Mipso makes music, beer for performance

Directions: soak three UNC-Chapel Hill students in bluegrass tradition. Boil Motown-influenced songwriting with the heat of college gigging. Cool, add fiddle and allow fanbase to ferment. Add two albums recorded and a successful tour through Asia, and you have Mipso.

On Oct. 26, at the Haw River Ballroom, Mipso shared tunes from the product of this homegrown fermentation process, “Dark Holler Pop,” as well as Dark Holler Hop, a brew named after the album, for their release party.

Lines still spilling out the door into a freezing Saxapahaw, N.C. night, Mipso, made up of guitarist and singer Joseph Terrell, mandolinist Jacob Sharp and bassist Wood Robinson, played a wide variety of cuts, old and new, originals and covers.

Blending up-tempo sing-alongs, like album highlight “Get Out,” featuring a scorching fiddle solo from guest Libby Rodenbough, with wistful slow-burners, Mipso revealed a confidence in craft befitting a band with such a carefully laid, foundational fanbase.

“This looks like a room full of friends,” said Terrell from the stage.

Yet this friendly environment did not stop Mipso from playing their bluegrass arrangements tightly.

Mipso began the second song of the set, “A Couple Acres Greener,” the first track on the album, with a dark, rhythmic mandolin intro.

“I’ve never been so hungry,” sang Terrell. “Seems like 22 years I’ve been looking for a fight.”

On “Lonely Town,” another lyrically dissatisfied but harmonically uplifting song, Mipso engaged the whole audience.

“When I get out of this lonely town,” sang Terrell with help from the crowd.

“When they sing ‘Lonely Town,’ a lot of people our age find truth in that song,” said long-time fan Carson Cashwell.

Though Mipso certainly resonates with a youthful audience, the crowd was a mix of old, young and even babies napping in the arms of their grandparents.

Mipso brought out opener Josh Moore for a cover of Iris Dement’s bittersweet “Our Town.” Mipso first met Moore as the neighborhood barista.

“We knew him as our neighbor,” said Terrell. “Then he started coming over and playing music with us. Little did we know, he had the voice of an angel.”

Mipso and Moore infused the cover with slightly more energy than on the original, still wanting to respect the song’s tone, but edging it forward slightly.

Robinson nodded his head eagerly in utter agreement with the groove. Breaking into the chorus, Sharp bounced slightly off the ground like a shy punk-rocker.

The set included many songs about Mipso’s home state, including “Red Eye to Raleigh,” and fan-favorite “Carolina Calling.”

“It makes me proud to be from North Carolina,” said Rachel Sun, another fan.

Sharp summed up the big night.

“Tonight represents the full-time Mipso sound,” said Sharp in an interview with The Guilfordian after the show. “It was great that it started for fun, but I’m glad we decided to get serious.”

Fans of Mipso would certainly agree: the brew tastes great and the show tasted even better.

Mipso plays the Carolina Theatre in downtown Greensboro on Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.

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