Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Dakota Sunrise

John DeGroff

Whatzup Features Writer

Published May 26, 2005

Heads Up! This article is 17 years old.

What comes to mind when you think of the “music

scene” in Fort Wayne, Indiana? The usual,

seemingly obvious answer would be that it has a

lot of great bands and excellent musicians. But

by “bands,” most people would think of rock bands

right away.

Country music is also a vibrant part of the

local entertainment community, albeit with less

recognition and in fewer venues.

That fact hasn’t deterred John Curran and Dakota

Sunrise in the slightest. Besides Curran, who

does lead vocals and plays guitar, the band is

comprised of Jack Martinez, guitar and vocals;

Bryan Hitchcock, keyboards and vocals; Dallas

McFarland, guitar and vocals; Matt Wood, bass

and vocals; and drummer Aaron Wood.

Dakota Sunrise won this year’s Whammy as Best

Country Performer. Curran’s former band,

Renegade, won the Whammy for Best Country

Performer previously in 1998 and 1999.

“I started Renegade about nine years ago,”

Curran said. “A lot of people thought that when

we changed the name of the band, and made some

other changes with personnel, that I was going to

be leaving. But as far as we’re concerned, we’re

happy where we’re at and we’re good to go.”

Being “good to go” has worked well for Dakota

Sunrise. They’ve played extensively in the

tri-state area and a quick check of their

calendar on the band’s web site

( shows dates booked well

into the fall.

They have one CD, The Outlaw, available,

if you’re willing to search for any of the

limited copies still around. “We’re working on

original material to put another CD together

now,” Curran said. “We’re doing the Honda Gold

Wing Association’s event on July 4, and we hope

to have at least a five-song CD ready by then.

“We got involved with [the Gold Wing

Association] when Mike Nutter from the Wizard

Stadium contacted me and said they were

interested in a country band rather than a rock

band and asked if I’d be interested. Obviously I

said yes. Once we played, it was such a good

turnout that the Gold Wing board members and

people who came to the show were so pleased with

what happened that they thought we were a

national act.”

That’s not to say that Dakota Sunrise haven’t

wanted to go to the next level. “At one time, I

did have an offer from Warner Brothers,” Curran

said. “That was right before a lot of changes

happened at that label. Basically, I had more

questions than they had answers at the time, and

there were things I needed to take care of. We

all have families and jobs and careers that are

established. You have to put your priorities

first. But at the same time, if an opportunity

came, it would have to be an opportunity worth

looking at.”

For the time being, Curran and Dakota Sunrise

have gained a loyal following among the region’s

country fans. “We’ve had very good reception with

our band,” he said. “We have a lot of people who

follow us, and it’s not just a certain age


“As far as the music scene around here is

concerned,” he continued, “there’s an

unbelievable amount of very, very talented

musicians here It’s hard to believe that some of

these guys have never gotten a chance to do

anything. But I think that a lot of that has to

do with where you’re at and who sees you. As far

as any real problems, there just aren’t that many

clubs for country music.”

Another aspect of country music that Curran is

concerned with is the scarcity of actual working

bands in the genre. “It’s all about making

money,” he said. “You know as well as I do that

a musician makes set pay, and a frontman makes

pretty much what they want. As a band, you have

some of the same bickering, though. I don’t see

it becoming a big deal with bands again until

they run out of the single artist guys. But it’s

hard to say, because there’s always a phase, and

trends come and go.”

Trends notwithstanding, Dakota Sunrise is doing whatever

it takes to keep their fans happy. The best

example is, well, totally unexpected and a bit


The band has what they call a “sister act” known

as the Dakota Sunettes. You guessed it, they do

drag. Before you think they lost one whopping big

bet, or get visions of something similar to the

Blues Brothers gig in a country bar, Curran is

adamant to say that it’s all in fun and well


“What we did was sit down and decide to look at

the possibility of doing something different,” he

said. “All the country bands are disappearing. We

thought, you know, we want to do something to

make us stand out, regardless.

“So, what we’re trying to do, and what we’re

still doing, is to incorporate a little something

into a couple of sets, so it just doesn’t come

off as straight country. We want to come off as

everybody’s band. We absolutely plan on keeping

this going. We only do three songs as the

Sunettes at the end of a set. It’s done as a big

joke, and everybody seems to have a ball with it.

They know we’re here to have fun, and that’s what

we’re going to do.”

(Pictures of the Sunettes are on the website,

but don’t look for them to record, ever. And when

asked if there was a future for drag in country

music, Curran said flatly, “Not with this


Further surprises on the band’s site help to

prove Dakota Sunrise’s desire to be entertaining

and not just straight country. One example is

what they call the Redneck Engineering Exam,

administered by the University of Alabama

Engineering Department:

Question 1: At a reduction in the gene pool

variability rate of 7.5% per generation, how long

will it take a town which has been bypassed by

the interstate to breed a country-western


There is also a drink recipe for something

called the Dakota Sunrise Signature Drink:

3/4 oz Wild Turkey

3/4 oz Amaretto

Splash sweet and sour

Fill with orange juice and float grenadine

Garnish with cherry

Serve in a tall rocks glass (created by Duane

Burdick, Colorado Springs, CO, and available

locally at Wrigley Field and Rock-N-Horse)

Obviously, Curran and Dakota Sunrise are

into having some serious fun with their music and

their live stage show, and Curran couldn’t be

happier. ”

After I played rock for a while, I quit and got

out of music for almost 13 years,” he said. “But

you get bit … there’s nothing you can do about

it. If music is in you to do, then you’re going

to do it.

“We’re a band, we attack everything as a band

and take care of everything as a band. I really

enjoy being in a band.”

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