Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings



Friday March 4, 2005 - Athens, GA
Washington Street Tavern

Well, at the personal invite of Alec Wooden with Athens Open Mic, we joined in the battle of the bands at Washington Street Tavern tonight. I'd been in the studio tracking guitars all day and while it was good to be out and free from precision, it was tough to wait around for our 12:25 a.m. slot. I spent time hanging out with the other bands, especially Bliss and Carpe Diem. They were all cool guys. It's odd that this night was a true battle of the bands. The last time(s), it was almost all acoustic except us. Tonight, not only were the other bands plugged in but we had prog rock, '80s hair metal, novelty indie rock and nouveau grunge up against us. So tonight, we didn't have to be at all self-conscious about our levels or over the top antics. When we finally got on, we laid right into "Colors In Black & White" and "Until The Road Ends." Unfortunately, we had P.A. difficulties for the entire first song. It was frustrating but we pulled through (barely). "Until" fared alright and we got a big round of applause at the first break. I noticed that several girls (who were there with other bands) were taking it upon themselves to take photos of us. I choose to think that was a very good sign. Then we brought out our other big two-fer. "I Won't Stand Still" was solid but "Phony" was completely aggressive and massive. Maybe even too much so this time. I'm sure that my actions looked like poses but they were all sincere. I was just into it. I was having fun not having to be exact like I'd had to be in the studio all day. I overshot some notes, undershot some others, stomped the pedal hard enough to accidentally kick in the wah and generally went mildly out of my mind. It was was very freakin' hot. I was sweating. Thank God we only had to do 20 minutes. I forgot all about breathing and ran out of breath near the end of "Phony."

Tonight, I didn't care about the contest aspect of this thing. I just wanted to play. Frank and Tom both played great (except for a brief moment in "Colors" when the combination of technical problems and people waving in Frank's face distracted him). In fact, I probably made more mistakes than anyone because of all the leaping around I was doing. That's rock and roll I guess. Our eyebrows are definitely on lately. I'm quite proud of that. We decided to close out with "Taking Its Toll." It was solid throughout. At the end, we got a big round of applause and I was ready to check out and go home.


Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. Colors In Black & White **
2. Until The Road Ends ***
3. I Won't Stand Still ****
4. Phony ****
5. Taking Its Toll ****

---- Encore ---

6. Worms On The Pavement ****
7. Give Up Town ****


Ten minutes or so later, we were announced as the winner. I was a little surprised 'cause my playing was so sloppy (in a good way - but still sloppy) and several other of the bands were totally on precision wise. I asked several people why they thought we won and everyone of 'em said the same thing..."stage presence." Good. I'm glad to hear that. One of the other guitarists just walked up to me and said "You've got balls, man" with a big smile on his face. As the winner, they asked us to play a couple of more tunes. I asked what they wanted to hear (and this time, not a "Free Bird" was uttered). They wanted "ROCK AND ROLL" so we laid hard into "Worms On The Pavement". I was surprised how well we did it considering how rarely we've played it lately. We ended up with "Give Up Town". During the first verse, the mic stand got tired of being slammed into by me and the mic clip split in half. I made it through the verse playing with one hand and holding the mic in the other. Then one of the judges (and a member of Carrying O'Brien) decided to help me get through the song by holding the mic up for me. That did the trick. Then he and another judge duct taped it back together while we played. I just laid in even more. By the end of the set, my right hand was bleeding and had a tiny chunk of flesh torn out of it from how hard I was hitting the guitar. Frank told me that I was "very Pete Townshend" tonight. I'm not complaining about that! I think we may finally be hitting our stride. The next few shows will definitely let us know for sure if we're getting to where we need to be...and they're biggies for us. Can't wait...

See you soon...

Photos by Amanda Stahl.