Milo Greene @Johnny Brenda’s 10/26/12
Fishtown’s corner hot spot, Johnny Brenda’s, is a quaint, intimate bar/venue on the corner of Frankford and Girard avenues. The hipsters are alive and well, mingling with the bartenders and dragging on their cigarettes accordingly. It’s a warm place with dim, red tinted lights and pool table; three stories high with a full bar on every level. I’m excited to see Milo Greene in all their glory; it’s been a year since they last set foot in Philly. In fact, it was just a few days shy of the one year anniversary exactly.
Back then when they made their Philly debut, it was alongside Grammy award winning folk duo The Civil Wars, who I thank every day for even existing, let alone introducing me to this angelic, harmonic group of talented young folk. Nevertheless, the year apart made my heart grow fonder and allotted Milo Greene creative and developmental space to form their debut self-titled effort. Their fan base has bloomed significantly as well, having gone from an impromptu performance in a friend’s living to headlining their own nationwide tour speaks volumes.
But I digress.
A few glasses of local beer and a grilled salad later, I head up to the second level, the venue spot, and fail to resist the urge to order another local brew before taking a spot in front of the stage. It’s a small stage, to say the least, cramped with instruments and cords. The classic disco ball hangs shamelessly from the dark ceiling, twinkling in the stage lights. Above, anxiously chattering and drinking, are audience members, young and old, leaning against the third level balcony. “Lucius? What’s a Lucius?” They ask among themselves and I ask the same, never having the opportunity to do my research prior to my arrival, but as the lights drop and two identically dressed ladies take the stage, I’m almost certain I’m in for a treat.
Jess Wolfe, petite and brunette, stood alongside a blonde, statuesque Holly Laessig, their origami peplum tops and pencil skirts complementing their bowed and bunned hair to complete their eclectic look. There’s an air of confidence and nerves, but the first note drops and they don’t mess around. The buoyancy of their unified vocals almost stuns the crowd, half expecting mediocrity, the others disaster. What we all found, however, was ingenious genuine talent. The pump-boom-bah of their beats elicits hearty cheers and they move onto more bass, percussion sounds. Their new age retro-Harajuku girls charisma and synchronized, tightly knit sound makes them unforgettably unique.
Despite their heavy hitters like “Turn It Around” and “Don’t Just Sit There,” Lucius seems to take over the entire room when they reach their ballad “Go Home.” It starts out simple enough, a little country and calm with a simple guitar rift and tambourine, but the emotional pull as the song progresses could split the heart in two. Lucius pace themselves, again in synch to perfection, their voices at some points hard to distinguish, but they rip out of their calm right as the chorus hits: I don’t need you anymore/I don’t need you; go home… but half of you can’t believe them because the pain is etched in their voices as they take the microphone hostage, dropping the back beat, and hitting the high notes acapella. And just like that, you’re put to shame for all those drunken nights of wine-induced singing at the top of your lungs as you put your “it’s-over-but-it’s-so-not-over” mixtape on repeat.
All shame aside, these daring ladies take it a step further, freeing themselves of their instruments and stepping down from the stage. They call to the audience as they join the floor of onlookers; they want us all to bring it in, form a circle around them. They’re calm with the crowd as we tighten up around them, getting all kumbaya in the music circle. The treat is an acapella blast of Buddy Holly’s “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” #musicgasm
The night is still young as Lucius exit the stage and Milo Greene takes their place. They waste no time hitting the first tribal beats of “Wooden Antlers” and “ Don’t You Give Up On Me.” They’re flawless with their delivery, although the kicking moves of band member Robbie Arnett are inhibited by the size of the stage. I take the opportunity to dance in his honor as him and Graham Fink tear it up on guitars and bass, drummer Curtis Marrero proves why he’s never shy on the drums, Andrew Heringer takes guitar and vocal control, and the ethereal grace of Marlana Sheetz on the keys filters through my veins. Song after song, they unveil the beauty of their melodies.
Milo Greene pauses to check Graham’s sweat levels and also to pay a small tribute to Sufjan Stevens with a cover of “Chicago” that does it more justice than it could have asked for. More crowd favorites are belted out below the disco ball, “Son My Son” and “Perfectly Aligned,” where Marlana takes the stage in all her glory. It’s hard to stand still; handclapping and two stepping at the bare minimum as they shift into “Take A Step” and “Cutty Love” before prematurely leaving the stage. They receive their much deserved encore calling and finish up the night with a Wilco cover of “A Shot in the Arm” and their own “1957.” Confidence exudes from the band, as does humility and gratitude.
They stick around for photo ops and conversations, chatting easily with fans and handling the start of recognition with a simple sophistication. There’s a great deal of fandom in me, but also respect for a band that encompasses great talent without arrogance. There’s also a great deal of respect for musicians who take their music to another level live and move forward rather than taking a step back.
In the end, they are well worth a ticket or two or three, so don’t miss your opportunity to see Milo Greene! [Rhyming was unintentional]
Check out some tracks from both performers and don’t miss your chance to catch Lucius at Johnny Brenda’s with Pearl And The Beard November 30th!