A woman standing front row at Amoeba told me, in a few minutes, everything I needed to know about the Milk Carton Kids, she was obviously a big fan and sounded like someone who wanted to sell her most precious treasure. ‘Did you like them?’ she asked me at the end of their set,… Of course, I liked them, it was difficult to resist their close-to-perfect harmonies, quiet songs with delicate finger picking and beside everything, great sense of humor! These two, Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, looked like part accomplished musicians, part standup comedians, especially Ryan who was playing this semi-depressed, serious and literate character saying the funniest thing while hardly cracking a smile.
With a certain self-deprecating undertone, he announced we had to get very close as they were playing quiet, sad and depressive music, appropriate for the time of the day when the sun goes down. ‘This was our happiest song’ he also said after playing the sweet and nostalgic tune ‘Hope of a Lifetime’ opening their new album, ‘The Ash & Clay’, then expressing his appreciation of the large crowd that had filled up the store by comparing it to the day Paul McCartney did a show there! He also went into some lengthy explanation of the origin of &, the ampersand, as if he had just read the Wikipedia entry, but even then he sounded funny.
Pattengale and Ryan's tight harmonies and the purity of their sound was marvelously working on the crowd, which was religiously listening to the gorgeous ‘Snake Eyes’, a song which was even used in Gus Van Sant’s 2012 ‘Promised Land. The duo was playing their soothing folk ballads as if they had invented the genre, intertwining their voices as if Simon & Garfunkel or the Everly Brothers had never existed.
The finger picking was getting more intricate on some songs, going from mellow parts to more country or bluegrass ones, and they were joking about the fact that people thought they were from the mid west because of the type of music they were playing. ‘We are from LA’, they said, ‘But we went to Michigan once and wrote this song about getting out of there!’… ‘Is there someone from Michigan?’ Someone in the crowd raised his hand,… ‘Well congrats for getting out of there!’ I told you they were funny, but you have to see them live to fully experience Ryan’s deadpan humor.
They were celebrating the release of this new ‘The Ash & Clay’, the first of their albums physically available at Amoeba, whereas their two first releases, ‘Prologue’ and ‘Retrospect’, are incredibly still available for free download on their website.
There was a timeless dimension to their rootsy songs, which, at the same time, didn’t sound outdated. Some may say we have heard all this hundreds of times before, but I don’t think it was possible to top their immaculate singing harmonies.
Hope of a Lifetime
Years Gone By
Girls, Gather ‘Round
It’s the music, stupid
a restless and fearless freak show
Eminem and Calvin couldn’t move Bey
summer’s entertainment is rewarded
compares the end of a romance to the end of life
House pure and simple
lays down his claim to being a giant
Elvis Costello And The Imposters and Nick Lowe And Los Straightjackets At The Rooftop At Pier 17, Thursday, August 11th, 2022
embraces the moment with a big smile