Dwelling in the Valley

Montana-based Kitchen Dwellers to headline Saratoga Days


Photo courtesy Kitchen Dwellers

The Kitchen Dwellers will be headlining Saratoga Days this weekend.

"Michelle just refused to give up," Scott Mcilvaine said of his wife. "She just kept going forward because she wanted to give joy to the Valley."

Scott was referring to her getting the Kitchen Dwellers, out of Montana, to be the band for Saratoga Days.

The McIlvaines are both on the Saratoga Days Committee. Scott is a board member for the Saratoga Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce.

"We first heard them at Red Rocks (outside concert center in Colorado) at the Twiddle and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong show," Michelle recounted. "The Kitchen Dwellers were the opening band and when we heard them, we knew we wanted them for Saratoga Days."

The McIlvaines have seen the band on a few other occasions since the first time at Red Rocks. They booked the band in January for Saratoga Days.

Kitchen Dwellers' banjo player and vocal Torrin Daniels is excited about coming to Saratoga to play.

"The pandemic thing heavily affected us and other bands," Daniels said. "There aren't many musical events going on right now."

He said the band has played online festivals, streamed their music and utilized Zoom to keep income coming in.

"We have been live out there on the net almost every weekend," Daniels said. "Our management company 1111 Presents had us doing six weekends in a row of virtual concerts. We are just finding ways to roll with punches during this time."

Daniels said the band formed when he was in college.

"The band formed in the fall of 2010 up at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana," Daniels said. "Like many other bands in our scene, we all sort of met in college. Joe and Shawn had met previously and played music together the year before and I met Shawn in one of the first classes of maybe the second day of my freshman year."

Daniels was born in Casper and raised in Joliet, Montana. He started out playing drums in school band and later played drums in jam/rock bands in high school. He also picked up guitar, mandolin and banjo in high school.

"My playing was influenced heavily by punk rock/metal/grunge, but also raised on classic/outlaw country music," Daniels said.

Daniels is not the only band member to be originally from the Rocky Mountain area.

"Shawn Swain, who plays mandolin and does vocals, is from Telluride, Colorado," Daniels said. "He took lessons on mandolin at a very young age then switched to playing bass for a few years in metal bands throughout middle school and high school. Shawn takes a lot of influence from traditional bluegrass/folk/country music, and he was raised on the Grateful Dead."

One member is originally from the 50th state.

"Joe Funk, who plays stand up bass and does vocals, is from Juneau, Alaska," Daniels said. "He got started playing the stand up bass in middle school orchestra, then moved on to folk, bluegrass and jazz. He played in a metal band in high school. He also draws a lot of influence in his playing from electronic music and old school hip-hop."

There is one member who hails from the midwest.

"Max Davies, who plays guitar and does vocals, is from Crystal Lake, Illinois," Daniels said. "He took lessons on guitar at an early age, then began playing electric guitar as a freshman in high school and played in several bands during that time. He was mainly influenced by 60s and 70s rock music, such as the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin."

Daniels said the band got together in a comfortable manner.

"Well, as I said, Shawn and I met in a college class and immediately bonded over our mutual love of music, specifically bluegrass," Daniels said. "We talked about Yonder Mountain String Band and Shawn mentioned that he was from Telluride and had seen them countless times. Once he learned that I knew how to play, he invited me over to his house to have some beers and jam with a few kids that he'd been playing with."

Daniels learned there was a need for a banjo player that he could fulfill.

"Being a sort of multi-instrumentalist at the time, I mentioned that I played the mandolin. His reply was, 'Well, I play mandolin. But we what we really need is a banjo player.' To which I offered, 'Well–I have a banjo,'" Daniels remembered. "It turned out to be good enough and while we've always all been interested in playing many types of music, it has always been done in sort of a bluegrass fashion."

Daniels said the name Kitchen Dwellers does have some meaning.

"When the band first started out back in college, we used to practice mostly at Shawn's house.  The only place in the house really big enough to all stand in a circle and play was the kitchen, so that was where we practiced," Daniels said. "When it came time to start playing open mic events and things like that, we needed to come up with a name and that was just kind of the first thing that stuck. I'm actually pretty sure that one of our girlfriends at the time was the first to suggest "Kitchen Dwellers," or at least something very similar to the phrase."

It is interesting to note that when the McIlvaine's first heard them at Red Rocks, it was an unforgettable time for the band too.

"I think our most memorable experience so far was last year in May when we got to perform at Red Rocks Amphitheater down in Morrison, Colorado," Daniels said. "There's really nothing quite like looking up at those rocks for the first time as you walk out onstage. It was the craziest day I think we've ever had as a band and the experience of playing at a venue like that is always filled with so many emotions. Seeing the stands packed with so many people that are so proud of you they can hardly believe what's happening, well that's something I don't think you ever forget."

The band will be playing to a crowd for the first time since March at the Saratoga Days event.

"We did play the Beanstalk Music and Mountains Festival in Colorado, but it was at a drive-in movie theater and the band was projected on the screen," Daniels said. "Everyone came in their cars or close to them, so Saratoga Days will be us on a stage with people around us again."

Daniels was glad to be playing to an audience that could show their appreciation to the band in person.

"The people needed this event and so did the musicians," Daniels said.

Daniels describes the band's musical style as 'Galaxy Grass'.

"It is playing bluegrass instruments influenced by rock jamming," Daniels said. "Our first EP series, volume one, had covers from Grateful Dead. The recent EP series, volume two, is the band doing covers from Pink Floyd."

"Their music is infectious," Michelle said. "We are excited to introduce them to Saratoga."

The McIlvaines said there will signs advising social distancing and, because the event is outside, in many ways social distancing is easier to happen. They said they were proud of the community for all of its support to bringing the band for the street dance.

"There were 60 donors that gave $30,000 for this event to happen," Scott said. "All this would be impossible without the town's support."

Saratoga Days will have vendors with food and there will be free face painting and temporary tattoos.

"It is going to be a great time," The McIlvaines said in unison."

The band will start playing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday evening at Bridge Avenue.


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