Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings



October 8, 2005 - Nuci's Space - C'mon, Accept Your Joy CD Release Party
(with special guests Allison Weiss, Beyond Tomorrow and The Star Sign)

(Here's the three responsible for this evening's revelries.)

By all accounts, this was a special show. It'll probably remain totally unique in the complete itenerary. Who knows what the future will bring but this was something that is unlikely to happen again. It started out normal enough. We kicked off our CD release party with a trio of songs from the record. I kept thinking I was out of tune but after the first few I realized that Frank and I were just a little out with each other. So while we played 'em right, they weren't all they could've been. Also, we'd had no soundcheck so the sound was iffy at first. Luckily, we had Michael Rietveld (formerly of Q-Sign and Star Zero) on the scene so he oversaw the mix and worked with Nuci's guy Wade. By the third song, we had one of the best onstage mixes I've ever heard. For the fourth song, I dedicated "It's Never The Same" to one of the people missing tonight, Mary Katherine. Even though she didn't hear it, it was done for her. It also was a good thing for my voice. I'd shot it with 7 hours of rehearsals over the last couple of days. After "Never The Same", we went full-on rock and roll.

(Tom does double duty while Amanda wraps her hands around my throat during "Toll".)

"I Won't Stand Still" and "Phony" were both solid. On most nights, that's the peak of The Rock and they were just about as good as ever. However, we followed that tonight with a triple shot of "If You Want To Go" , "Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something" and "You Don't Know Me" that upped the ante considerably. "Someone's Trying" featured the solo from "Whole Lotta Love" and I noticed a definite positive and surprised reaction to it from the crowd. Then "You Don't Know Me" just flat out rocked. We nailed the super heavy ending. During that last part, I kicked in our smoke machine for the first time ever. That along with swirling Vertigo lights (courtesy of Mike) really added to the effect. We got a huge response from that so I asked if it was "too much rock." The crowd yelled back a "no" and that they wanted more. So I challenged them again with "This Is The Night The World Changes," which we've never performed live before. It's also the hardest rocker that we have in the arsenal. I've gotta say, I had one of the best times I've ever had on stage during this performance of this song. Tom really nailed it tonight - and this ain't an easy one to nail. Frank and I even pulled off the super fast syncopated lick at the end. I wonder if we'll ever do it better than tonight. This indeed was the night. I only wish we had a board recording of it!

I was still amped up but we needed to get back on message so Tom got me back on the album with "Towel Cape Song." We did it at the album tempo which is a little slower than we usually do live. Still, it felt really good. Frank didn't quite get the segue but it didn't matter. His mistake actually worked! Tom led the drum intro of "Worms" into Nirvana's "Scentless Apprentice" before I got him to take it over to Queen's "We Will Rock You." I then put out an invitation to anyone with the guts to come up and sing it. So the Bearfoot Hookers' Ty and Jon rose to the challenge. I stomped and clapped along with Tom while Ty and Jon sang it. At the appropriate moment, I took off on Brian May's solo. I've often goofed off with it but I don't actually know it. Somehow, I hit it right tonight, though, and it got a nice response. At the end, I jumped right into "Worms" headfirst while Ty and Jon made their exits. Then we invited up Andy Ainsworth. Andy now plays with a band called Gbanjah in Atlanta but he was in Q-Sign with me and Star Zero with me and Frank. The guitar leads in "Sometimes I'm Sam" are his. It was so cool to be able to have him come up and play 'em. Having the lead over the top of the rhythm just felt so good. No - 'twasn't perfect but it was close enough, baby!

(Amanda and Julia join in on "Toll.")

"Give Up Town" was next. The drummer from those same two former bands, Michael Rietveld, joined us on percussion as Andy and I revived all the harmony guitar parts that originated with Q-Sign. It rocked. And hearing those harmonies at the end really did my soul good. I didn't know if we could top it but we did. For the finale, we got Ty and Jon back up there on stage right, while Julia and Amanda joined us on stage left. Mike was still up on tambourine, Andy on rhythm and the the three of us doing our usual jobs. "Taking Its Toll" was killer with Andy's "slide" part added back in...just like the record. With all the extra backups and percussion, we did a pretty good job of simulating the Joy version. Andy counted in my ending solo, I kicked in the Vertigo lights and fog machine and we ended the Critical Darlings set with a massive flourish. I wish everyone who's ever seen us could've seen that 9-piece version. The set ended with hugs and smiles. Then we took a break before the jam portion of the night. This first set was us doing our job, even though it was fun. The next set was solely about indulgence, fun and friends.

(Andy Ainsworth joins us for the final 3 in the main set.)

Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

Set One (The Critical Darlings):

1. Colors In Black & White***
2. Until The Road Ends***
3. Into My View***
4. It's Never The Same***
5. I Won't Stand Still****
6. Phony****
7. If You Want To Go****
8. Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something****
9. You Don't Know Me****
10. This Is The Night The World Changes (N)****
11. Towel Cape Song****
12. We Will Rock You (with Ty Manning and Jon Tonge) (N)***
13. Worms On The Pavement****
14. Sometimes I'm Sam (with Andy Ainsworth)***
15. Give Up Town (with Andy Ainsworth / Mike Rietveld)****
16. In The Year 2525 / Taking Its Toll (with Andy Ainsworth / Mike Rietveld / Quincy Jonestown Choir)****



Set Two (The Jam):

(Yikes! What an unweildly stage. Meet The Star Sign - Andy, Frank, Tom, Mike and Chris.)

Okay - work was done at this point. We'd already done our hour and 15 set list. Now, we wanted to just stretch out and have fun. We went back up as a five piece. It only seems right to call it Star Sign since there were members of Q-Sign and Star Zero and those were primarily the songs we did. For the first 4 cuts, we had Star Zero up there playing Q-Sign songs with Tom coming up from the back to "play Bono". We opened just like the old days with "Stay Away". It was pretty rickety. Actually, I think I was the ricketiest for some reason. Then to top it off, Tom's mic went out. He came over to my mic and we shared it for "Stay Away." Then we slid into "Pepper", which was a lot better. Tom's voice fatigue showed a bit but it didn't really matter. It was all about having a good time. Andy took off on the solo and it sounded just like it always did. I then leaped over "Twist" as Tom had said that's the toughest on his voice. So we went onto "She Walks" instead. It rocked suitably. It was cool seeing Tom being a front man but it was even more fun for me to just be able to cut loose and be the guitar player. I so miss that. The best part of "She Walks" for me was that we did the full trippy middle section. When the trio does it, we leave that part out. But it was all here tonight - the weird harmonies, the cadence and even the smoke and lights. I wish some of the pics of the effects would've come out. Since it was past midnight and now officially October 9. We did "Come Together" in honor of John Lennon's 65th birthday. Tom's voice was on the edge a couple of times but it was still solid considering this is one that none of us had ever played before. Andy and I worked out the harmony solo that day. I was surprised how easy it was to do it. Then Tom took a short break while Andy moved up to the front man position.

(Tom tries out some new frontman faces while I do the same ol'.)

Andy chose a pair of Star Zero songs that he wrote and sang. Frank had been having a lot of trouble getting them back together at rehearsal but he did fine at crunch time. "Eileen" even sounded okay without the third harmony. Mike was chugging along behind us with every fill and touch. Andy pulled out "Drunk" next and his explanation of the song drew some loud cheers from the audience. I enjoyed singing those harmonies again. I still say Andy needs to make a solo record. He's got some great stuff that he's sitting on. These two cuts are prime examples. I'm glad we got to revive them if only for the night. After that, we pulled out "Down." We weren't supposed to do it but we kept getting requests for it so we did it tonight for our new friend Blue (who also videotaped the show). Tom ran back up onstage just in time to get the harmonies. Mike and Andy fell right back into it even though we hadn't even discussed doing it. I was again impressed.

(Frank is hypnotized by Andy's message in "Drunk".)

(Tom dons his glasses for our John Lennon 65th birthday tribute, "Come Together." Mike blends into the background.)

For the ending, we chose a few covers that we've always liked doing together. We lead off with Prince's "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man." I sang lead, Andy played lead, Tom did backups and percussion while Mike and Frank held down the rhythm. Considering it's been years since we've done it, I believe it was done as well as we ever did. I segued that straight into Rick Springfield's "I've Done Everything For You." Tom took the high parts during the choruses (whew!). After that, we dove right into "Deuce" which was particularly massive tonight with the lights, smoke, two guitars, percussion, two vocals and Mike's powerful drumming. I think we left blisters on all of those songs. After the smoke covered "Black Diamond" power chord slams, Mike did a big fill. Then Tom put an end to the whole night with a flying leap. This whole set was totally uncalled for, completely self-indulgent and incredibly fun. To top it all off, every penny raised from admission went to benefit Nuci's Space. I'd love to think we'd have an excuse to do it again but I wouldn't bet on it. Hey - have you guys got anything to do the night of The Satisfactionist CD release party? Let me know!

(Tom and I share my mic for "Stay Away" after he kills his during the first verse.)

The Star Sign (Andy - guitar, Frank - bass, Tom - lead vocals & percussion, Chris - guitar, Mike - drums)

1. Stay Away **
2. Pepper ***
3. She Walks ***
4. Come Together (N)***

The Andy Ainsworth Experience (Andy - lead vocals & guitar, Frank - bass, Chris - guitar, Mike - drums)

5. Eileen (N)***
6. Drunk (N)***

The Star Sign (Andy - guitar, Frank -bass, Chris - lead vocals & guitar, Tom - percussion & vox, Mike - drums)

7. Down ***
8. I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man (N)****
9. I've Done Everything For You (N)****
10. Deuce ****


(Former Q-Sign and Star Zero members Andy Ainsworth and Mike Rietveld join in.)


(Andy and Chris harmonize on "Come Together.")

And then it was over. I was sad to see it end. Andy headed on back to Atlanta, Mike headed on back to South Carolina and the three of us headed back to our individual Athens headquarters. To those of you who made it, we hope you had at least half as good a time as we did. For those of you who prefer the usual schtick, we'll be back on that by the end of the week. For those of you who missed it...well, you missed it!

Photos by Amanda Stahl and Jonathan Thompson.