Mayne Stage was a beautiful place to see the Henhouse Prowlers. This was being billed as an 8-year Anniversary show and even featured one of the original founding members of the Prowlers, James Weigel, playing with members of Cornmeal (Wavy Dave Burlingame and Chris Gangi). I hadn’t seen these boys since stumbling into one of the late night tents at Summer Camp Music Festival over Memorial Day Weekend, so I was definitely ready for another run-in with the Prowlers.
There’s something sensational about the old, gather-round-the-mic, traditional style of bluegrass amplification. Harmonies are more communal, and the race to get your instrument in front of the microphone before your solo begins becomes a potentially dangerous game where numerous members of the band are all sliding in and out of position simultaneously, trying not to smack each other in the forehead with their instruments. It’s playful, interactive, and wildly entertaining.
The Prowlers came dressed to impress, from head-to-toe, just beaming with confidence. I’m not sure I was prepared for my first, full length, non-festival Henhouse Prowlers show. The musical prowess of this bluegrass band was unlike anything I’ve yet to encounter in the city of Chicago. It’s straight-laced, tight-knit, barn-burning bluegrass with enough vocal harmonization to make Del McCoury blush. Their timing was incredible and their solos precise and polished, a furious display of aggressive picking that remained tasteful from start to finish.
Later on in the performance, the band called up an extra special guest vocalist… none other than bassist Jon Goldfine’s mother. The band hunkered down in the background, allowing mom to lead the way on “Ain’t No Sunshine” with a truly awesome swagger. This woman had an incredible voice, and the sweet, delicate backing band reminded us of their musical dexterity by completely changing gears for a minute for the entire length of this R&B classic.
When the show was said and done, The Henhouse Prowlers had made full-blown converts out of two unsuspecting bluegrass fans. These boys left a lasting impression on me and I can’t wait until I get the chance to see them again. A friend of mine got married in Northern Michigan earlier this month. If only I had been able to make it up there for the festivities, I would have surely experienced one hell of a wedding reception, featuring music by the Henhouse Prowlers. That must have been one unforgettable party.