Henhouse Prowlers, Old Toby and a night of bluegrass at Hangar

By Chase Myers

Chicago, with all its busy streets and tall skyscrapers, is probably not the first place you would picture for bluegrass music. Jazz clubs can be found scattered around the city, but rural influences can be hard to encounter in an urban environment.

One band who has broken into the Chicago music scene with a taste of the backwoods is the Henhouse Prowlers.

Founded by banjo player Ben Wright and upright bassist Jon Goldfine, the band includes Starr Moss on guitar and Dan Andree on fiddle. They have been picking bluegrass tunes for crowds all over the Midwest for more then 10 years and just recently started playing international shows in Europe and Africa.

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“We all played bluegrass instruments so we would see each other at bluegrass jams,” Goldfine said. “We were all playing in other bands and this started as a side project, a side bluegrass band.”

While the band was still a side-project, they played shows every Tuesday in Chicago. The project began to take over, and the members decided to make it their main focus, he said.

Goldfine said he and Wright welcomed Moss and Andree into the band around three years ago.

“When you play bluegrass in the Midwest, you know pretty much everyone else who does,” he said. “We knew they were looking for a band, and we were looking for musicians.”

Goldfine said the band advocates the furthering of music teaching and education.

The Henhouse Prowlers travelled to several schools in Evanston in 2011, providing instruction on bluegrass music as well as emphasizing the importance of instruments.

“For kids in the Midwest, particularly in the Chicago area, people don’t really grow up listening to bluegrass,” he said. “It’s a good way to introduce people to different types of music and the versatility of instruments.”

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During the last four years, the band has traveled to Europe, performing in countries such as Belgium and the Czech Republic.

The band was selected to play in Africa two times in the last year by the American Music Abroad, a group working with the U.S. Department of State to introduce American music into other cultures while promoting cross-cultural communication between global audiences.

“It was an incredible experience,” he said. “We were in some of the poorest places in the world, playing everything from orphanages and schools … to also playing parties at the Embassy.”

Local bluegrass band Old Toby will open the night.

Old Toby has played several house parties and small festivals around the area, but this weekend will mark the band’s first bar show.

Mandolin player Dakota Yeck- Petty, a junior from Mattoon studying therapeutic recreation, said the band found each other through a mutual love for rock-climbing.

“We think (the Carbondale music scene) is kind of cool because southern Illinois definitely has its own style of bluegrass,” he said.

Yeck-Petty said every member of the band has different bluegrass backgrounds and influences.

“We kind of take old-school West Virginia traditional bluegrass, meets modern-age new bluegrass, meets old-time blues, meets train music,” he said.

Both bands will take the Hangar 9 stage this Saturday. Doors open at 9 p.m., with the show starting at 10 p.m. There will be a $7 cover/$5 with student ID.

You can also catch the Henhouse Prowlers on Sunday, Sept. 28 at the 8th annual Raddle the Bottoms Bluegrass and Folk Music Festival in Raddle, which benefits pancreatic cancer research.

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