The doors opened at the Barge Canal Coffee Co. on Saturday, April 19, letting in the warm spring evening air and leaking out the acoustic tunes of Rabbit in the Rye. Pedestrians wandered in from Lebanon Street throughout the 90-minute set, stopping to buy raffle tickets at the door before they took a spot standing in the audience.
The event was put on by local charity Treasures in the Heart of NY, an organization that features the talents of local artists while supporting local food cupboards. On Saturday night five Easter baskets were raffled off, filled with donations from the Colgate Bookstore, JJ’s Salon, Hamilton Center for the Arts, Oliveri’s, New York Pizzeria and Seven Oaks Clubhouse, among many other local proprietors. 100 percent of proceeds went to benefit the Hamilton
Treasures in the Heart of NY, started by Sean Nevison ’03, has hosted many events over the past three years and put out multiple compilation CD’s of local artists. Saturday’s event, the first of 2014, seems to have been a success – Nevison’s fianc?e, Amber Codiroli ’10 and friend Tiffany Tai, who help with the organization, were busy selling tickets throughout the evening.
And who better to help benefit the Hamilton community than locally grown favorite Rabbit in the Rye? As veterans of the Barge, the band took the stage with ease and recognized many familiar faces in the crowd. The trio, who describe their musical stylings as “progressive folk rock,” incorporated middle-eastern, jazz, folk and ’70s rock influences into Saturday night’s set.
The band opened with a mysterious and rhythmically alluring first song. Joseph Mettler, guitar player and front man for Rabbit in the Rye, has an effortless voice that fits perfectly with the band’s folk-inspired repertoire. Rabbit in the Rye has a talent for resonating with the audience’s emotional register. Their second song, a heart-heavy folk-rock ballad, repeated the phrase, “My life’s been so silent / it’s not ’cause I’m quiet, / I guess it’s just because / I choose not to be loved,” bringing a somber note to the coffee shop. The band then picked up the tempo and the mood, adding a traditional folk twang and foot stomping while Mettler and bassist Alexander Lavon fingerpicked in and out of minor keys.
What really makes Rabbit in the Rye’s performance so captivating is that the band visibly enjoys playing, especially drummer, mandolin player and vocalist Brendan O’Connor. In a song that encapsulates the peak of their folk repertoire, Mettler and O’Connor joined in an acoustic allegorical duet, harmonizing voices and melodic string playing, relying on the bass player to keep the beat.
Rabbit in the Rye finished off the first half of their set with a cover of The Animals’ 1964 song “House of the Rising Sun,” in which the trio skillfully oscillated between the slow, beautiful, jazz-influenced interludes and honest, energetic and expressive rock themes. If you’re looking to enjoy the raw local talent of Rabbit in the Rye in the comfort of your own home, the trio has recently released a free digital album “Live at Subrosa.” Or, if you’re looking to support local talent and local food cupboards, check out Treasures in the Heart of NY’s compilation CD.