By: Ashley Berry
If a band is headlining Los Angeles’ historic El Rey Theatre on a Saturday night, you know that they are on their way. Milo Greene is definitely on the rise, and Saturday, November 17th, they played to a full house for the final show of the tour that has taken them all over the US and Canada. The show at the El Rey was not just the final stop of their tour, it was their homecoming, and as they opened their set with “Moddison”, band member, Graham Fink, looked out over the audience and proclaimed, “We’ve been gone for six weeks. This is our home. You have no idea how good it feels to be here.”
Andrew Heringer, Robbie Arnett, Marlana Sheetz, Graham Fink, and Curtis Marrero formed Milo Greene a couple years ago when they each left their personal projects to create a band that is much greater than the sum of its parts. Each of the band members were the leads of their other musical ventures and it shows as they all have equally strong presences on stage. Without even the slightest hint of any power dynamics, they are a true collective that performs together fluidly to create a sound that has been called “Americana dream pop” and “cinematic indie rock” because of its whimsical vocal harmonies and layers of epic, driving drum and guitar sequences. Other than Marrero, who is dedicated to percussion, all of the band members lead with guitar and vocals at various points in the show, each taking their turn as the front man, while the others provide back up that elevates the lead of the moment to their greatest potential.
On stage, Milo Greene is an intensely cohesive team, in which all members are working toward the same goal with an almost telepathic attunement to each other. Between songs, they move busily about the stage as they swiftly switch stations and exchange instruments between each other. They are all multi-instrumentalists and create their music the way the famous abstract impressionist, Jackson Pollock, created his paintings: moving steadily, adding elements all the time, filling in spaces that only the artist could see, and creating an undeniable masterpiece that no one else could have envisioned. The members of Milo Greene are quick-change artists and, despite shifting roles between songs, they create an almost seamless flow of sound from one piece to the next.
While their comradery is apparent, the five members of Milo Greene each have distinct performance styles on stage. Fink is unquestionably the comedian, always smiling and seeming quite amused during much of the show. He often turns to various band members and makes goofy faces while rocking out, almost as though he can only laugh at how crazy and wonderful it is that they are actually here, living their dream. Arnett and Heringer have calmer stage presences as they play, but Arnett, Fink, and Heringer definitely feed off of each other and become more animated as they often jam out as a trio. Sheetz, as the lone girl of the quintet, has a status all her own. In no way does she embody the princess image that so often comes along with being the only girl in an otherwise male-dominated band. However, she does seem to have her own space within the group, completely integral musically, but often playing just off to the side as the guys battle it out on drums and guitars. Marrero is the rock, as any good percussionist is, happily drumming away in the back, laying the foundation, and driving the music forward.
They play ten songs over the course of their set and the crowd savors every moment. The audience’s fervor is noticeably heightened during favorites such as “Don’t You Give Up On Me” and “Polaroid”, a song that has a primal familiarity to it, as though the music is embedded in our collective DNA. As soon as the song opens, it feels like a memory that had been forgotten long ago, but once recovered, is immediately recognizable, and the crowd claps and sways, almost in unison, as if they have fallen under a spell. The band shifts into “Perfectly Aligned” and, when Sheetz begins to sing, her voice has the ghostly quality of a siren’s cries. She sings with her head back, mouth wide open, and watching her conjures the image of an exquisite wolf howling at the moon.
As they move into “Take a Step”, Sheetz tells the audience that they’re “gonna get really sexy with this one.” Arnett takes the lead on vocals and you realize that she wasn’t kidding. His voice is raspy and powerful, but also soothing as he croons like a lover speaking to his counterpart in the early hours of the morning. As Fink and Heringer take their turns with lead vocals, it is easy to see how each band member was able to lead their previous musical projects. Their voices are strong and unique and they use them, not only to produce lyrics, but as instruments. They harmonize masterfully, and together, they create a dreamy, haunting sound that is lush and intricately layered.
When they wrap “Cutty Love”, which Arnett dedicated to Fink’s dad, they leave the stage and the crowd roars and breaks into a chant, begging for “one more song”. Without making the crowd wait for too long, the members of Milo Greene return to the stage along with a couple members of the opening band, Bahamas. Together they play a cover of Wilco’s “A Shot in the Arm”, and as they all jam out on stage, it’s clear that they are celebrating not just the end of their tour, but all of the years of dedication and work that has brought them to this moment. The five members of Milo Greene finish out the night with “1957”, much to the crowd’s delight. It is a delicate anthem that oozes fond childhood memories and the audience sings along wistfully. As the song comes to a close, Fink looks out over the crowd and says, “Thank you, Los Angeles. It’s so good to be home,” and by the energy emanating from the crowd, the members of Milo Greene must certainly know that we’re glad they’re home, too.