Henhouse Prowlers 12.8.16

Swing Station
Laporte, CO

Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)

When you hear that the Henhouse Prowlers are playing at the local watering hole around the corner from your house you don’t ask questions, you just go. This now legendary outfit from Chicago tours the globe with a traditional style steeped in modernity. Celebrating over a decade as a touring band, the Prowlers have had a rotating cast of supporting musicians, but founding members Ben Wright and Jon Goldfine are the underpinning on which this group is built. Guitarist Aaron Dorfman and newest member mandolinist and fiddler Kyle Patrick O’Brien make up the rest of the lineup currently. Even though the personnel changes from time to time, the musicianship never ceases to impress. They were fresh off a tour in Africa before returning to Colorado for a series of shows that included a date with another celebrated Chicago band, Cornmeal, at the Swing Station.

The Swing Station is a renowned, but often overlooked honky-tonk venue in the Colorado music scene. With shows nightly, this establishment represents a throwback to a bygone era of roadhouses and biker bars. These days though if you ride your pedal bike in you get a buck off any Colorado drafts and the chances of a brawl are slim. The Bar SS, as it was previously known, gives a home to locals and traveling musicians alike. Most Bluegrass fans found themselves across town at the Aggie to see the Travelin’ McCourys, but those looking for a more intimate affair headed to the outskirts. I arrived adorned in my Sexfist shirt and was immediately confronted by HHP’s road manager, Allison, who informed me that I had won a prize. She handed me a koozie before returning to her post at the merch stand. We were already off to a good start.

The Henhouse Prowlers treated us to two sets starting promptly at 9 PM. Never one to be confined to a set list, the Prowlers play spontaneously and from the heart. This means that no two shows are ever the same and anything can happen. They warmed us up early with the title track from their latest album Still On That Ride. Ben Wright’s rambling banjo snapped the band to attention on the darkly poetic ill-fated love song “Caroline.” Dorfman came to the ribbon mic for the appropriately twangy “Nashville Here I Come.” Fans danced feverishly to the Bluegrass version of Shel Silverstein’s “The Cover Of A Rolling Stone.” The Prowlers have become known internationally for putting a traditional Bluegrass spin on Nigerian pop tunes. One such track “Chop My Money” was a huge highlight during the first set. Goldfine returned to mic for the traditional “Take Me Back To You” into the shadowy and brooding “Uncle Bubba.” They closed with an unbelievable version of Hendrix’s “Fire.”

Despite the relative newness of O’Brien this band was playing on point. Their time on the road is long and it shows when they hit the stage. After about a twenty-five-minute break HHP returned for another set of music. They performed until around midnight with songs ranging from a native Ugandan tune to the Grateful Dead’s “Mr. Charlie.” The speed grass number, “Lonesome Road” also sung by Goldfine was stunning. They continued with a Bluegrass indictment of televangelist and Gospel Tents, “Soul Saver.” Bill Monroe’s “In The Pines” and The Bluegrass Cardinal’s “Up and Down The Mountain” showed the Prowler’s more traditional side. They ended the night as they usually do by coming off the stage and picking a few tunes with the audience wrapped around them like a warm blanket. Throughout the night some fans snuck away to catch the McCourys, leaving only the hardcore left for the audience pick. And with a quick goodbye it was over. The Henhouse Prowlers draw you into their space and their musical sensibility quickly. They overpower with their impressive picking and interesting song choices. Their catalog of originals and covers seem limitless and that adds to the air of anticipation at every show. Fans made the trek to the edge of town for this clandestine show were not disappointed. The Henhouse Prowers are and continue to be a Bluegrass phenomenon worth your attention.

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