September 24, 2015

Milk Carton Kids: more than just a folk duo

The Milk Carton Kids, consisting of Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, charismatically performed Thursday night at the Kentucky Center for the Arts Bombard Theater to promote their new album Monterey.

The two got their start in Eagle Rock, California, and have since captured fans nationwide with their original, folksy songs and unique guitar work. Releasing their first two albums “Prologue” and “Retrospect” online for free in 2011, they quickly built a passionate fan base. 

As Ryan walked onstage, he greeted the audience with a dry “Hello, Louisville,” and a single voice responded, “Hi, Ryan!” The slight awkwardness in the room set the mood for the entire night, as the Milk Carton Kids wove sad sounds into breaks of comedy, joking with each other and telling stories. They have a dry sense of humor. Joey’s voice rarely changes tones, but they work well together and are able to bring the audience into the performance, making this a show worth seeing.

Ryan holds down the basis of their songs, playing chords and keeping a beat while Pattengale plays more complex melodies freely overtop. Both are great singers, harmonizing in the sad, soulful wail that personifies much of their music.

The end of every song drew powerful rounds of applause. It wasn’t the first time The Kids have played in Louisville, but according to them, this performance was one of their best.

Audience members yelled out song requests, but when one woman yelled out “Do it,” a confused Pattengale responded “Do what?”, which garnered a laugh from the crowd.

The band certainly has their act put together. They brought their personality onstage along with their music. Conversations on stage ranged from Ryan’s fatherhood to the stupidity of astrology and the typical “oh how cute,” reactions of the band name.

They’re easily relatable, and that’s the source of their appeal. What was most surprising, however, was the size of the audience–especially considering the audience’s passion for the group. They sold only in the range of two hundred tickets. However, the intimateness between the performers and the crowd felt more like a dinner party where the hosts play music, discuss life and laugh together. 

Thursday was the only show in Louisville on the Monterey tour. Ryan and Pattengale certainly seem to have an appetite for live shows and Louisville, so maybe seeing “Milk Carton Kids,” as a headline will be in the near future. 

The second they began to slide their guitars off their shoulders, the audience began cheering for an encore, which Ryan and Pattengale gladly delivered. The show ended with their own beautiful rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” Pattengale’s guitar work and harmony with Ryan silenced the crowd as they savored the last minutes of the show.

Chattering and smiling faces left the Bomhard Theater Thursday night, indicating the Milk Carton Kids are molding their own meaning of “folk duo.” 

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