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Tin Finley: Polson show marks homecoming for Montana-based band

by KRISTI NIEMEYER
Editor | April 11, 2024 12:00 AM

For Polson native Kati O’Toole, the concert April 20 at the Theatre on the Lake in Polson marks a musical homecoming. The Polson High School grad joins another alum, bassist Eric Hogenson, and friends and bandmates Annette Strean and Kirk Cornelius in Tin Finley – a band named after Nashville’s famed Tin Angel restaurant (where three of the four members either met or worked) and inspired by the quartet’s Montana roots.

O’Toole began playing keyboards when she was just 3, under the tutelage of longtime music teacher Marilyn Coffee. She went on to perform at Good Lutheran Church, in local talent shows, and was a member the PHS Select Choir and a smaller ensemble called Connection.

She also played some smaller roles in Port Polson Players’ student productions, “where I was doing mostly singing and no acting. I'm a terrible actor,” she says.  

Her real passion was songwriting and crafting melodies. She earned a degree in music production and engineering from the Berklee College of Music in Boston and then headed to Los Angeles where she worked in a world-renowned studio, The Village Recorder, before landing a job as the head of production at StudioPros, an online recording studio. She also worked as a touring musician, playing keyboards and singing.

“I knew that I wanted to do something creative in my life and music makes me happy,” she says. Coincidentally, her compatriots in Tin Finley are also successful professional musicians who made their way back to Montana.

Whitefish native Strean traveled across the United States and around the world with her band, Venus Hum, which also opened for, and performed in, the touring show for Blue Man Group. She remains a professional recording artist, singer, songwriter and writer. She and her husband, Cornelius, met at the Tin Angel and played music and toured together before moving back to the Flathead.

O’Toole first met Strean in Nashville 18 years ago when both were working at the Tin Angel and were introduced by a mutual friend. They were reintroduced in 2020, pre-pandemic, when they were both living in the Flathead Valley.

The two women launched the band – and invited Strean’s husband to join them on guitars. Within the past year, Hogenson added bass to the mix. He also grew up in Polson, graduating in 1997, and was a friend of O’Toole’s husband, Darin Robison (PHS Class of ’99). Also, both Hogenson’s and O’Toole’s parents taught in the Polson Schools.

When O’Toole first moved to L.A., Hogenson and his wife, Cat, were living there. “He was really kind in hooking me up with shows here and there where I would open for his band, The Quick Six.”

“Polson people look out for each other like that, and it's kinda cool,” says O’Toole.

Hogenson is now department chair and Professor of Elementary Education at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo. The two families have become good friends, “and it just made sense to have him join the band on bass,” says O’Toole. “It has really filled out our sound.”

The band often choses unconventional venues, although the Port Polson Players’ “intimate and nostalgic” theater at the golf course marks their first show in Polson. Other venues have included Home Ranch Bottoms in Polebridge, Max’s in Bigfork, Kalico Art Center in Kalispell and Camp Tuffit at Lake Mary Ronan

Since their inception, band members have co-written “an album’s worth of material” which they’ve been producing at their home studios. As one might expect from a quartet for professionals, their music is propelled by strong melodies, thought-provoking lyrics and tight, graceful harmonies.

In a review for the Daily Inter Lake, Margaret Davis described Tin Finley’s music as “expertly penned and arranged, disarmingly honest, riveting,” and writes that their songs “take listeners on whole journeys to new places and sound like nothing else.”

The Polson show begins at 7 p.m. April 20 and admission is free, although donations to support the artists are welcome at the door.

For more on the band, visit tinfinley.com.