Thick fog welcomed the crowd of excited bluegrass fans to the Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills, Maryland on Saturday night. It felt almost as if the Appalachian mountains wanted to follow Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen’s tour and brought its weather along for the night.
The talent on stage was undeniable…
Grammy-nominated duo Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley took the stage first. For 45 minutes, their quick picking, warm harmonies and humble stage presence kept the audience cheering for more. Midway through the set, Rob paid homage to Bill Monroe with “Monroe Bro.” While describing his interest in the instrument that has gotten him 15 IBMA awards, Rob gently nudged the audience to try the dobro. “It only takes 10 minutes to learn,” he joked. Closing out their set, Rob and Trey played their acoustic rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil,” which received a standing ovation.
After a quick 15-minute intermission, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen members, Mike Munford, Chris Luquette, and Jeremy Middleton, walked out into the spotlight. Similar to Rob and Trey, Frank and his band brought a jovial, friendly energy to the crowd, joking about their reusable water bottles before they quickly started strumming their strings. Local banjo player Mike Munford had a handful of fans in the crowd, while Frank introduced Jeremy as the newest member of the band. Had that information not been mentioned, I would have never been able to determine who was who in terms of seniority in the band. Together, all four musicians seamlessly intertwined their vocals, strings instruments and tempos. They slowed down for the bone-chilling song “Cold Spell,” but for the large majority of the time kept things up-tempo and uplifting.
For example, when sound issues arose midway through the show, Frank walked off the stage and his band members followed. Standing right in front of the first row, the band played on, twisting the rock sounds of “Oh, Pretty Woman” into newgrass. When they hopped back on stage, Frank jokingly asked who would never come back. The audience responded in laughter, clearly passionate about the sounds brought to the stage, whether amplified or not.
Later into the set, Frank called Rob and Trey back onto the stage for a few more songs. As he called it, “a clusterpluck of organic music,” when the audience knows just as little as the band in terms of what’s to come. Dobro versus banjo, guitar versus guitar, mandolin versus bass, the band started to pair off, playing in rounds of call and response. The friendships built between the band members could easily be seen through each musician’s eyes. One moment, he laughed with his fellow band members, then he dared another to show their talent off, and finally he looked in amazement at what each individual could pull off.
The band came back on stage to play “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Town” for the encore. As the song came to a close, everyone sprung up to clap and whistle on their feet. The talent on stage was undeniable, and the audience praised what they knew and witnessed to be true.
Running Time: 160 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.
Tickets and Performance Schedules for The Music Center at Strathmore are found at www.strathmore.org. For more information on Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley’s tour, click here. For more information on Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen’s tour, click here. To see the event footage from Jeremy Middleton’s Facebook Live, click here.