Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings



Saturday February 19, 2005 - Athens, GA
Washington Street Tavern

Finally! We got 2005 of the ground officially with our first real show of the year. It's about time. Of course it was back in our home away from home, Washington Street Tavern. It's good to have us all healthy and ready to go! Since we hadn't bothered to round up an opening act this time, I decided to go out with an acoustic guitar and open for myself. I only wound up playing three songs before I'd had enough and wanted to go electric but it was, in fact, my first solo acoustic performance in public. I'll be doing it more in the future. In fact, we're talking about putting an acoustic portion into the set at some shows. We'll see. Either way - I opened with a Robert Plant song called "Liar's Dance." (You can hear my home recorded solo acoustic version by clicking on the song title.) Then I stumbled through "Oh I Wept" which I haven't played live since the Q-Sign days. I massacred the lyrics 'cause I didn't work this whole acoustic thing up before I got the whim to do it. I went up totally cold and unfamiliar. Next time, it'll be semi-planned and tight. Lastly, I did "Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something" which hasn't been performed since Star Zero. It was kind of nice to play it. I couldn't believe that I remembered it as well as I did. By that time, I'd had enough. The guitar seemed too loud for my voice and I figured, if I'm going to be too loud, I may as well I called the boys up to do just that.

We were naturally a bit rusty for the opening salvo of "Colors In Black & White" and "Until The Road Ends" but things levelled out soon after that. It all came back together for "Into My View. Then we revived "Goodbye Tuesday" which we've only performed 2 or 3 times ever. It went over great tonight and had a few people up and dancing early. Obviously, we need to do it more often! "Everyday" came next. It was really more for our friend Jonathan than anything. I've become tired of it already and until it becomes fresh again, it'll probably be done less in the immediate future. I'm sure it'll return at some point. It always does! For the record, I nailed the solo tonight. I credit that to my guitar sounding unfreakin-believably huge. I got it set up and intonated last week and man, did Danny Esposito at Musician's Warehouse do an amazing job. I was just enjoying playing that guitar tonight. Tom and Frank have definitely been working on their execution, too. I rarely heard Tom stumble and Frank's parts were more fluid than in the past. Unfortunately, he blew his bass cabinet so the bass sounded fairly distorted but his actual playing has gotten significantly better since our last show. "Sometimes I'm Sam" wasn't on the set list tonight but I noticed that my voice was starting to feel fatigued already (I'm out of practice) so I dug that one up 'cause it's always a breeze. This one got 'em up and dancing, too. There were two girls that were dirty dancing with each other about halfway back and it kept cracking me up that they were doing that to such pessimistic lyrics. I just found it hilarious. After that, we jumped into the "Towel Cape Song" / "I Know Too Much For My Own Good" two-fer that we worked up in December. This was the tightest we've done it (of the 3 times we have) and it's starting to gel now. I think by now we were starting to remember our jobs and we started to cut loose a bit more. I wasn't feeling all that connected with the audience (except for our friends) but I was connected enough to the guitar to rise above any problems. We did our random shuffle after that by doing "Taking Its Toll" really early. We always do it right near the end but it felt surprisingly right in this slot tonight. Big ending and all.

My once favorite part of the show regained that title tonight. I finally got a chance to do the new, smoking solo at the end of "I Won't Stand Still" / "Phony" and I was into it. Man, it rocked. I don't know if I've ever played that hard. Again - I was just feeling the guitar on that one. Tom and I traded off vocals at the end of the vocal section of "Phony" and it didn't quite work like it should've. We just need to practice it. The eyebrows during the rest of the song more than made up for it, though. The massive response that we got at the end was proof that it wasn't just in my head that it was that good. We did nothing less than stomp through it, which is exactly what's required. "Wide Bicycle" came next and this wound up being a good slot for it. The harmonies were kind of off, but again - that's just gonna take us rehearsing some more. We've really hardly seen each other to play over the last couple of months. But we're catching up fast. After "Bicycle", (which rocked perhaps harder than it should've) I shoehorned in "I'll Be Fine." I'm really starting to see how important this one is now. It felt good; dramatic, intense, light and heavy. Then I felt like throwing some more rocks. I was feeling slightly aggressive because of how much I was enjoying playing again so we grabbed "She Walks" and tried to shake the life out of it. Unfortunately, it shook us back at the transition to the solo but we quickly wrestled it back into submission. "Worms On The Pavement" was particularly brutal. We've never rocked it that hard. I wouldn't mind if it was always this over the top. I missed a few notes leaping around like an idiot but again...I was feeling it. Lots of people had filed in by this point. The room was mostly full. But we were more or less out of songs that we could pull off. I grabbed "Scared Of Myself" and we batted it around pretty well. I even hit the screaming second verse with no real difficulty. It went over well and "The Inappropriate Song Choice For Dirty Dancing" girls went at it again. For this song, I could barely hold the laughter in. This is so personal. It was nice to be able to laugh during it for a change. We ended up with "Give Up Town." Right at the beginning Tom was playing so hard that he destroyed his kick pedal. So the ending was totally without it! No one seemed to notice but us. After that, we were trying to decide whether or not to play more. We eventually decided that a broken kick drum and a blown bass speaker meant no. We ended with a quick run-through of "Creepy Jackalope Eye" which we haven't done for a while.

Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. Liar's Dance (N) ***
2. Oh I Wept (N)**
3. Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something (N)***
4. Colors In Black & White***
5. Until The Road Ends ***
6. Into My View ****
7. Goodbye Tuesday****
8. Everyday***
9. Sometimes I'm Sam****
10. Towel Cape Song ****
11. I Know Too Much (For My Own Good)****
12. Taking Its Toll****
13. I Won't Stand Still***
14. Phony****
15. Wide Bicycle****
16. I'll Be Fine****
17. She Walks****
18. Worms On The Pavement****
19. Scared Of Myself****
20. Give Up Town***
21. Creepy Jackalope Eye***

Overall, if you ask me, this was still a really rusty show. I didn't think we were all that together (due to lack of time spent playing lately) but Jonathan and Amanda both said differently. Jonathan said he thought it was one of the best shows we've ever done and was surprised that I thought it was not quite average. Amanda agreed with Jonathan, too. She declared the eyebrows won out over the rust. I'll take it. Forget what I think! The attendees have spoken.

We're back!

(Here's Jonathan video'ing us with the CVS disposable camera special. Hopefully, we'll be able to post some of the footage in the near future.)

See you soon...

Photos by Amanda Stahl.