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The Milkman’s Union: A Name Totally Un-pun-able

May 5, 2009
Recording: Totally fun, totally cool, and totally bright.

Recording: Totally fun, totally cool, and totally bright enough for plastic Wayfarers.

Some people would say that it’s a cop-out to write about bands whose members you know personally. But I was told by Mr. Merrick, my mustachioed (and, alliteratively enough, mandolin-toting) third-grade teacher that you should always write what you know. Which explains why all of the stories I wrote in elementary school were either about Star Wars or my friends. Or, as in one case, about my friends in the Star Wars universe (which was SO COOL). So here I am, with Mr. Merrick’s advice in mind, about to write about a band which hails from my own beloved Bowdoin College, The Milkman’s Union.

The first time I saw The Milkman’s Union live, they were opening for Ben Kweller in an on-campus gig. It was the big winter concert on campus, but it seemed like the group planning the event had made choosing on opener an afterthought, with only a very perfunctory vote going into choosing the act. Suffice to say, this was no honor. Nor is the music of the Milkman’s Union particularly suited for the sort of crowd Ben Kweller attracted that night (read: kids who really liked that song “Falling” from the Mr. Deeds soundtrack)*. The lukewarm reception they had received prior to the show and upon arriving on stage led me to a preliminary disinterest, which was furthered by a cover of Radiohead’s “National Anthem.” They did the song justice, but it’s hard to get very excited by a college band performing covers. Then some horrible, worst-nightmare potentially-big-gig-ruining snafu occurred. I think the bassist broke a string or three, which, as I understand it, is damn hard to do. This left the lead singer of Milkman’s Union, Henry Jamison-Root, on stage alone with his acoustic guitar. After mumbling around for a couple minutes, he introduced a song called “June June June,” and the crowd sat down as he played it alone. At the time, I thought it was the most beautiful song I’d ever heard.

I went home and immediately bought the song on iTunes and listened to it on repeat until it was the top-played song in my library. I’m usually not one to either listen to songs on repeat or rave about lyrics I like, but this was just so good. The imagery was vivid, a perfectly self-aware teenage love story full of angst, over-enthusiasm, overcommitment, awkward conversation, and a twist of underage drinking (“she always found us alcohol, though I never asked her how, and we’d pour it in our orange juice and I’d wince as it went down”). Several months later, running into Henry at a gathering in a friend’s apartment, I blurted out an unthought confession of how much I loved it, and was pleasantly surprised when many of the people around me agreed. Turns out he wrote the song when he was 17. I think I’d be mortified if people I didn’t know very well were evaluating anything I’d done at age 17. Except maybe if they were watching the video of that time I put two pouches of Big League Chew in my mouth at once, and continued to chew it until it lost all its flavor, which is quite a feat considering the long-lasting flavor of the official gum of MLB. But I digress.

The Milkman’s Union has been hard at work (intermittently) on what will be Henry Jamison-Root’s 3rd album, his first with the current line-up of the band. I emailed him to find more out about it, but apparently he’s too busy reading Derrida and Foucault to pay any attention to his computer. For now, we’ll just have to enjoy his 17-year-old compositions. I’m happy with it this way, and hopefully you will be, too.
June June June – The Milkman’s Union (mega) (YSI)
Leaves – The Milkman’s Union (mega) (YSI)
July 4th – The Milkman’s Union (mega) (YSI)
I’d recommend buying Oh Boy, though either album is a strong choice. And if you discover you love “June June June” like I do, buy it on iTunes. Send that thing straight to #1 on their “most popular” list.

*This is not to disrespect Ben Kweller, just the cross-section of students he happened to attract. In fact, the man puts on a helluva show, and is one of the nicest people you’ll meet. Also, his new album rocks.
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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Blamy permalink
    May 6, 2009 8:39 am

    No “Player Piano”?? Lame.

    Also: I want to second everything in this post. Although I don’t think you emphasized how engaging the HJR mumbling on stage can be.

    • anonymous permalink
      May 11, 2009 4:57 pm

      Keep in the mind that the student who objected so strongly to the comment “thanks to your parents for bringing us here” and was heckling Kevin Drew has a father who is an investment banker in NYC. Yep.

      • marquismeowmersiv permalink
        May 11, 2009 11:52 pm

        I assume that this was meant to be a response to my comment. This makes the whole situation hilarious. I hope that guy got thrown out of the show. His faux pas made them skip over Anthems For A 17 Year-Old Girl (one of their stage hands gave me a set list and it had coffee on it and sometimes I like to pretend that it’s Kevin Drew’s and that it is the future and I clone him and we have picnics and play video games together).

  2. Blamy permalink
    May 6, 2009 8:40 am

    P.S. Sweet new Animal Show banner on the top of the site.

  3. architekturstudent permalink
    May 9, 2009 9:15 pm

    I’ve actually never gotten to hear Milkman’s Union play live at Bowdoin, but June June June is definitely growing on me. This post made me curious – what did you happen to think about Broken Social Scene’s performance here last semester? They’ve been getting a lot of flack for being a collective “asshole,” but my opinion was that they were justified in getting frustrated with the crowd that showed up that night.

  4. marquismeowmersiv permalink
    May 10, 2009 4:41 pm

    I was at that show, and I thought that they had every right to act the way they did. The crowd was acting like drunken dicks, and when BSS made a fairly harmless joke about class, a small part of the crowd acted overly offended, which caused even more dickishness. It was obvious that some members of the audience were expecting something completely different from what they got, since BSS isn’t kind of band you pregame super hard for. I mean, the group that was causing most of the trouble almost started a fight with the stage crew when they came out to tell him to stop throwing things at the band. Sure, BSS probably could have handled the situation a little more maturely (Kevin Drew’s storming off stage… slightly baby-ish) but it wasn’t like the crowd was treating them exceptionally well. Remember, the Golden Rule is always in effect…

    Bowdoin should definitely be happy with their actual performance. I had seen them twice prior to that show, and I thought that they were at their best at Bowdoin. The set list was great (Late Nineties Bedroom Rock For the Missionaries/Shampoo Suicide into KC Accidental was UH-MAZ-ING), the backing band was really solid, and the sound was much better than I expected.

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