“Well we finally grew up and got suits,” Kenneth announces from the corner of the stage at Joe’s Pub, “I feel like this group should have to pay extra for this sight of my ass.”
“I was gonna say they should get a discount,” Joe contends.
Kenneth Pattengale and Joe Ryan are The Milk Carton Kids, a duo both incongruous and inseparable. Their gentle, pensive folk music has found its way onto playlists everywhere and led them to stages across the country and yet they still seem to just be boys. It’s easy to picture them, sans suits, sitting around in a garage trying to outdo each other with new guitar licks or witty insults. They have a genuine humility and a sarcasm that, combined with their earnest songs, turns an audience to putty in their hands. It is obvious in their music, the way their acoustic guitars and gentle vocal harmonies spiral around one another, that they are mutually dependent on each other. It is even more apparent in a live performance where their individual awkwardness, irresistibly charming when combined, would so clearly be, well, just awkward if either of them were left to their own devices. It would be like fodder for a very sad, sappy movie.
Augmenting the unadorned poetry of their song-writing is their banter onstage. They know how to share the spotlight; their energies balance and complement one another. Joe carefully smoothes and tucks his hair behind his ears and nudges his glasses up onto his nose; Kenneth sways and jerks as he plays, his guitar-playing coursing through his body, his sweat-drenched hair shoved back on top of his head. Joe is more loquacious, delivering all of his statements in a deadpan that rivals stand-up comics, but Kenneth holds his own, mocking Joe’s loquacious nature.
“Joe. Your employ of that last metaphor was just stupid,” Kenneth states, following a particularly long speech about the weather in New York that Joe couldn’t quite seem to find his way out of. The audience laughs at Kenneth’s candor. “You can all laugh with me if you want but he’s gotta learn. He can’t just go onstage in front of a room full of people and say perfectly asinine things,” Kenneth explains.
And yet it seems they can do no wrong. The full room at Joe’s Pub was silent through their set, held in rapt attention, hanging on every guitar flourish and subtle harmony. They seem born to play together.
They sing, “Do you ever get the feelin’ that we’re livin’ for a reason; for that reason I won’t ever let you go.” Lyrics that were not meant for one another and yet here’s hoping they apply nonetheless.
Download both of their albums for free from their website, here. Do it now.