If Milo Greene sounded at all plaintive at their (unofficial) record release show last night at Fingerprints in Long Beach, it's not because they weren't excited play the popular local record store -- they made their excitement clear between songs, telling the packed record store how they had only seen their CDs that day. Their vocal harmonies did seem to croon a kind of sweet grief, but still soared through the small, crowded room, coaxing a swoon out of even the most stationary soul. Even though theirs was a short set, they still got their point across: Milo Greene might not be a real guy, but his is a name that you should know by now.
That's right. If you were wondering who Milo Greene is, he's nobody -- or is he everybody? Kind of like The Hives' Randy Fitzsimmons, Milo Greene exists as a shadow backdrop to a band that has pretty much nothing to do with the name. Watching them perform, the band makes clear that their collective voices do form something other than people on the stage. No band member besides drummer Curtis Marrero kept on the same instrument for the entire set. Between six songs, Robbie Arnett, Marlana Sheetz, Andrew Heringer and Graham Fink all switched between electric, acoustic, twelve-string and bass guitars, even switching places on the stage for some songs. In essence, all four of them were lead singer, all four of them the guitarist, the bassist, the backup.
One instrument did remain present between the four -- their voices. With the best harmonies I've heard out of a local band, the vocal performances of Milo Greene are remarkable. Though at times blending into each other perfectly to achieve a unified voice, each of the four could lead solo and instantly distinguish their voices from the rest -- from Arnett's deeply soulful, smoky warble to Sheetz's saccharine trill, the band's sound pivots on these vocal patterns woven through each song. "Autumn Tree," the first song they said they wrote in the early sessions, exemplifies of how the band's vocals can shimmer in background to a lead.
Milo Greene saved "1957," the song that gained them perhaps the most notoriety in their relatively short but prolific careers, for last. A year ago, "1957" was all they had released online. Now that they're releasing their eponymous debut album, the song takes a back seat to songs like the set opener "Cutty Love," the lyrics of which ("Even as the world turns / I'll be there to watch the fire burn / Burn both of us alive") were still effective though an imbalance in the mic levels that left Fink's lead vocals quieter than they should have been.
Their somber musical beauty is interesting, considering the lightheartedness of the band -- between songs, jokes about how Fink had a piece of his mustache stuck in his teeth the last time the band played at Fingerprints softened the mood. The entire band was wearing friendship bracelets given to them at that show, but the girl who gave them the bracelets didn't show up.
"I thought we were friends forever," Fink said, laughing. "I guess not."
Critic's Bias: A few of the members graduated from UC Irvine, my alma mater. Zot zot!
The Crowd: A lot of people you might mistake for being in the band, except a lot smaller and carrying film cameras instead of drum mallets.
Overheard: "If I had a light up cape I would wear that shit everywhere. Coffee shops, whatever."
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Random Notebook Dump: In line to get into Fingerprints, we met a guy named Paul in town from Minneapolis for a design conference who was six-foot-six and had the nickname Tall Paul. California welcomes you, Tall Paul!
"Take a Step"
"Son My Son"
"Don't You Give Up on Me"