Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings


Friday September 22, 2006
Herty Field At The University Of Georgia
Athens, GA


Well, we're back! Even I was beginning to wonder...

The summer of 2006 was good for me personally but the band was pretty much out of commission. Frank wound up running himself to exhaustion, Mike received a severe injury to his hand that made it impossible to play and I took up the down time for photography. Luckily, in late July a mini-miracle happened by the name of Joe Orr. He called me out of the blue about playing. I took him up on it, he joined the in-limbo Darlings and we began working up some songs between the two of us until the other guys could get back on it. We had this show scheduled since the spring but the timing couldn't have been better. Joe was ready to go, Frank was back in town and while Mike is still not able to play fully, he could keep time for an acoustic show with a streamlined kit. It was hard to be "up" at 10:30 am which was our soundcheck time. The cool thing is that I was so surrounded by my Terry College friends that everything was easy. They were all so helpful and encouraging. I was a bit nervous with this not only being our first show with Joe but our first acoustic set (ignore the amps you see - Joe's and my guitar amps were really only there as our monitors). A few minutes after 12 noon, we rolled into "Sometimes I'm Sam". As always with these kind of shows, there was much adjusting and fixing of levels. At some point, I even unplugged my guitar from the board. The surge from the sudden cord removal even blew the PA out. (What other band do you know that would blow the power at an acoustic show?) Once it evened out, it was so nice to not only hear the guitar leads over the rhythm but the harmonies nailed. Joe is going to be such an asset to the sound of this band. "(Save It For) Another Day" was an even better example of that fact. This song is just made to be played acoustically but you know what? I was shocked at how well all of the songs translated. I had truly forgotten what cool little songs lay under all that distortion. Hearing them this way really makes me proud of the work I've done with my co-songwriters over the years.

To drive the point home that nothing's off limits to us acoustically, we did the "groovy" version of "Phony". It's strange how almost jazzy some of the phrasing becomes this way. Joe added a few extra chords, we picked a more mid-tempo and it's a re-invented tune. I didn't do the extended solo at the end but not because I couldn't. It just seemed like overkill this way. The song stood on its own. My only self-criticism is the seeming negativity of the lyric. It works with the full amped up version in a club but in broad daylight on a beautiful afternoon outdoors in a green field with smiling people during their lunch hour, I had nothing to complain about and felt a little like a whiner. I mean, there were even children dancing! We ran through "I Won't Stand Still" and "Give Up Town" after that. They both got great receptions. I liked the different feel that "Give Up Town" has in this format as well. Like "Phony", it felt re-invented. After a break, during which the Georgia Bulldog cheerleaders did their thing (no, I'm not kidding), I came back out and started the second half alone. It's been a long, long time since we've done "Down" and it's been even longer since it's been done right. Today it happened. I started it, Joe came in for the harmonies and then Mike and Frank came in...well, Mike did anyway. Frank played but this time, he'd unplugged! His bass unceremoniously and hysterically righted itself, coming in on exactly the last note! We then revived "Goodbye Tuesday". This was one of my favorite performances of this ever and the first time we've done it at all since Hurricane Katrina was coming ashore and we were on the distant outskirts of it in Chattanooga. I remember dedicating the hurricane related song to the gulf coast as the Weather Channel played news reports beside us. Weather-wise, today couldn't have been more different. "Towel Cape Song" was nice and energetic, "Scared Of Myself" was delicate and slippery. Both of them went over well and felt good to play. We ended up with one I never thought of as being adaptable to acoustics but boy was it! My current favorite song of mine, "Waiting For The Siren" works just as well this way. It's so melodic and it still managed to rock - even without electric guitars! Today felt like a triumph!


Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. Sometimes I'm Sam****
2. (Save It For) Another Day***
3. Phony****
4. I Won't Stand Still****
5. Give Up Town****
6. Down***
7. Goodbye Tuesday****
8. Towel Cape Song****
9. Scared Of Myself****
10. Waiting For The Siren****

After the show, Joe had to take off immediately to get back to ye ole day job while Frank, Mike, Amanda and I went out to lunch with our host Bruce Burch. I got the word from the staff that in the 5-year history of the Terry Tunes concert series, we had the 2nd biggest crowd ever! I was a bit dumbfounded by that but thrilled to hear it nonetheless. Not for the first or last time I must thank Bruce for inviting us out, Keith Perissi for helping with the logistics (and for generally being a cool guy), Wes Delk for the sound re-enforcement and advice, Stephan and Hailey for videoing (hopefully, you'll see some clips here sooner than later), Justin (for handling merch), UGA and all the friends who swung by to see our lunchtime debut. I'm looking forward to making the acoustic version of the band a regular alternative to our standard over the top rockstravaganza.

And I'm looking forward to seeing you again.

Here's to new beginnings...


Photos by Amanda Stahl.