Leslie Bluegrass: A Weekend With The Henhouse Prowlers (Saturday)
Article & Photos By Justin Picard
Saturday June 12th, 2010
My day began just three hours after the previous day had ended. Brandon, Phil and Tony all awoke bright and early and were on their way to other engagements. I was too excited to sleep, so I reached into the cooler for a couple of coffee drinks and withdrew the ol' journal from my backpack. I sat at our quiet camp as the sun reached towards the sky, writing about the previous day's events. In the distance I could hear a golf cart chugging along towards me as the hummingbirds and dragonflies danced in the morning air.
The cart came within about five feet of my perch before coming to a stop. "Are the boys up yet?" Said the gentleman, referring to the Prowlers. "No. Not yet... We had a late night of pickin' and drinkin'..." I responded. "Nothin' wrong with that. My name is Burke and this is my wife. We're looking to get folks signed up for the band scramble, and we were wondering if they wanted to get involved." I glance over my shoulder at the still tents. "I'll come find you in a bit once the guys start getting up." Burke, agreed with the plan of action and excitedly let me in on the story of the Prowlers booking at Leslie. "They were heading back to Chicago from Lansing last year and I guess they had heard about our festival, so they stopped by. I got word that there was a band here looking to play, so I went up to the front and told them to pick one for me. They did and I said; You're hired, see you boys next year." His story made me smile.
Minutes later as Burke's cart barreled back down the path, I thought to myself "It could be a while." 11:30 rolled around and I took it upon myself to go and inform Burke that the Prowler's were still out and that I didn't have the heart to wake them. He was very understanding, and let me know that there may still have a few slots later on.
Around noon, rustling came from the tents in the Prowler camp. One by one the wookies awoke. I opened the cooler and began distibuting fruit, bagels, coffee drinks and Mountain Dews.
Within the first couple of hours of the Prowlers being awake; the band scramble ended and it was time for their first slot of the day. One by one, the schlep to the stage began.
Shanandoah->Nobody's Fault But Mine, Uncle Pen, Won't Fight Alone, Unsteady, Black Rushing, How it Feels, Long Time Working it Out, Gospel Plow, Doing Alright, King of The Waltz, Ain't it a shame, Coming Back, Darlin Please Come Home.
This set was by far their most traditional of the weekend. I spent a good portion of the first set of the day taking it all in and fielding questions from Lou (who was now wearing the Henhouse Prowlers shirt that he had purchased the previous day) regarding the Prowlers. His interest in the band was quite exciting. After every set I would watch Lou wander over to the merch table, to look over the offerings and wait for a word with the band.
Following the set we made our way back to camp, where the Prowlers would prepare for their afternoon rehearsal. They would be recording a new album in the coming weeks during their Colorado run, so some last minute fine tunning was in order.
As I sat with them while they worked out songs; I threw out a couple of requests for the evening set. The first of which being a song called "Simplify" which was written by their former guitar player Ben Benidict. The song can be found on their most recent CD "Dark Rumor" and has become one of my favorites. There were some questions about the words so I took to writing them down for reference purposes. After a couple of starts and some confusion about the vocal phrasing; I stepped up and asked if I could sing the lead once through. After getting the go ahead from the boys, I hit the record button on my camera and handed it over to Lou to film of of the coolest musical experiences I have ever had... Singing one of my favorites songs with one of my favorite bands.
Following the song, I needed a second to collect myself... Whoa.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent grilling, drinking, practicing and making arrangements to get the tire serviced that had blown out on the band on the way in. Eventually the evening came and it was time for one last hike over to the stage for the fourth and final set. This time I decided to join the band backstage to get a few shots as they prepared. After some tunning and last minute setlist changes, they were called to the stage. Just before they took the stage Ben asked Laird to head back to camp to put away anything that may have been left out as it looked like rain was on it's way. Since Laird was responsible for manning the Merch table, I volunteered to head back to camp.
Arriving at camp I began laughing... There stuff was everywhere! I spent a solid ten minutes cramming all of their possessions into the van. I was dripping with sweat and moving quickly toward the stage. Getting just within' earshot I could here that they were playing the song that I had requested, "Simplify". Bastards!
I was unable to write down the setlist as I was composing questions for the interview that would follow.
Earlier that day, I had requested that they play "Helter Skelter" for the folks. "Give them a little something to freak them out." I stated. I never thought that they would actually play it... Let alone encore with it. I believe their explanation to the crowd was "They say after forty years a song becomes a traditional..." I couldn't help but laugh.
Back at the camp, preparations were made for our interview. At some point throughout the weekend, someone had let a deer skull at our camp. I took it upon myself to secure it to the front of the Prowlers van. With that, the last piece of the puzzle was in place.
Duct tape was applied to the windshield of the van for a quick fix and with that the weekend had come to a close.
There are many reasons why the Henhouse Prowlers are my favorite band; Their level of musicianship, their deep/essential catalouge of songs, their respect for the music, and because of who they are. I feel fortunate to be able to call this amazing group of musicians my friends.
For all who read this...
You are invited to join us for an evening with the Henhouse Prowlers; Saturday August 28th, 2010 in South Lyon, MI at The Barn! For details & information click here.