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.”
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,
“Take a Step”
“Son My Son”
“Don't You Give Up on Me”