The Milk Carton Kids, Chris Knight
to play RiverRoots
They will serve as the headline acts
Friday and Saturday nights
June 2019 Cover
(June 2019) – The indie folk duo, The Milk Carton Kids, got together after they decided they were better performers together than apart. Since 2011, the pair from Eagle Rock, Calif., have been unstoppable, entertaining crowds all across the United States.
Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale formed the musical duo after Ryan attended a solo performance by Pattengale. At the time, each one’s solo career had not been going in the desired direction, and both had reached a professional crossroads.
They focused on a collaborative project that featured their harmonized vocals, entwined acoustic guitars and rootsy songwriting. They released their first two albums in the same year. The first was a live effort, “Retrospect,” and the studio produced LP, “Prologue.” To heavily promote their releases and get their name before the public, they began a pattern of persistent touring.
Thursday, June 6
• 7 p.m.: Free “Warm-Up” show featuring Steve Poltz in the Jam Tent.
Friday, June 7
• 5 p.m.: Gates and Folk
Art Village open
• 5:30 p.m.: Suitcase Junket
• 6:45 p.m.: Charley Crockett
• 8 p.m.: Todd Snider
• 9:30 p.m.: Chris Knight
• 7 p.m.: Jeri Katherine Howell
Saturday, June 8
• 11 a.m.: Gates and Folk Art Village open
• 2 p.m.: Snaps for Sinners
• 3:30 p.m.: Paleface
• 5 p.m.: Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound
• 6:30 p.m.: Parsonsfield
• 8 p.m.: Scythian
• 9:30 p.m.: The Milk Carton Kids
• 7:30 p.m.: Slippery Creek
• Note: BG Johnson’s Big Bad Brass Band will be playing in the beer tent and in the crowd in between sets on the Main Stage.
• Note: Also featuring a Jam Tent, Folk Art Village, Craft Beer Tent and Children’s Activities Area.
• Admission Wristbands: $20 Friday in advance or $25 at the gate; $30 Saturday in advance or $35 at the gate; $35 Weekend Pass sold through June 6;
$40 at the gate. Teen pass (ages 13-16) $10 or $5 each day. Children 12-under free. Wristbands available online at www.RiverRoots.org or by calling (812) 265-2956 or
1-800-559-2956. Advanced wristbands also available at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center and Friendship State Bank.
Early in their career, The Milk Carton Kids earned comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel, the Civil Wars, and the Everly Brothers. In reality, their minimalist, down-home material had more in common with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’ duets.
The Milk Carton Kids will serve as the Saturday night headliners for the 14th annual RiverRoots Music & Folk Arts Festival, set for June 7-8 at the Madison, Ind., riverfront. The Milk Carton Kids are scheduled to take the stage at 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Their two guitars and two voices will resonate with steadfast, faithful fans and new ones alike.
Their music received much exposure when they toured as Joe Purdy’s opening act and backing band during a spring 2011 tour. They closed out 2011 with a performance on National Public Radio’s roots rock concert program “Mountain Stage.” The duo spent most of the following year on the road with such folksy acts as Old Crow Medicine Show and the Lumineers.
The pair’s sophomore studio outing, “The Ash & Clay,” was produced in 2013 on the ANTI- record label. In 2014 ANTI-Epitaph released the duo’s concert DVD, “Live from Lincoln Theatre,” which had been recorded in September 2013. They started picking up more acclaim from those in the industry as their fans clamored for more music. “The Ash & Clay” was nominated for a Best Folk Album Grammy, and they won Group of the Year at the Americana Music Awards.
After continued extensive touring and writing on the road, The Milk Carton Kids decided to record live performance songs for their third LP at pre-show empty venues across North America. As a result, about half of the record was recorded at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tenn., with all the tracks capturing various venues’ natural reverb. “Monterey” was released in May 2015 and garnered the duo a Grammy nomination for Best American Roots Performance for the song “The City of Our Lady.”
They took some time off the road in 2018. Ryan said a break from years of non-stop touring, yielded “space outside of the band that gives us perspective on what the band is.”
The Milk Carton Kids returned to the spotlight with the Joe Henry-produced and Ryan Freeland engineered “All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do.” For this album, the duo recorded with a backing band for the first time.
Recorded in October 2017 in the Sun Room at the House of Blues studio in Nashville, the album featured an impressive list of guest performers.
Photo courtesy of Ashley Miller
Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound band.
While frequently touring, they had gained a reputation on the road for their adversarial Smothers Brothers-like comedic banter. They complemented this with their virtuosic guitar skills: Pattengale’s intricate picking and Ryan’s airtight rhythm guitar.
RiverRoots organizers say they are happy to feature the group this year. The Milk Carton Kids “were one of our choices from last year, and we were able to work it out to bring such a great act to Madison,” said RiverRoots festival coordinator Dan Williams. “They bring a great sound with unique energy.”
There are several top-name acts this year on the lineup. The Friday night headliner, Chris Knight, “brings a great sound that will make folks dance,” Williams said.
Before Knight takes the stage, Todd Snider will perform. “He’s a pretty big-name performer,” said Tony Novello, a member of the band selection committee. Novello has been involved with RiverRoots since 2007 when the late John Walburn was the coordinator.
The festival was then known as the Ohio River Valley Folk Festival. Walburn died in 2010, leaving behind a great legacy in the music festival.
Novello, began “in operations and then a few other things, and now the music committee.” He said he was asked to become involved with RiverRoots and did so because it promoted “the kind of music I love.”
Todd Snider returns to RiverRoots to play Friday night just before headliner Chris Knight.
This will be Snider’s third time to perform at RiverRoots since it began in 2006. “He’s a fantastic singer-songwriter,” said Novello.
Novello continued, saying that “he will make you laugh, yet his songs are very intricate. They tell a great story. Todd is always on the top of the list when we ask fans who they want.”
“We try to bring a mix of new acts with a few returning acts that have done well in past years,” said Williams. “This year, Scythian will return, and they will bring a sound that will make you get up and dance. Their energy forces you to want to move.”
Scythian will be “back by popular demand,” said Jane Vonderheide, a member of the band selection committee. “We mostly have new acts this time but try to pay attention to who people ask to come back.” She agreed with Novello that Snider tops the list.
It is a sure bet that the crowds will also go wild when Charlie Crockett takes the stage. “He is just fantastic,” said Novello. “Everyone will love him.”
“I always think we do a great job,” said Vonder-heide. “The thing about our festival is that not everyone recognizes all the names, but they leave with a new list of favorite bands.”
Kickoff concert, jam tent and beer tent
RiverRoots will actually kick off at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 6, with a free warm up show presented by Friendship State Bank at Madison Bicentennial Park featuring Steve Poltz. He made a name for himself over three decades ago as the front man for the indie rock band The Ragburns.
Originally from Canada, Poltz’s songs are noted for their simple melodies and satirical lyrics. He has had an impressive list of albums throughout his colorful career.
He co-wrote Jewel’s 1996 multiplatinum chart topping megahit “You Were Meant For Me.” Two years later he released his solo debut, “One Left Shoe.”
Saturday night’s headliner, The Milk Carton Kids, features (from left) Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale.
Novello said of Poltz, “He’s an excellent songwriter and superb entertainer. He can really command an audience; they will love him immediately.”
In past years, there have been multiple stages, “but this year most acts will play on the main park stage. We will also have music in the jam tent and beer tent,” said Williams.
Charlie Rohfling is in charge of coordinating the craft beer tent for the fourth consecutive year. He said that “we get so many requests for Bud Light, and we haven’t ever had it before. We’ve always stuck to craft beers. But this year we are giving the crowd what they want.”
There will be 12 other craft beers, mostly from Indiana, he said. “All are regional.”
“We’ll have two from Mad Paddle. Last year we were their very first festival. They opened their brewery and added a bunch more beer.”
Mad Paddle, which opened its brewery last December in downtown Madison, will have “the exclusive beer of the Kick-Off party on Thursday night,” said Rohfling. The company will have two main beers and about four to five smaller kegs of specialty brews. “Over the last few months they’ve made some specialty brews and will have tappings of those. There will be lots of flavors to try.”
The Thomas Family Winery will be selling wines and cider on tap as well. Offerings in the beer tent “have always had an Indiana influence,” he said.
A handful of beers, such as some from the Bloomington Brewing Co., return each year because they are so popular with the crowd. Before Rohfling took over the beer tent, it was organized by Donnie Clapham, who is the beer chairman emeritus now. “He set the tone for this portion of the festival.”
One comment Rohfling hears people repeatedly make is that “our beer tent is the most fun beer tent of any festival they’ve gone to,” he said. It includes a stage and is decorated.
“We made it as big as we can make it. We will try to have even more music this year.”
Scythian will play late Saturday.
Additional musical performances can be caught at the Jam Tent during RiverRoots. Jeri Katherine Howell will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday. She is a newer performer from Frankfort, Ky.
“As always, it’s a great family-friendly festival. We try to reach out to the younger kids and get them involved in music also,” he said. One way organizers do this throughout the year is by hosting workshops. Last year a kids’ workshop was held featuring Wild Ponies as part of the RiverRoots Music Series held at Red Bicycle Hall.
Howell was chosen to take part in the festival because “she is a wonderful songwriter and sort of local. She’s also involved in a lot of activities and good things,” said Vonderheide.
Slippery Creek will perform in the Jam Tent at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. This band from the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky area focuses on deep traditional bluegrass roots that harken back to the early days of the Grand Ole Opry.
In the Jam Tent, festival goers will find “impromptu jam sessions for all skill levels,” said Novello.
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