The Milk Carton Kids (MCK) headlined Joe’s Pub last night. We bought tickets ages ago. We caught their first ever NYC show (after they officially formed MCK) almost five month ago. Sadly, we missed two NYC shows between then and last night.
My post about that NYC debut show went into great detail describing the group, each of their individual styles, how we came to know them, what their business model is, etc. Rather than repeat all that, if you have interest in knowing more about them (and how great I think they are), please read that post.
I’ll add a few thoughts about last night’s show.
We love Joe’s Pub, in particular since the internal renovation (the exterior still has a ton of work left and the kitchen reno hasn’t even begun). The sound system was perfect (it usually is), so there was no distraction or straining to enjoy MCK.
Joey and Kenneth are always funny, with Joey typically doing much more of the talking. Last night, Kenneth piped up more often. It was an edgier, biting humor (I’m being polite) that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Joey’s responses/reactions to it were priceless, so in the end I was fine with it too. It will be interesting to see whether this was planned/calculated and will be repeated, or whether it was extemporaneous and fleeting (I’m hoping for the latter, even though I laughed).
They were truly amazing last night (not a single complaint). That said, I believe the Rockwood show in October 2011 was technically better.
Joey and Kenneth are very good friends with another top guitar player, NYC-based Adam Levy. In addition to giving guitar lessons, Adam tweets guitar tips on a regular basis. I doubt they changed their styles as a result of anything Adam tweeted publicly, but I was struck by the fact that they are the perfect poster boys for Adam’s advice. Specifically:
Don’t watch your hands.Nothing to see there.Look around-at audience, fellow musicians, the scenery.
As incredible as both are on the guitar (completely different styles), neither ever looks at their hands/guitar while they’re singing. They rarely look down when they’re just playing either.
I can’t find the set of tweets that covered this next tip, so I’ll paraphrase and butcher it, sorry:
If you play acoustic guitar, unless there’s a really good reason to (which there rarely is), don’t use pickups and an amplifier, use a microphone to amplify your guitar. It makes everything simpler, less things to travel with and less things that can go wrong.
MCK do exactly that. Four microphones on stage, two for their voices, two for their guitars. They can travel lightly (which in this business, means simplicity and money-savings). When Kenneth wants to tune his guitar, he steps a few feet back from the mic. He doesn’t need to dork with pedal boards, electronic tuners, signaling the sound guy that he’s about to unplug, etc.
If you’re interested in more of Adam’s tips/lessons, look here.
Here is the set list from last night:
MCK had an opener. It’s extremely rare for most of the clubs that we frequent to make any announcements (headliners or openers). At some point, one or more people are on stage, milling about. You hear a bunch of “check, check”, some tuning, but mostly, you hear the crowd carrying on, ignoring what’s happening on stage. Then the lights get a bit dimmer, and the person or group on stage either starts playing, or perhaps they say hello and introduce themselves.
In an even rarer event than the venue making an announcement, Joey Ryan (1/2 of the MCK) came out and gave a moving introduction of the opener. We know from past experience that Joey is a class act in every respect, so this wasn’t a surprise in terms of his behavior, but it was a surprise to have anyone mention the name of the opener before they hit the stage.
Trevor Menear is a solo singer/songwriter, accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar. I’m typically a big fan of this kind of music (having come of age to Bob Dylan) and I can see Trevor’s appeal in that regard. As good a job as he did, for whatever reason, I wasn’t particularly drawn to his songs.
His guitar play was quite good when he wasn’t singing (during the bridges, or intro/closing), but was less polished (for the most part) while he was singing. That said, later in the set he switched to finger-picking on a couple of songs, and I shifted in my seat to pay more attention. He has skills.
I enjoyed his set, but I wouldn’t normally run out to see him again. Given how much Joey promoted him (at the end of the MCK set as well), he’s worth another listen (or two, or three), to see what I might be missing. Trevor is currently touring with MCK, so if you’re about to see them, you’ll see him, and can form your own opinion.
After the set we got to say a quick hi to Joey. Lois snapped this photo of Joey with two of our other favorite musicians:
Then we bumped into Philip Ettinger. I’ve written about Phil once before and mentioned him in another post. Phil is an actor that you all better keep an eye on, he’s going places, mark my words. Of course, we forced him to pose for this shot:
Lois forced me to pose for one as well: