The Milk Carton Kids
Thornbury Theatre, Thornbury
Thursday 6 June 2013
Image courtesy of freetoeknee Photography
I ascended the marble staircase of the Thornbury Theatre on Thursday with little prior knowledge of either Californian indie folk duo The Milk Carton Kids (Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan) or their support act Melody Pool, and left impressed by both.
New South Wales songstress Melody Pool is a young talent and also definitely an old soul. Her pre-set warning to us that we would all be somewhat depressed by the end of her performance was indeed a valid observation, but it was a bewitching melancholic feeling of having pondered the sad beauty of life, love and loss.
A quick pre-gig listen to The Milk Carton Kids’ free-to-download first two albums Prologue and Retrospect revealed heartfelt harmonies and sparkling fretwork with obvious Simon and Garfunkel influences. A quick view of their music video Honey, Honey revealed the most simple premise for a music video I can recall: Amanda Seyfried drives through the suburbs; the dramatic highlight is where she scratches her nose.
On the night it quickly became apparent that not only are The Milk Carton Kids highly accomplished musical craftsmen, they also provide possibly the most hilarious between-song banter you'll come across. They had the crowd in stitches with gems like "this song Charlie is about Kenneth's daughter Charlie" (awww bless we all thought) – but "she doesn't yet have a due date. Or a mother." Desert-dry delivery and deadpan faces made it all the funnier. I couldn't help but think of the self-proclaimed New Zealand's fourth most popular digi-bongo a capella rap-funk-comedy folk duo Flight of the Conchords, and as a fellow kiwi that's pretty much my homeland's highest comedy compliment. Later, Joey implored us to "watch his guitar fingers" on lively song Girls Gather Round, so we dutifully focused on his almost imperceptibly moving hands, only to realise the intention was for Kenneth to completely eclipse him with his vastly more dynamic playing.
Whilst they have physically different approaches to their stage performances, their voices are uncannily similar, intertwining with pleasing balance and beauty. They had the audience spell-bound on haunting track Michigan. The American geography name-checking continued with their two encores New York and Memphis, which were delivered after they had brought much of the audience to a standing ovation.
Around half of the tracks performed were from their newest album Ashes & Clay, giving a nice balance between their previous and latest work for their first-ever Melbourne concert. And I would never have guessed that one album title could give such a wealth of material for the band to draw on during their between-song discussions. Not the words though mind you, just the ampersand between "Ashes" and "Clay". Joey's treatise on the origins of this logogram was unexpectedly long and detailed and lost me a little but gave mirth to many.
The frosty air-conditioning of the venue didn’t cool the warmth from the audience for The Milk Carton Kids. They’re a little bit country and a little bit comedy, and they’ll definitely win you over.
To download Prologue and Retrospect go to www.themilkcartonkids.com
Do them a favour and purchase their new album The Ash & Clay whilst you're at it.