The Milk Carton Kids with Melody Pool

The Milk Carton Kids at Meeniyan Hall, Friday 7 July 2013

By Nad Budge | Photographs by Lauren Duiker at Thornbury Theatre

If you weren’t one of the folk that got along to see The Milk Carton Kids around town this last week, I’d like you to bend over right now and give yourselves a kick, because next time you’ll be lucky to get a ticket.

Californians, Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale are effortless in each other’s presence, like twins who think each other’s thoughts and feel each other’s feelings. I would love to have been a fly on the wall (or perhaps even a human in the room) when these two struck that first note and blended voice for the first time barely three years ago. What they have is something visceral and magical – what they have can’t be manufactured, taught or bought – it just is, and it’s rare. Seamless harmonies to beautiful melodies where it’s almost impossible to distinguish which voice is singing which part.

I’m steering clear of instant music comparisons and influences because these guys have something unique and, in fact, deserve to stand alone. If I have to make connection for those who haven’t experienced The Milk Carton Kids, I’m inclined to say “Think of the great comedic duos like Laurel and Hardy, Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello” – (and no, that’s not Tony and Peter – definitely nothin’ funny there!!). Ryan and Pattengale are bloody hilarious. I was as much waiting for their banter between songs as I was for the songs themselves. Kenneth Pattengale’s boyishness is the perfect foil for Joey Ryan’s deadpan, quirky delivery, and their symbiotic humour had the audience exactly where they wanted them, right there in the moment hanging off every word they said and every note they played. Their hour-or-so set seemed to go remarkably swiftly, and when it came time for them to leave the stage the room erupted with thunderous applause and foot stomping, and you could just feel that the audience wanted to rise to its feet and give them a standing ovation, but such is the reserve of many an Australian audience that we all sat there and settled into the fact that we’d just been part of something truly special.

So, Milk Carton Kids, if you ever read this, that night you played the Meeniyan Hall out in the middle of nowhere, where you remarked that “I’m scared. They fed us real good and now I think they’re gonna kill us,” just knowthat you got a mental standing ovation and an audience that was left buzzing.

Nice work too by support, Melody Pool, with her unassuming yet engaging presence, interesting open tunings and a set including her song, “Henry”, which really made the audience tune right on in.

I also have to give a big hats-off to Ian Bevington and BT and anyone else who had a hand in getting The Milk Carton Kids, and all the incredible talent you manage to get down there at Meeniyan Hall. I make special mention of this because not all venue operators get the fact that they go a long way to creating special music moments. The Meeniyan crew just get it, by respecting musicians, respecting audiences and getting all that’s magical about a great gig. I hope you’re still buzzing too!

(Psst, The Milk Carton Kids’ first two albums, Prologue and Retrospect, are available for free download on their website, but hey, while you’re there, buy a copy of their latest, The Ash and Clay.)

Photos taken by Lauren Duiker @ The Thornbury Theatre Melbourne, 6th June 2013