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The Milk Carton Kids will perform tonight at The Pabst Theater as a part of Lampedusa: Concert for Refugees.
The Milk Carton Kids will perform tonight at The Pabst Theater as a part of Lampedusa: Concert for Refugees. (Photo: The Milk Carton Kids Facebook)

Indie folk duo Milk Carton Kids talks sharing the stage with legends

It didn't take much convincing to get indie folk duo The Milk Carton Kids on board Lampedusa: Concert for Refugees, a concert event featuring Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, Ruby Amanfu and special guest Robert Plant playing tonight at The Pabst Theater.

"We got a call asking, 'Emmylou wants to know if ...' – at that point, I said, ‘Yes,'" noted singer and guitarist Joey Ryan. "Then he finished the question."

All proceeds from the show go toward supporting Jesuit Refugee Service’s Global Education Initiative, designed to provide educational opportunities for refugees in camps and urban settings.

According to an estimate, there are 65 million refugees in the world, and the average time of displacement is 17 years. As Ryan sees it, there are two ways we can deal with refugees and immigrants: We can choose to view them in a place of fear and suspicion – or we can choose to view them in a place of compassion and open-heartedness.

Ryan, who grew up in a Jewish family in Los Angeles, said history like the Holocaust was part of his cultural history.

At a recent tour stop in St. Louis, he learned that in 1940, when the passenger ship St. Louis approached Florida, President Roosevelt did not respond to telegrams from passengers seeking asylum.

The ship returned to Antwerp, and many of the passengers were put to death in concentration camps. It is important to never allow this to happen again, Ryan says, noting how important immigrants and refugees are to the history of the United States.

"We don’t belabor the point in the shows," he said, "but there are songs that apply to the situation."

Politics aside, he realizes the thrill of playing music and touring with folks whose records he grew up listening to.

"Living on a bus together, you get to know these folks as parents or grandparents, and hear their wisdom," Ryan said. "It is nice to call them friends."

With everyone onstage together night after night, Ryan is aware of the incredible opp…

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