The Night I Played Tambourine Onstage With LA's Milo Greene

It was ace to see one of my favourite American bands play in Manchester, but I didn't expect to be asked to take part in the gig...
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It was ace to see one of my favourite American bands play in Manchester, but I didn't expect to be asked to take part in the gig...

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On the world's smallest stage, in the back of The Castle pub in Manchester's Northern Quarter, as a near-blizzard raged outside, Milo Greene transported a room full of cold Mancs to sunny, cinematic Los Angeles with their gorgeous melodies and oblique, layered pop songs. The band name simply adds to the Hollywood feel of the band, Milo Greene is a fictional British booking agent the band made up to get more gigs, could be something straight out of an Elmore Leonard novel.

To use a football example, Milo Greene's live shows are very much of the Barcelona Tika Taka school, passing a few instruments (two guitars, a bass, a banjo and a synth) between the four lead vocalists wherever they can find space on the stage.

The show is unusually quiet, the amps don't need to be turned up to eleven to have an impact;in fact the power of four vocalists harmonising makes a welcome change to the sound of distorted power chords on a guitar. The stage show is so delicate and quiet that at one point someone talking at the back and the 'shush' that follows it is actually louder than the band. The band take all of this in good humour though, and even lightly mock the audience for being too polite.

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The stage was so cramped there wasn't room for the band to leave the stage for an encore. Starting with a cover of Wilco's 'A Shot In The Arm' they local idiot and Wilco fan Jack Machin (me) join them on stage and ruin the their understated cover with over zealous tambourine playing.

On record Milo Greene offer more of the same. Landing between Lana Del Ray and Mumford and Sons, they have the song writing to match Mrs Del Ray's Hollywood mystique and none of the poor farmer dullness on offer from the plastic folk favourites. Milo Greene songs tend to ask more questions than they offer answers. Album opener 'What's The Matter' details the breakdown of a relationship, but the multiplicity of voices tell several different sides of the same story.

Another stand out track, 'Perfectly Aligned', centres around an Arcade Fire style vocal “oh, ooooh, oooh oh”, that swirls into anthemic crescendo

63as more layers of intricate guitars and synths are added to the mix. '1957' strays dangerously into production line indie, with it's Strokes-esque intro riff, but as soon as the vocals kick in we're back in Milo Greene territory, longing to be somewhere else, surrounded by strained relationships wrapped up in pretty, bittersweet love songs.