With a mixture of California folk and pounding Americana, the Bijou's Friday night presentation of the Milk Carton Kids and Josh Ritter had downtown Knoxville both laughing and rocking.
Folk singer/songwriter Josh Ritter performed as a stop on his U.S. tour promoting his latest album, "The Beast in its Tracks." Ritter played with The Royal City Band, while folk duo Milk Carton Kids opened the show with their own set.
Originally from Moscow, Idaho, the 36-year-old Ritter has a discography of seven studio albums, eight extended plays and four live performance CDs. Ritter's music is of the Folk/Americana genre and is known to have distinct, narrative type lyrics.
"His music, especially his lyrics, have meant a lot to me over the years," said Maggie Colvett, a Johnson City resident and fan of Ritter. "I am really drawn to the way that he writes and I really had never seen him perform live before so it was really amazing to see him get so into the performance."
The Royal City band is a quartet comprised of Zack Hickman on bass, Sam Kassirer on keyboard, Austin Nevins on guitar and Liam Hurley on drums. Ritter lead vocals and played both electric and acoustic guitar. The band performed with Ritter on the majority of songs, but Ritter also played quite a few by himself on stage.
When performing "Folk Bloodbath," a song off his 2010 album "So Runs the World Away," Ritter stepped in front of the microphones with Hickman and Nevins. Playing an acoustic version of the song, Ritter encouraged help from the Bijou's audience when singing the chorus.
"I would describe him as a songwriter first because I think his songs are really well crafted musically," Colvett said. "Everything is really tight and it really feels like a perfect folk song that was handed down by heaven."
The Simon & Garfunkel-esque duo Milk Carton Kids played a short set at the start of the night. Joey Ryan, singer and guitarist of MCK, provided witty commentary between songs while band member Kenneth Pattengale focused on singing and playing lead.
Maryanna Deblin, musician and recent graduate of American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, attended the same performance the night before at Nashville's Mercy Lounge.
"At some points I was like, 'that doesn't go with what (Ryan) is playing,' but at the same time, I was like he's doing his thing and he's owning it and that's all you can ask for from somebody," Deblin said of Pattengale's lead guitar.
Ritter will be touring nationally with Milk Carton Kids until July 13, and again from Aug. 12 to 19. He will begin his acoustic, international tour on Sept. 28 until Nov. 10.
Despite traveling around two hours to the Bijou from Johnson City, Colvett said the performances were "absolutely wonderful."
"I couldn't have imagined a better place for this particular concert."