When Mipso performs at Looking Glass Artists Center on Feb. 1, Salisbury will see first-hand what has made Mipso a sensation in Chapel Hill.
Mipso, composed of four University of North Carolina undergraduates, has sold out Carrboro’s Cat’s Cradle, with a capacity of 750, each of the three times they’ve played there. The enthusiasm of the college crowd still surprises the band.
“There’s nothing that compares to it,” Wood Robinson, Mipso’s upright bass player, says. “There are people who know the lyrics of the songs better than I do.”
But when the three song-writing members of the band graduate in May (Libby Rodenbough, who plays fiddle with the band, has a year to go) they will be pursuing their music full-time and will be playing for unfamiliar crowds. They’re poised to take their bluegrass-tinged Americana music to other regions of North Carolina, the East Coast and beyond. In fact, they plan to tour Japan soon after graduation. The occasional shows they’ll be playing before graduation are good practice for winning over new fans.
“We’re looking forward to Salisbury because it’s going to be a small, intimate show with people who maybe never heard of us before,” mandolin player Jacob Sharp says. “That’s a different challenge but similarly exciting.”
If the reception they received at a show in Charlotte in November is an indication, any crowd will find it difficult to resist their distinct North Carolina feel: the bluegrass-influenced fiddle and chop-style mandolin, the smooth vocals and the lyrics that bring you back to the small town that you’re from, or wish you were from. You might feel like you’re listening on your front porch – that is, if you had friends who could sing in seemingly effortless three-part harmony.
Other influences find their way into the songs, too. Soul, rock and pop touches all show up in their live performances. They count North Carolina songwriting legend David Childers, currently fronting the Overmountain Men, as a musical idol and have shared the stage with him several times. Joseph Terrell, the guitar player, doesn’t take that association for granted.
“There’s a lot we learn from him because David’s been doing this a long time and he’s a great songwriter.”
When they entered college, none had an inkling that a music career was in the cards. Their fields of study include environmental science, religion, anthropology, geology, international studies and geography, but they’ve also taken advantage of musical opportunities at UNC. Robinson has played in jazz ensembles, and he and Terrell have taken music theory classes. This spring all three are participating in a songwriting and composition class with Bland Simpson, North Carolina author and the long-time piano player for Red Clay Ramblers. They might be the only college seniors wishing for lots of homework. They hope that the rigor of regular assignments will help them collaborate on a number of new songs. Mipso plans to release an EP this spring and a second full-length album in the fall or winter.
As they gear up to tour more extensively after graduation, one thing they look forward to is exploring more of their home state.
“We’re all from North Carolina and we care a lot about the North Carolina influence in our music,” Terrell says. “We care a lot about playing around the state. We want to grow this band among our friends and family and communities around us — other places in North Carolina that haven’t heard us yet.”
If Chapel Hill is right about the appeal of Mipso, that will be a rapidly shrinking list.
Mipso will be performing in the Looking Glass Artists Center black box theatre on Friday, Feb. 1. Doors open at 7 p.m. Charleston musician Laura Thurston will open at 7:30 p.m. Mipso will take the stage around 9 p.m.
Tickets are $5 in advance, $7 at the door. Tickets are available now at Looking Glass, at Tastebuds Coffee and Tea, 106 N. Main St., and at Counterpoint Music, 50 Court Sq., Mocksville.
Concessions will be available. This is an all ages show. For more information, call 704-633-2787 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org Check out Mipso at www.mipsomusic.com
Laura Thurston opens for Mipso on Feb. 1
Thurston is said to bring multi-instrumentalism to a new level — be enthralled as you watch this lovely lady rappin’ on a suitcase kick drum with one foot and tappin’ on a tambourine with the other; all the while, hands on her guitar and mouth on her harp. On top of that, Laura then adds sweet sugary vocals to her acoustic Folk-Grass mix.
Thurston launched her solo career in 2011, performing up and down the east coast. With her original ideas and talented executions this one woman band has her own unique style from a vintage era that will have you feelin’ fine.