Milk Carton Kids, Highline Ballroom, June 16
This was my first time getting a taste of The Milk Carton Kids outside of the emails and tweets I’d received from Emilee Warner over at Crash Avenue. She offered me an opportunity to catch them (and Joe Purdy) at the Highline Ballroom and I had trouble turning down the free show (that goes for anyone else that thinks there’s something I ought to be listening to… I’m easily coerced).
After giving a listen to their live album that came out a short while ago, I knew that this show would be perfect for a lazy summer evening. I really suggest y’all grab a copy of Retrospect, very mellow and smooth. I’ve gone ahead and put up a video below so everyone could get a taste… it’s not far off from the real thing.
Serendipitously, a minor snafu with the list at the will call desk, forced Joey Ryan (sp) of the band to come out and bring me inside which gave me an opportunity to chat with him about the tour, the band, Joe Purdy and their plans regarding their upcoming studio album (which is in the mastering stages as we speak, stay tuned for that one… he said that it will be available for sale, but will likely be included for free download on their website as well).
Apparently, Joey and Kenneth were just fans of each other’s music as they were both hammering out solo careers on LA’s songwriter circuit when they, rather accidentally, realized that they had such a compatible sound. You can tell during the shows and on the record (cut at Zoe’s in LA to a crowd of about 50) who wrote what, with one artist taking the lead and the other supporting with melodic flourishes and harmonies. While altogether a very organic and soothing combination, I’m excited to hear the new record on which I’m told they wrote the tunes for a duo (rather than take their favorite solo tunes and play them as a duo).
UPDATE: I heard from writer friend and roots enthusiast, Allison Hussey just told me that Joey Ryan graduated from UC Berkeley and was about to go to grad school for neuroscience. He quit for music. Thanks Allison
If their meeting is any indication of their style, they have a very folksy, California-chill vibe that is both soothing and hypnotizing. For better or worse, their style was very consistent through every song, which might be a turnoff for some folks. (I, on the other hand, really liked it.)
The compositions have a loose, country feel with Joey doing more of the chording legwork, while Kenneth maintained a slick country slide to his licks. The whole performance was very expressive and Kenneth’s phrasing, while at time a little noodley, was overall great accompaniment to their singing. They fit extremely well together, so much so you might forget that their confluence was more or less accidental. The band has a ton of potential going forward. While they could be a bit more engaging with their banter, it’s really the music that matters most, and they certainly met and exceeded my expectations.
All in all, the music speaks for itself and is so calm and mellow that it’s not really an issue that I wasn’t there with friends. However, that same mellowness is what makes me think that they should be playing a venue like the Rockwood instead, in order to step up the intimacy and give them a little more time for folks to really dive into their music. Joey said he thinks they’ll be there next time, so I will be too.
Big THANK YOU to Emilee for turning me on and for her hard work to get me in.
As promised, here’s the vid of one of my favorites, “Permanent”: