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Ely’s Historic State Theater hosts Christopher David Hanson bands, Steve Solkela Nov. 25

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ELY — Music fans across the Iron Range are familiar with standout performers Christopher David Hanson and Steve Solkela. The two are teaming up at Ely’s Historic State Theater, 238 E. Sheridan St., Saturday, Nov. 25, at 6 p.m. for “Monster in the Woods: Vol. 4.”

The three-act concert opens with Steve Solkela, a comedian-musician who performs on some 14 instruments at once — and sings too. Solkela grew up in Palo, MN and first got into music as a 10th-grader at Mesabi East High School,Aurora. He didn’t think it was fair that guitar players who only knew five chords got all the female attention, so though already busy with speech, theater, choir and multiple sports, he picked up the accordion.

After high school, Solkela studied at Rowan University, Glassboro, N.J., where he performed in bands, choirs and operas. That’s where his “Overpopulated One-Man Band” got its start when he brought a cowbell to a cross-country meet to cheer on the runners, then decided to try playing it with his foot! 

One by one, he added more instruments, including hi-hat cymbal, double bass drum pedal, trumpet and even a bicycle horn, spin whistle and slinky. According to Solkela’s website (,

“This band is possible due to the combination of static muscle memory, multi-tasking skills and above-average accordion skills.” Solkela performs funny originals and cover songs, interspersed with one-liners and entertaining stories. 

When Solkela, now of Duluth, isn’t performing music, you might find him competing in a Rubik’s Cube speed-solving contest. He’s solved up to 7x7 cubes and has even solved a 3x3 under water. (Find the video on his YouTube channel.)

The evening’s headliner is singer-songwriter Christopher David Hanson, who fronts several bands that vary in style, and also performs solo. This weekend’s concert features two of his groups.

Woodsong Souvenir, an all-acoustic Americana band of five, is the concert’s second act. According to Hanson’s website (, it’s “a group of good friends that all have a passion for good music, and the ways that good music makes you feel and leaves you more hopeful.”

Along with Hanson, Woodsong Souvenir includes Jill Burkes, violin, and Rob Wheeler, mandolin, who bring the folk element to the group; Mesabi Symphony Orchestra member Lynn Evenson, stand-up bass; and Matt Jarva, percussion. The group’s debut album is “A Handful of Sundays.”

The final act will be the three-piece Christopher David Hanson Band performing all-original roots-rock with some throwback country and big-band swing mixed in. 

“If you like the music you hear in Nashville after 10 p.m.,” said Hanson, “that’s the kind you’re going to be listening to at the end of the show.” He also promises “fun lights for folks to dance.”

In this band, Hanson’s guitar and vocals are joined by Jim Pietila,percussion/vocals, and James Christian, bass guitar/vocals. The band has been touring for 10 years and has shared the stage with Black Hawk, Trampled by Turtles, Charlie Parr, Cory Chisel, Sister Hazel and others. Their most recent album is “Whippoorwill.”

Tickets for Monster in the Woods: Vol. 4 are $25, available at or at the door.

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