MiZ returns to A Bear’s Picnic

MiZ, the rock-Americana project of Mike Mizwinski, will return to A Bear’s Picnic music festival stage for their fourth time at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 3. Mizwinski (the “Miz” in MiZ) is an acoustic-and-electric guitarist and singer-songwriter, and winner of the Tri-State Indie “Acoustic Artist of the Year” award in both 2010 and 2011.

In the past year, he and his band have opened for the Derek Trucks Band, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Blues Traveler, Shawn Colvin, Lyle Lovett, Leon Russell and Railroad Earth. Since 2010, MiZ has played more than 450 shows in locations from Germany to Canada, and the United States.

“It’s a really inspiring time for us right now. We have a great booking agent right now and a lot of incredible festival gigs coming up,” Mizwinski said.

On top of that, the band has a second studio album in the works, potentially “with some really incredible special guests,” Mizwinski said.

MiZ’s music is a combination of folk, rock, bluegrass and blues – a mixture the band likes to think of as “pure Americana.” The word “virtuoso” has been used in reference to Mizwinski and it’s no misnomer; he’ll fit right in alongside the heavyweights scheduled to perform on the Bear’s Picnic stage. In fact, sharing the stage with some of the bigger names in American music’s past and present is something that MiZ has been getting used to over the past few years.

When the group recently opened for Grammy-winning folk-rock group America, Mizwinski was invited back on stage to perform “A Horse with No Name.”

The band comes from the coal-crackin’ regions in and around Scranton – something that Mizwinski said “evoke[s] the rustic tones and imagery you would expect from the region and it’s cultural heritage.” He’s been playing music since an early age, and formed MiZ in the late 2000s – but it’s only since May that he’s been performing with his current lineup.

“Before, I was looking for as many good players around here as I could to back me up,” he said, adding “but now I’ve really secured a solid lineup. It’s a committed group and the same guys at every gig.”

MiZ’s first studio album, “East Hope Avenue,” features Mizwinski and a band comprised of accomplished local musicians Freeman White (keyboards and vocals), Brett Alexander (guitars), AJ Jump (drums) and Bill Stetz (bass). They, however, aren’t the only musicians on the record. Through an amazing turn of events, all of which took place at a past Bear’s Picnic music festival, Mizwinski was able to establish a musical relationship with one of his heroes.

“One of my favorite albums ever,” Mizwinski said, “is Bob Dylan’s ‘Blood on the Tracks.’ ” Just as it will this year, A Bear’s Picnic featured both MiZ and a group originally started by Jerry Garcia called New Riders of the Purple Sage. At the festival, Mizwinski was able to meet steel-guitarist Buddy Cage, who performs with New Riders of the Purple Sage and played on “Blood on the Tracks.”

“We became friends, exchanged contact info and Buddy [Cage] ended up playing on my last record [‘East Hope Avenue’],” said Mizwinski. “It was a really neat connection that happened at A Bear’s Picnic,” he added.

Music lovers can find Mike Mizwinski and MiZ online, see where they’ll be playing and read more at www.mikemizmusic.com, on www.sonicbids.com, Facebook and YouTube. “East Hope Avenue” is available to buy on MiZ’s website and on iTunes. MiZ will be onstage at A Bear’s Picnic on Aug. 3 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. For more information about this year’s festival lineup, visit www.abearspicnic.com.

Tickets to A Bear’s Picnic may be bought online at www.abearspicnic.com, or at Old School Pizza in Williamsport, Jasmine-Aire Boutique in Sunbury or at AshWorx in Lock Haven. Camping is on a first come, first serve basis.

As camping is permitted next to vehicles, people wishing to camp with friends are urged to make arrangements to meet before arriving at the gate. Anyone under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The eighth annual A Bear’s Picnic music festival will be held from Aug. 1 through 5 at the Lycoming County Fairgrounds in Hughesville. For more information about the festival, including directions to the fairgrounds, go to www.abearspicnic.com.