• Review

Review: The Milk Carton Kids

I took my seat at Taft Theatre, a few rows back from the stage. There was a small drum set, an upright bass, a keyboard, and a few microphone stands set up in preparation for the opening band who I hadn’t previously heard of. A man with shaggy brown hair wearing a suit, who I recognized as Joey Ryan of The Milk Carton Kids, stepped on stage. “We broke one of our rules as a band and asked someone who’s much better at music than we are to open for us on this tour,” he said, prompting the first laugh of the night from the crowd. He introduced the opening act, Sammy Miller and the Congregation, adding that “You will have many questions from the start of their set. By the end of the show you will have received no answers.” I sat back in my seat, anxious for what was to come.

Ryan was right in that I had many questions about what I was witnessing. All I know is that my stomach hurt from laughing and my arms were covered in goose bumps throughout the entirety of their set. A jazz group from New York City, Sammy Miller and the Congregation claim to play “joyful jazz—music that feels good.” I couldn’t have put it better myself, as their set included a theatrical aspect that made me question why every band I see doesn’t incorporate costumes somehow. The musicianship was beyond impressive, but the unique and hilarious spin on jazz improvisation made them one of the most entertaining opening acts I’ve ever seen.

A short break led into the main entertainment, The Milk Carton Kids, a Los Angeles folk duo comprised of aforementioned Joey Ryan and lead guitarist and vocalist Kenneth Pattengale. The band had recently taken a short break from touring, and played an eclectic mix of songs from the three albums they have released. To say that the show took me on an emotional journey would be an understatement, as one moment Ryan was making jokes about giving birth and the next they were singing a song about death. Pattengale’s mind-blowing guitar solos paired with the flawless harmonies that were indistinguishable as two voices made the show captivating in such a unique way. Highlights of the night included their most popular tune, “Michigan,” and a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” With only two guitars and one mic shared between the two voices, Ryan and Pattengale took the audience back in time and presented only the basics of folk music. However, the dry humor of both men made for a comedy show and a concert all in one. Overall, the raw musical talent that The Milk Carton Kids show during their set is unbelievable, and something that everyone deserves to experience.