CELORON - The musicians who make up Smokehouse will bring decades of experience and a variety of cover songs to the Celoron Rib-fest Friday night.
The band has been together since 1998, but Rick Solinger, Steve Strickland, Jim Aikens and Dave Swart have played locally for much longer.
Solinger, the band's guitarist, started playing in 1969. He has performed with acts such as Black Pearl and Richie Leeper's Rhythm Express.
From left to right are Jim Aikens, Mike Stoli, Dave Swart, Steve Strickland and Rick Solinger. Aikens, Swart, Strickland and Solinger make up the band Smokehouse, and Stoli handles the band’s sound.
Aikens, Smokehouse's bassist and fiddle player, is known by some as "The Fiddler." He has more than 50 fiddles and toured with The Inkspots.
Strickland and Swart - on keyboards and on drums - played in the country band Gotham Rose prior to their Smokehouse days.
Each of the four performers handles some of the vocal duties, but Strickland and Aikens sing more often than not.
"We're a classic rock, funk, dance kind of band," Solinger said. "We try to get people dancing and keep them out on the floor."
Other than a change at bass when Chuck Leonard retired from the band, the Smokehouse lineup has remained intact since its formation.
Smokehouse plays covers by artists ranging from Bob Seger to Wild Cherry to Steely Dan.
"We'll do anything," Solinger said. "If somebody comes up to us and asks us to play some Willie Nelson, we'll do Willie Nelson. We have enough experience among all of us to pull off a song. As long as one of us knows how to start it, we've got it."
Smokehouse has been on the Rib-fest bill for the past couple of years. The crowd and band have enjoyed the festival, according to Solinger.
"We like the response from the people," he said. "The ribs and refreshments are good. The crowd reaction is awesome."
Smokehouse will play from 8-11 p.m. Friday at Rib-fest, which is held at Lucille Ball Memorial Park. The band will have plenty of other gigs this summer as well.
"Places are few and far between these days, but we stay busy," Solinger said. "At least once a weekend we get out."
Although Smokehouse has created some original songs, the band prefers to play covers. The songs the musicians play have changed over time.
"People used to like (music from) the 1950s and 1960s, but now they like the 1970s and 1980s," Solinger said. "We try to do the 1970s and 1980s now. It's old music now, realistically. You find other bands, kids who are out there in their teens, they're playing The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Ozzy. It's kind of ironic that what goes around comes around."
The Smokehouse musicians plan to keep playing as long as they're healthy and audiences want to hear them. So far, the band has given area residents what they've wanted, according to Solinger.
"We try not to make a big show out of anything that we do," he said. "We just communicate with the people and try to play what they want to hear. They really enjoy us from what they tell us; that's why we stay busy."
"Backstage Pass'' is a feature of The Post-Journal showcasing local artists, their music and their accomplishments. Send recommendations for future "Backstage Pass'' subjects to Scott Shelters at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 487-1111, ext. 255.