The Milk Carton Kids Main Stage, Guelph ON, July 22

The Milk Carton Kids Main Stage, Guelph ON, July 22
Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa
They don't make musicians like the Milk Carton Kids anymore. For five years, the California folk act made up of Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale have delivered some of the most authentic and awe-inspiring music played with just two acoustic guitars and a microphone.
Don't let their suits fool you: there's nothing put on about these guys. They are fully uninhibited in concert, with Pattengale bobbing and weaving alongside his melodic playing, constantly in a state of breaking beyond the chord boxes, changes and counterpoints Ryan constructs around him. They also tell it like it is.
"It sounds like we have three fucking disco shows going on around us," Pattengale joked in a deadpan manner mid-set, finally acknowledging what most in attendance were already thinking: that the confines of the Guelph Lake Conservation Area were too small for a minimalist folk show sandwiched between the bombastic sounds of all-caps-acts VERSA and PUP on neighbouring stages.
Still, they were happy to be there, thanking the festival for the rare headlining slot (even though, Ryan joked, it was a sign the fest must have fallen on hard times) and the crowd for standing around, in silence, as mosquitoes nipped at their necks. No one seemed to mind, the band's dual-harmonies acting as a guiding light in the night, sucking stragglers in; their songs about ash and clay, the magic of Monterrey and daughters that didn't exist yet being perfect fodder for the diehard hippies who continue to help make Hillside what it is. As far as opening nights are considered, what more could you ask for?