Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings


Tuesday October 3, 2006
With The Blank Faces and The Station Myth
Caledonia Lounge
Athens, GA


After an energy draining wait to get into the Caledonia, we didn't have much time to do anything but set up our stuff and get to playing. The first problem was where to put my amp. I hadn't thought of that. This was the first real show as a quartet and now that I have to set up in the middle, my amp can't go in its usual spot. And there certainly wasn't room for it up near me as there was hardly enough room for me to stand there in front of that drum cage. Then we had tuning difficulties. I don't know whether it was the humidity or not but Joe's guitar just wasn't locking in right. On top of that, I had accidentally put the wrong strings on my guitar and it was abundantly clear. But hey, those kind of things are exactly what first shows are about, eh?

When we finally did kick in, it was with our old standard opener "Colors In Black & White". It was good to be able to do it again with all the harmonies. I think we did it well. About halfway through, I opened my eyes and noticed a pretty good little gathering watching us from the back of the club. "Waiting For The Siren" followed and even though it was a wee bit too fast, it worked well enough. Of course, I'm out of practice doing the pedal dance so right on the first note and then at the solo, I had brief moments of adjustment.

Next up, we decided to revive "Goodbye Tuesday" for its first electric appearance in over a year. The capo and wrong string combo on my guitar caused me to have to retune just for this song. It wasn't that big of a deal but it was something that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't gotten the wrong type of strings (Yes, that again!). Also - right at the start of "Tuesday", the bass got really loud. I don't know whether it was Frank's amp or the sound man (more likely) but it was a bit overbearing.

With "Sometimes I'm Sam" we started settling in. We cruised through this one and while the segue into "Give Up Town" was rickety, we rocked it up well enough to make up for it. Again - I can't say how happy I am to have the vocal harmonies back. At this point, I had decided to cut "Down" but Joe persuaded me to keep it in. I'm glad we did. This was the first electric version of this since our CD release party. It was possibly the highlight for me tonight and undoubtedly the best the backup vocals have been done since that guy that used to do 'em in Q-Sign.


From there we hit the ol' "I Won't Stand Still" / "Phony" two-fer. These were fine and sounded pretty tight considering how long its been since we've actually done a rock show. I did feel very cramped into my space and miss having the room to actually move around. If I did anything, I would bump into the mic for the kick drum. This is something we need to figure a way to remedy whether it means moving Mike to the side or me going to my old side and having Joe or Frank in the middle. I don't know. We'll figure it out as we go.

I did an extra quiet version of "Scared Of Myself" next. I decided to try to do it with no gain at all on the guitar. It sounded good that way but I still kicked in at the second verse. We wound up closing out with a rocked up "Towel Cape Song" / "Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something" double shot. "Towel Cape" was fine. Joe added in some extra vocal harmonies that work nicely. He did miss the guitar harmonies at the end, though. "Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something" was equally as solid. It wasn't stellar. It was a little rusty but it was okay. The Zep bit had some slight timing difficulties but I doubt if more than 2 people heard it. We did the full, big ending. I couldn't resist walking out over the front lip of the stage but I still wasn't nearly as over the top as I like being.


Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. Colors In Black & White ****
2. Waiting For The Siren ***
3. Goodbye Tuesday ***
4. Sometimes I'm Sam ****
5. Give Up Town ****
6. Down ****
7. I Won't Stand Still ****
8. Phony ****
9. Scared Of Myself ****
10. Towel Cape Song ***
11. Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something ****


Post show, I spent a good bit of time hanging out with my friends Jonathan and Matt. Matt said he preferred the two guitar version. Jonathan said it was okay but he noticed the same tuning issues that I did. He did gimme a thumbs up on the return of the harmonies. I also thanked Rich Merritt for coming out and taking photos before the guys in The Blank Faces and I traded war stories. I really like them. I felt bad that Amanda dragged me out before their set but I've a feeling I'll get another chance.

Bottom line: the gig was okay. We did our jobs and began the trip to figuring out who we are now. That's all I asked for going in and that's what I got so I'm satisfied.


Photos by Amanda Stahl.