Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings



Saturday December 11, 2004 - Athens, GA
Washington Street Tavern

Now this is how it oughtta be. Thanks to a little extra ingenuity and help from a few friends, we managed to make this Washington Street Tavern another standing room only affair. After our last...ahem...less than well attended show, tonight was vindication and proof that we can do it whenever we want...if we make the effort. The other nice surprise was that despite the fact that we hadn't played a single note together since our last show 3 weeks ago (and little in the few weeks before that), we played well. Maybe we're getting to that place that we've been trying to reach since the beginning. You know, where we can be on cruise control enough to cut loose and really shine. I think we did that at this show. Tonight, the eyebrows were on.

After bravely and successfully opening with "If You Want To Go," we fell back on the warhorse called "Until The Road Ends." The mix was still working itself out but the response from the crowd was immediately welcoming and appreciative. It was a nice feeling. What was strange for me was that I wasn't nervous in the slightest. That's something that I haven't experienced since before Q-Sign. Overall, we leaned a little more toward the rock side of things tonight. "Sometimes I'm Sam" was where "(Save It For) Another Day" has been falling recently and it worked perfectly in that spot. Right before "Everyday", someone yelled "Free Bird." So I did my typical "put the heckler on the spot" trick. One of these days, someone's gonna call me on it. So far, though, it's worked to our advantage every single time! After "Into My View," we played "I Know Too Much (For My Own Good)" for the first time in front of an actual crowd. The response was strong and people seemed to actually get into the lyrics. It's rare to see that while playing a song, but it was obvious on this one. I dedicated it tonight to Julia Barnes. She's a good friend (a really good friend to one of us!) but she couldn't make it tonight. I heard that this is her favorite song of mine and she's going through a situation not unlike what I wrote it this was for her. I segued that straight into "Scared Of Myself." I swear it doesn't feel like we've only played this once before. I noticed a few screams during the guitar solo so I guess we did it pretty well. I did have to tone down the screaming on the last line of the second verse, though. I doubt anyone noticed. "Colors In Black & White" got its usual respectful response. I think people respond more to the arrangment and performance of that song but Tom disagrees and says it's just a good pop tune. I hope he's right. Either way, it always goes over. Next up was the "I Won't Stand Still" / "Phony" medley and freakout. I hit it pretty hard tonight. In fact, at the end of the solo I felt as if I'd pulled my arm out of its socket. During the rising part, I heard several people screaming out. Now, at this point, I do have a couple of places that I know I'm going to go during the solo but what's in between is still completely ad libbed. It's still frightening enough to pump me up for it. Again, it worked. I missed a couple of the high notes but made up for it with eyebrows. By now it was 1 a.m. This being the 10th anniversary of the club, the club offered free shots to anyone if we would play a Christmas carol. They'd give 'em out for the duration of it. Of course, we don't know any. Hmmm...well, we tried anyway. For about 4 minutes, we did the most horrendous version of "Jingle Bells" anyone has ever heard. I can't even describe how bad it was. Thank God everyone knew it was all in fun so they could get their collective drink on for free. Ewwww....let's never speak of it again. Then it was back to ze rock! Frank was a little rusty on "I'll Be Fine" but our newest song got a huge response for one that only a couple of friends have heard before. Right as it ended someone yelled, "The bass line in that song is badasssss!". Frank cooly nodded his appreciation as he took a sip of his drink of choice. "Towel Cape Song" got an instant jolt of recognition. Molly and Mary Katherine got up and started dancing around and I noticed several people singing along (not bad for a song with no chorus!). I dubbed the girls "The Critical Dancers." Seeing people move and sing along makes everything so much more fun for us. Then it was a rare performance of "She Walks" that Tom says is the best we've ever done it. I was too busy rocking to notice either way. We were about to launch into "Worms On The Pavement" when we got a request for "Down" (from Mary Kat) which was not on the set list tonight. So we did it. For the last section where it's just vocals and guitar, Frank wandered out into the audience. Unfortunately, he left his bass on in front of the speakers. The feedback was really cool as long as I was in "E". The bass would play itself and really make it sound huge. When I went to "A", it wasn't so nice. We'll have to figure a way to work the good part in and the bad part out. It shouldn't be too hard. One request deserves another so we did "Wide Bicycle" next (for Molly). I was nervous that I'd forget the lyrics but I pulled it off okay. We ended with our usual "closing benediction". "Taking Its Toll" was nicely played (even if Tom ditched me on the last bit of "lay down"s). The big solo inspired Jonathan to jump up and wave his lighter in time. It got a huge laugh. In response, I upped the arena ante by flicking one of my custom guitar picks right into his chest. As usual, we ended with "Give Up Town". I've got to say, we tore through it tonight. When it went back to the riff at the end of the song, I surged toward the front of the stage, slipped and slammed the microphone and stand to the floor. The people in front looked temporarily shocked (but not surprised - you figure it out)). Later, Mary Katherine said "that was very punk rock." Yes, accidents are very punk rock, aren't they?


Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. If You Want To Go ****
2. Until The Road Ends ***
3. Sometimes I'm Sam ***
4. Everyday ****

5. Into My View ***
6. I Know Too Much (For My Own Good) ***
7. Scared Of Myself ***
8. Colors In Black & White ***
9. I Won't Stand Still ****
10. Phony ****
11. Jingle Bells (N) -*
12. I'll Be Fine ***
13. Towel Cape Song ****
14. She Walks ****
15. Down *** (by request)
16. Wide Bicycle *** (by request)
17. Taking Its Toll ****
18. Give Up Town ****

Overall, tonight was a good time. In fact, it may be the best time I've ever had onstage with this band. I don't think it was our best show (the Oct. 1 show with Zoso still holds that honor to me) but this one felt right. It was fun for us and the audience. It's so nice to see people getting excited about our music and performance. Again, the show was very well paced and to the point. We pulled off what we hoped we could and upped the standards of an average night significantly. Before long, we will be one of the most consistently strong live bands in the area. I guarantee it.

Thanks so much to Alec, Amanda, Molly and Mary Katherine for dragging people down to see us. Thanks to Sarah and Eric for spending your evening with us. Thanks to Jonathan for your usual insight and hyjinx. Thanks to the Washington Street Tavern for having us. Thanks to everyone that made us feel welcome. We had a great kickoff this year. Can't wait for the big game in '05.

We'll see you on Elvis' 70th birthday, January 8!



Photos by Amanda Stahl.