Mike Miozwinski and Rabbit in the Rye Rock the Barge

Eric Reimund

This past Saturday, September 21, the Barge Canal Coffee Co. held its first concert of the semester with the rustic stylings of opener and local favorite Rabbit in the Rye and country-folk guitar virtuoso Mike Mizwinski.

Starting around 8 p.m., Rabbit, consisting of Joseph Mettler on guitar and harmonica, Alexander Lavon on bass and Brendan O’Connor on drums and mandolin, deftly displayed their own particular brand of highly musically competent prog-folk. These songs are longer and more intricate than one comes to expect from folk, a traditionally rootsy and down-home style of music, but the extra room to breath within the songs and the textural ebbs and flows of the songwriting lend themselves well to the yarns spun with their music. Though certainly capable of barn-shaking romps of songs, like their most popular song “Gold in these Hills,” the primary feel of their set was softer and more contemplative. In lyrics and themes, their music is quite in line with the new wave of super sincere, emotionally direct folk artists like Mumford and Sons or the Lumineers. However, their musical abilities and shifting song structures remind one more of the band Fleet Foxes, expertly playing with the audience’s expectations. They played for a little over an hour to a very full house who enthusiastically listened to their music and graciously received the local boys.

Next up was Mike Mizwinski, who grew up in the coal-dusted regions of northeast Penn. and whose musical style and themes are informed by his deep connection to that area. At about 9:30 p.m., Mike and his accompaniment on piano and rhythm guitar launched into their expert performance which continued full force until 11 p.m. The first thing one notices about his playing is the astonishing quickness and dexterity of his fingers. The word “virtuoso” can oftentimes be thrown around too flippantly, but he earns the designation and then some. Whether he is playing country, bluegrass, folk or rock-based tunes, his skill boggles the mind. The most amazing aspects of his performance were the back and forth interlocking solos that he traded with his nominal rhythm accompanist.

Mizwinski’s music, stemming from the freneticism of his hands at work, is more upbeat and optimistic than Rabbit in the Rye. This style translates to the man’s personality; he was all smiles and good vibes, the type of person you’d imagine makes a living by playing country and folk songs.

It was a delightful night filled with good tunes, times and company. Pure and simple, it’s just impossible to be glum in a comfortable chair, a hot cup of coffee in hand and fascinating music being made right before your eyes.

Contact Eric Reimund at [email protected]