Though it's hard to make a concert hall that seats 1,500 people feel intimate, The Milk Carton Kids succeeded in doing just that at The Town Hall on Friday, with nothing more than a single microphone and two road-worn acoustic guitars. Indeed, it felt like the folk duo, consisting of Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, wasn't performing at all but rather just hanging out with some friends on a Friday night.
Ryan took every opportunity to tell stories full of punch lines, playfully joking that his infant son looked nothing like him (and that he was starting to wonder if he was actually the father), or rambling on about his visit to “Escape the Room NYC"; Pattengale joked that ‘they would have this part of the show together by next time.’
But when The Milk Carton Kids weren’t telling funny anecdotes, they were singing beautifully constructed vocal harmonies and strumming harp-like guitar chords, channeling the energy of all of the folk legends that had performed on this stage before them, notably Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, and Pete Seeger. Pattengale wowed the audience with wildly difficult guitar parts, but still managed to remain completely musical.
During the encore, the duo sang their poignant ballad “New York,” with Ryan smirking as he sang “I’ll be in New York,” followed by a surprise cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”
The Milk Carton Kids are simultaneously aweing and calming, their mellow, well-blended voices and soft, emotive guitars providing the perfect vehicle for their powerful lyrics and stimulating harmonies. Even before a crowd of 1,000 people, the two managed to make Town Hall feel like a small, smoky folk club in Greenwhich Village.