Sixty years on, there continues to be no other festival that promises unity and unforgettable moments as well as Newport Folk Festival does.
On Friday, August 3rd, I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale of the Milk Carton Kids and ask them a few questions. A favorite of the ChunkyGlasses crew (read the accounts of our previous run-ins with them here and here) the acoustic guitar duo was in the middle of a two-night stand at the 9:30 Club on their tour with Old Crow Medicine Show and The Lumineers. Now, for your enjoyment, we present the fruits of that hang session where the “Kids” opened up about their current tour, upcoming album, fried chicken sandwiches, and attempt to start a West Coast v. Rocky Mountain folk music battle with The Lumineers.
To start off, I know you guys are only a couple days into the tour so far, but tell me how it’s going and how you’re enjoying. I know last night at the show you said you’ve only been on the tour one day, but you feel like you’ve known the guys for three or four already.
JR: At least. It’s the most fun I’ve had on a tour that we’ve been on in a while. We’ve played more music on this tour than on any tour we’ve done. I think it’s because Ketch and the Old Crow Guys were insistent from even before the tour and they followed through on it the first night that we would be up on stage with them. We ended up on stage with them for two or three songs for the encore the first night. So we’ve been learning their songs and have been doing a lot more backstage strumming than ever before. Which is good because it keeps us out of our heads and makes it more fun. It doesn’t feel like work because we’ve been playing so much music.
So The Lumineers were somewhat of a last minute addition to the tour….
KP: Yeah, nice guys, terrible music.
JR: I love the music, but think they’re terrible people.
Last Thursday and Friday night, DC’s 9:30 Club was transformed into a barn and the spirit of the South was alive in an all-out hootenanny. Tennessee’s Old Crow Medicine Show played their characteristic blue grass, country, and folk songs while the crowd conducted a ruckus hoedown, dancing and smiling throughout the set.
With the band was Los Angeles’ Milk Carton Kids. The acoustic guitar folk duo was an interesting choice for a crowd clearly there to drink whiskey and party. While it was apparent that the group’s music would be best enjoyed in a quiet setting where their wit and lyrical aptitude could be better appreciated, they certainly held their own and gained new fans. A highlight of the set was “Charlie,” a song written to a yet-to-be-born daughter. Band member Joey Ryan followed up this touching number by letting the audience know that the his counterpart, Kenneth Pattengale, is currently in the hunt for a baby momma and that we might put an asterisk next to our name on the email list in order to audition. They also advertised that both their CDs are available for free download on their website….or that you can let your conscious guide you to buying the album at the merch table.
Driven by the engine of Joey Ryan’s impeccably studied songwriting skills and Kenneth Pattengale’s awe inspiring guitar evocations, The Milk Carton Kids have found themselves occupying a space that hasn’t seen a lot of heavy hitters as of late. Oh sure, there’s The Civil Wars and there’s the ever present Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch (ostensibly the “godfathers” of the modern scene) but gone are the days when names like Simon, Garfunkel, Prine, Croce, Stevens — the list goes on and on — dominated the musical landscape. Which is not to say that Ryan and Pattengale are quite there yet, but damned if they aren’t on the right track.
LA folksters The Milk Carton Kids have have spent the past year touring the country in support of 2011's Prologue (which you can get for free directly from the band here), and tonight that tour is making a stop at Vienna's own Jammin Java (get your tickets here)
There's lots of reasons why you should join us there tonight, but the main one is that The Milk Carton Kids are just plain GOOD. Much like The Wooden Sky, (see our review from last week) Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale aren't trying to push boundaries as much as they are trying to simply excel at their particular style of music. And the payoff is, well, you'll just have to come see/hear for yourself.
We had the opportunity to ask Milk Carton Kid Joey Ryan a few questions over the weekend and this is what he had to say about the groups influences, free music and where they're headed from here.
Wearing their influences prominently on their Nashville by way of California sleeves, Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan’s songs explore a rich tradition of American folk and country with an awe inspiring commitment to the material and the legacy of their musical idols that came before them. In doing so, the duo manages to come off not just as worshipers at the altar of Rawlings and Welch (and Simon [Paul] and Williams [Hank]), but as worthy heirs to the tradition that came before them. And when the band played the Birchmere last week (opening for Over The Rhine) that tradition was on full display to the delight of the assembled audience.