The Milk Carton Kids @ The Factory Theatre 04/6/13
When the opportunity popped up to review American folk two piece, The Milk Carton Kids (named after the American practice of alerting the public about missing children by printing their photos on milk cartons), at the Factory Theatre in Sydney last week, I put my hand up not really knowing any of their songs; but who turns down live music right? To give a bit of background, the last few concerts I’d been at were Nick Cave, Robert Plant and Tool. I like a few staples of the genre but needless to say, folk doesn’t take up the bulk of my music. Nevertheless, I went along and was pleased to find that not only were The Milk Carton Kids awesome, but they were two of the most funny and charming musicians I have ever seen on stage.
Authenticity and traditionalism are two things I feel are somewhat sought after in folk and Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale definitely have both in spades. These qualities are at their most evident in Pattengale’s mastery of the fret-board, effortlessly breaking into delightfully twangy high-range solos, and their pitch perfect harmonies, dripping with a bluegrass feel. Their minimalist brand of Americana folk was highlighted by the well lit, simple black stage occupied only by four microphones and the duo.
Standouts from the pair’s set included ‘Honey, Honey’, with its intricate constant riff underpinning the boys upbeat vocal melodies. The slow, contemplative ‘Snake Eyes’ and ‘Memphis’, as well as the title track of their new album ‘The Ash & Clay’. The ampersand in there of paramount importance as Joey went on to explain in one of his many entertaining anecdotes. That’s another thing that gives you a feel of that authenticity I mentioned earlier. Pattengale seemed quite happy to sit back and let Joey handle most of the talking, chiming in with the occasional quip, while Joey regaled the crowd with anecdotes about their dwindling “Milk Carton Kid” onesie sales and their battles to be heard over the humming of the refrigerator in the tiny bars in which they’re used to appearing. The boys were happy to answer the odd question from the crowd and it all just leant itself to the night’s warm and comfortable vibe. The entire time they were on stage I felt like behind any small bar door I could find The Milk Carton Kids playing under the flickering glow of a fluorescent “Bud-Lite” sign.
This was the band’s first time to Australia and I hope it won’t be their last. You can buy their new album, The Ash & Clay, from their website at the link below; where you can also find their previous two albums, Prologue and Retrospect for free download – http://www.themilkcartonkids.com/