Alex Lavon, Brendan O’Connor, and Joseph Mettler, who comprise the folk-rock trio Rabbit In The Rye played a special show on Lake Moraine in Hamilton for a captive audience on October 2. It felt almost like a summer day with spectacular weather, though the Upstate fall was captured in the reflection of the changing leaves that backdropped the band on the shimmering lake water. One of the brightest moments during the ongoing pandemic occurred with three straight hours of incredible original tunes from the band’s catalog both old and new this past Saturday.
Though this show was not publicized, friends and family of the band lined the shores to soak in the beautiful sunset and every last note. It was one of those magical nights where the audience yearned for each note and breath over the microphone. Over the course of Rabbit in the Rye’s more than decade-long tenure, the band has taken many shapes. However, when Mettler met O’Connor and soon after Lavon, the trio was set in stone. The band soon had a large following in New York and even toured extensively, covering a lot of territory while becoming best friends. That friendship could be seen on stage and heard in their recordings as they found their voice and forged their own sound.
The backline of Lavon on bass and O’Connor on drums (and sometimes mandolin) drove these songs to new heights. Mettler’s songwriting is top-notch, which could stand alongside the greats of Dylan, Prine, and Isakov. His voice made believers of all who were fortunate to see this band blow the doors off of every venue they played or lullaby the sweetest smile out of any “grinch.”
It was incredible to see the devoted followers watching in awe at how quickly the trio picked up cues from each other and how sweetly their harmonies complemented each other, perhaps another silver lining of their deep friendships. Listen to “The Girl Who Cried Wolf” from their album Kindling, which had this weekend’s audience singing and howling along, as a beautiful example. The age-old joke that bands have “bathroom songs” does not apply to any of the albums, live recordings and music videos Rabbit in the Rye have produced. Instead, they truly do not have a bad song. Something very few bands that have existed as long can say,
Those lucky enough to be in attendance were treated to a wide range of their catalog. While Rabbit in the Rye had been on a hiatus for a few years, it sounded as if they had rehearsed every day since the start of the pandemic. Besides a few cute puppies barking, a toddler falling while hula hooping, or a glass of ice spilled, every single note was crystal clear. The entire set was originals and they even added a few new tunes that nobody had ever heard live. One can only hope these make it onto recordings one day.
Though the band’s future is unclear, each member will work in music in some way or another. One thing that is for sure, as the shores of Lake Moraine broke into dancing, humungous smiles, and thunderous applause, whatever spirited the band getting back together for this special show brought out the sunshine from above and into each audience members’ heart.
For this writer, I can honestly say this was one of the top five musical moments of my life. As we all travel through the complications of life, it is hard to predict if Rabbit in the Rye will ever play again, but as Shel Silverstein says “Anything is possible child, anything can be.” The fans of the band will at least have a most memorable concert to say fare thee well to one of the best, most inclusive, and humble bands that have existed. Those that stayed for the campfire acoustic section, well there are no words that can capture that. In the rapturous rays of Central NY we certainly found there can be gold in these hills with the wonderful fellas from Rabbit in the Rye.
At this point, writers sometimes list key tracks to check out. Between their two albums and live recordings you cannot go wrong. I would encourage you to try it all. Below are a few starter pack videos that show the diverse sound, attention to detail, and care this band radiated into the world for a decade. Thank you for the music, gentlemen.