If you haven’t heard Kettle of Fish around the Bradenton Sarasota music scene you must be living under a rock. They’re everywhere, playing out five nights a week at least and often can be seen opening for a major headliner or playing festivals.
Their style combines blues, soul and funk with rock and roll leanings and they play covers as well as originals. Since its inception 15 years ago, Kettle of Fish headlined the GABBA Festival in Macon, Ga, and made a big impact at other fests including: the Myakka River Blues Fest, Wanee Fest in Live Oak, Fl, Sarasota Blues Fest, Suncoast Blues Fest, Venice Blues Fest, Bradenton Blues Fest, the Gulfcoast Rhythm & Ribs Fest, and many others.
Known as one of the hottest acts in Southwest Florida, they also won the 2016 Herald Reader’s Poll as “Best Band.” And they’ve shared the stage and opened for Eddie Money, Dickey Betts, Elvin Bishop, Pat Travers, Bad Company and Marshall Tucker.
Dana Lawrence, lead singer and songwriter and guitarist, is joined with current members that include: Greg Poulos on guitar (formerly with The Freddie King Band, The Ventura’s and Rock Bottom); Chris Guertin on bass (The Big Kahuna Band); Rick Andre on drums (toured with Chuck Berry, The Platters and Ben E. King). Mark Miller also plays lead guitar when Greg’s off, and a handful of other legendary musicians frequently join the “kettle of fish” as guest musicians.
I was struck with how tight the band is. How diverse their set list is. And how effortless Dana seems to play and sing – he’s got a great range and he makes it look so easy. Dana sat down with me to share a little about himself while he was on break at his gig at Marina Jack on a Thursday night. As with all successful musicians, he wasn’t easy to pin down for an interview.
When did you first start playing guitar and singing?
I picked it up in fifth grade, sat it down. Picked it up again, sat it down. It was after college (he was an English major at University of Massachusetts and assistant arts editor of the school newspaper) … I went to Key West in ’94 and played at the Southern Most Point with no one listening. I moved to California and played with my friend Mason in San Francisco.
What were your early influences?
I’m kind of all over the place…Pearl Jam, Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, Tom Petty.
How did you come up with the name Kettle of Fish?
I was in front of a New York bar and saw the name Kettle of Fish. I said to myself, ‘that’d be a great name for a band.’ So I had the name of the band before I had the band.
It’s also a term for ‘trouble,’ … and I’m trouble.
What was your first gig in this area?
I was inspired by an open mic in Frisco at an Irish bar and I started an open mic here at McSwiggins in downtown Bradenton. People started showing up. My friend moved here and we played as a duo. His confidence gave me something to fall back on…as long as he was sober…(laughs).
What helps you to keep going and have confidence when playing out?
I’ve done a lot in my life. I ran a marathon and I rode a bike from Florida to Boston. Once you have that willpower, nothing else is really a problem.
What are you aspiring to with the band?
I’m as happy to play in Madison Square Gardens as I am playing here. I’d like to do Europe next summer. We play mostly big gigs. We opened for Dickey Betts at Robarts and in between he told Wade (writer for Sarasota Herald) that Dickey said we were ‘intimidating.’ He played his best show ever that night.
Do you have a favorite gig or memory so far?
My favorite gig was at Siesta Key Oyster Bar. I got to play with Jimmie Fadden, Jeff Hannah and his wife Matraca Berg from the Nitty Gritty Dirt band. I had half of their band up there. It was great. Jimmie lives here now.
What would you tell budding musicians about making it in this industry?
Do what you want. Do what you love.
For more information on Dana and Kettle of Fish, visit the website at www.kettleoffish.net.
Top Photo- Aaron Tackett, Middle Photo- Gail Gerdes/Bosk Phototography, Bottom Photo- Vicky Sullivan/Rock the Lens Photography