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Datebook: Neither Time, Distance Nor COVID Can Keep The Honey Chasers Apart

The Honey Chasers
Daniel Troyer
From left to right, The Honey Chasers: Daniel Troyer, Zach Smith, Cameron Owens and Jeff Ingersoll. Not pictured: Meade Richter.

It’s been two years since The Honey Chasers last played for a live audience.

That’s all changing when the five-member contemporary bluegrass outfit reunites this weekend for several shows in central Illinois.

After kicking things off Thursday night at Kicks Bar and Grill in Towanda, The Honey Chasers are set to play Rob Dob’s in Bloomington from 6-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 3-6 p.m Sunday at the Merna Tap in Merna, off of Illinois Route 9 east of Bloomington-Normal.

It’s not just COVID-19 that’s kept the band apart, said banjo player and McLean County native Daniel Troyer.

“We’re not able to play all the time,” he said. “We’ve kind of grown up and our lives have split off in different ways.”

Troyer met mandolin player Cameron Owens, fiddle player Meade Richter, upright bass player Zach Smith and guitar player Jeff Ingersoll as a student in the Bluegrass, Country and Old Time Music Program at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn.

More than a decade later, three-fifths of The Honey Chasers are still based in the southeast, with Owens and Richter living in Boone, N.C., producing music videos through their Patreon project Lonesome Pine Records, and Smith touring nationally with Asheville-based Town Mountain.

Ingersoll plays with his own band near Syracuse, N.Y.

Meanwhile, Troyer lives in Hudson, and with his wife, a 2-year old son, a full-time job and with his own music career, he’s been plenty busy, too.

So when the guys all spied a free weekend in June, they jumped on the opportunity to get together and make some music.

“I’m looking forward to just being back on stage with those guys and watching the crowd with smiles on their faces and clinking beer bottles all around, and getting back to the way it used to be,” said Troyer. “Bring some sense of normality back to life.”

The band plans to play a bit of everything this weekend, from bluegrass standards they could just about play in their sleep to challenging new rock covers.

Troyer explained the five all bonded at East Tennessee State over their shared love of bluegrass, but wanted to push themselves further with The Honey Chasers.

“So, we started experimenting with doing Steve Miller covers, just all sorts of stuff, expanding the horizons a little bit, not just confining ourselves to one genre of music,” Troyer said. “(The Honey Chasers) is very bluegrass-oriented because of the instrumentation we have, but we just didn’t want to stay in that pocket. We wanted to kind of spread our wings a little bit.”

Troyer said he knows some traditionalists don’t agree with the band’s genre-bending, but noting that plenty of bluegrass fans appreciate the contemporary style — as do fans of other genres.

In fact, that’s how Troyer first became interested in the genre — hearing groups like Yonder Mountain String Band cover legends like The Grateful Dead.

“That’s kind of what drew me in, and the more I listened to bluegrass, the more I started appreciating the Jenny Martins and the Flatt and Scruggs and the Ralph Stanleys and Bill Monroes,” Troyer said.

Despite their mission to make bluegrass more approachable, The Honey Chasers haven’t recorded any music — yet.

“All of the fun of it is in the live performance; the recording part isn’t so much fun,” said Troyer, adding while it may be something the band pursues in the future, there are no specific plans at the moment.

“So if you want to feel the magic, you’re just gonna have to come see it for yourself,” he said.

Daniel Troyer joins The Honey Chasers from 6-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Rob Dob’s in Bloomington and from 3-6 p.m. Sunday at the Merna Tap in Normal.

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