, available through their website. The band will go on around 7:30 with two 45-minute sets.
“The Gold Town Nickelodeon is a more intimate, smaller venue which is conducive to the vibe we want,” Solivan said.
“We are looking at a good time and want to raise people’s spirits in the middle of winter in Alaska,” Sturgis added.
For more information, visit dirtykitchenband.com. For tickets, visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/22124.