Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings


Friday May 5 , 2006
Caledonia Lounge - Athens, GA
(with Newtella and Nutria)


So here we go again. To me, this is the beginning of the Satisfactionista era. Don't believe me? Just look at the set list. We only did 3 songs from C'mon, Accept Your Joy. On top of that, we debuted 2 of our brand new ones. To be honest, it was still difficult getting everyone into town and onstage. Frank didn't even get to the venue 'til almost 11. We had no soundcheck. And of course, we couldn't relax and get into the swing of things like we've been able to do at our best shows. It should've been a disaster - especially with this set list. We had only rehearsed those 2 new ones once - last Sunday and here we're unleashing them. Yep - it shoulda been a disaster and yet it wasn't.

We still haven't quite figured out how to start shows in the post-"Colors In Black & White" era so for the comfort level, we relied on "Sam" again. And it sets the mood well while giving us room to grow. I think of it as our "Tumbling Dice". Plus, since it's been getting a good bit of local airplay lately, I feel it's a good one to do. I'm glad to see this song finally getting some attention. I've always had faith in it. It's not as obvious or glittery as a lot of the others but it does what it does well. From there, we jumped on in head first by taking our old finale of "Give Up Town" and putting it up front. It goes great in the second slot. It turns the energy up early. With the original lineup, I often couldn't get into it until halfway through with "Phony". This one gets me there within the first five minutes. At the end of this, we got a surprisingly big response. From the back of the club, someone yelled "C'mon, Accept Your Joy!" to which I replied, "The days of Joy are done. It's time for some Satisfaction..." That got an even bigger response. I took that as such a good sign and we were heading for the future via the past. Frank didn't seem too convinced but we pulled out the new arrangement of "It's Never The Same" anyway. When we got to the rocked up ending, I realized just how jammed onto that stage I was with Mike's big ol' kit. I had no room to really move around and it was definitely affecting my show. I couldn't move without getting jabbed in the ribs. No fun. So I had to concentrate my energy. Still, I wanted to leap. During his solo-ettes in "Never The Same", Mike missed the skins a few times but again, we're working this out as we go. The whole ending was pretty sloppy and the lowlight of tonight. It's all ad-libbed and we're rusty so I guess it was to be expected. Still, we've got to feel it out and we'd might as well do it sooner than later. I noticed several people bopping along to "Never The Same". Bruce Burch from the University Of Georgia music business class had his eyes closed as he was nodding along. It was like he was really concentrating on it (or either we were putting him to sleep). Judging from things he told me later, I think he liked it. After that and even though our rust and lack of rehearsal was showing, I decided to go for it anyway. So tonight we debuted our new rocker "Happy Here & Now". It's flat out arena rock with Who overtones. But it's still pop. I guess it's my default power pop mode. It'll be a lot better with harmonies but I was shocked at just how heavy and powerful it was straight out of the gate. It was cooking. I noticed Chris Hassiotis (the music editor from Flagpole) with a drink in his hand and a smile on his face. From the brand new one, I slid into the even heavier "Phony". Lately, it seems to be taking on its earlier properties of polarizing audiences again. Tonight, I saw several people look freaked out and leave. Meanwhile, several more came in to take their places. 2 girls even took it upon themselves to do some sleazy dancing during the solo. Any dances involving squatting always make me laugh - so I sang this trying to keep a straight face. What can I say? At least it was causing a reaction!

Well, we'd just done a song from Joy so we couldn't do another one. So it was back to the land of the brand spanking new. I introduced the song with a speech about South Carolina being a tar-baby and it inspiring the lyrics of "If I Could (I Guess I Should)". I was a bit nervous about playing it but it was really good. I even threw in a musical quote from Zeppelin's "Thank You" at the beginning. I'm proud of "If I Could". It probably won't be an every show song but I did feel one of those moments that come very rarely. It was a feeling of "you're going to be playing this song for the rest of your life". And I was temporarily overcome with emotion - but I think it was in a good way. We segued that into "Waiting For The Siren", which felt great. I love having a danceable, shameless song of our own. And it felt even better in the heavier parts. To wrap up, we then dashed through perfectly strong versions of "Towel Cape Song" and "Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something". For the ending, we went back to "Deuce" (which we need to retire for a while). We're starting to become dependent on it and it's only right when it's right. It felt a little forced and "off" this evening. And that's happened with it more often than not lately. I dedicated it to Gordon Lamb (who writes Threats & Promises for Flagpole) so at least it was for a good cause.



Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. Sometimes I'm Sam****
2. Give Up Town****
3. It's Never The Same***
4. Happy Here & Now (N) ****
5. Phony ****
6. Thank You / If I Could (I Guess I Should) (N) ****
7. Waiting For The Siren ****
8. Towel Cape Song ****
9. Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something ****
10. Deuce ***

After the show, I spoke to Justin from Newtella. They're a great, brand-spanking new band with a load of potential. Justin's got a very comforting, relaxed vocal style that everyone in my band noticed. I'm glad we were able to help 'em get this gig. Bruce Burch (from the music business class) told me how much he enjoyed himself. When I mentioned the rustiness and off-the-cuff-ness he said that was "part of the charm" and told me he'd get in touch about a big UGA show he wants us to play in the fall. Alec Wooden was there also. He hosted the Athens Open Mic that we participated in. He's also a DJ at WUOG (as well as the bassist for Beyond Tomorrow). Tonight, he asked us to be the musical guests on the first episode of his new radio show which he says is like a musical version of "Inside The Actor's Studio". So that should be fun.

Then it was time for the real verdict. The person who's seen us more than anyone else - through the highs and lows, Jonathan was there. I asked him and he said this one was "very muscular". He then said something about the power of Frank's bass playing tonight. The bottom line is that he said it was a really good show and he particularly liked "Waiting For The Siren". While I had felt okay about the show before talking to him, I felt much better afterwards because again, he knows. And apparently, the mix and sound was much better out front than onstage. Amanda seconded that notion. So I'm (ahem) satisfied. Before leaving, I took a few pics of Nutria for Flagpole. I liked every single song I heard by them. And I'm a tough critic (even if I'm still darling).

So see - I told you. We aren't going anywhere. The new day is dawning. Here's to satisfaction. We'll see you out there.


Photos by Amanda Stahl.