Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings



Friday May 13, 2005 - Athens, GA
(with Sun Domingo)

Wild Wing Cafe

So let's make it two in a row...tonight and last night are the best two-night stand we've done. Usually, one night or the other is iffy at best. Not here. While there wasn't as much of a show here (no lights after all), we played as a unit better than I think we ever have. Frank was absolutely the best he's ever been. I was still wired with the "grand gestures" of last night and Tom was right there with us. I didn't notice any major errors. While this was not our best show ever (only due to to venue issues), I was possibly at my most relaxed. Therefore, this was undoubtedly one of my personal favorite performances. It just felt right. It didn't hurt that the Critical Darlings' family was there. We had Amanda, Julia, Molly, Mary-Katherine, Jonathan, Bud, Sibley and our buds in Sun Domingo all around us. Add in Edgel Sr., Eric and our new friend Bill and it was almost like a reunion. I was afraid that my voice might not be up to standards. I'd been feeling hoarse from last night's show. Miraculously, right before show time, it came back and was even stronger!

Tonight, we had free reign and we performed our first full set in a long, long time. We opened with the usual "Colors In Black & White / Until The Road Ends." Generally, this is all the time it takes at a venue like Wild Wing for an original band to chase off the sports bar types. Tonight, they applauded. Not only that, they stayed for the duration! Wow! Feeling extra confident, I took up a dare passed on to me from Tom via Bud. Frank looked surprised and delighted when I started "Sometimes I'm Sam" with the full intro to KISS' "Black Diamond". I don't know how many people there knew the song but the ones who did sure got a kick out of it. Next up was the best "Towel Cape / I Know Too Much" ever. This was a great bit of pacing and I think we've stumbled across the right place for it in the show. I made the ending super dramatic and over-the-top with pauses and volume dynamics. It worked great and the guys hit all the notes just right. For fun, we pulled up "Goodbye Tuesday" next. It's almost always on the set list and yet we still chop it out more nights than not. Tonight, I'm glad that we kept it. It was a nice addition as each of the songs so far were very different. It was all cohesive but the chosen ones for tonight all stood out on their own as well. "I Won't Stand Still" and "Phony" were next. You know what happens here. Fangs were bared, eyebrows were twitching and people took notice. We did clear one table but the ones that stayed were only drawn in further. Amanda later told me that she heard someone say "That's what it's all about" as the echoed end receded. I couldn't hear it. I did hear a lot of applause, though. does a body good. You know, there's a lot of good feeling around the band lately. It's been wonderful. Since that's the case, we pulled out "It's Never The Same". Tonight, I had to take the time to dedicate it and sing it to Mary-Katherine. She's flying the Athens coup soon. She's been an integral part of our little club since day one and I'll miss seeing her out there more than I can say. (Not to mention, the only reason that song was learned or ever performed is because she lobbied for it after hearing my writing demo. So forever more, that will be "Mary-Katherine's song" to me. It's also going over really well thanks, MK.)

After that I took the time to announce the impending release of C'mon, Accept Your Joy. It's four months before the release date but it can't hurt to start getting the word out and since "Into My View" is likely to be the first track released to radio, this seemed like the appropriate time for the announcement. Since our friend Jonathan was there (where you been?), we unburied "Everyday". It was kind of cool to play the first song I ever wrote to some of our new friends who haven't heard it. Again, this was one of the best renditions we've ever done. "I'll Be Fine" was tonight's exorcism. I was feeling the lyric...and it's not a good feeling due to the content. I delivered it with all that I could. I dredged up sights and emotions that I generally try to control. This song is one of the few places I can deal with that in a "healthy" way. It worked. "Worms On The Pavement" was the cleansing rocker. We've ignored this one for a while. That's mostly 'cause Tom doesn't seem to like it. We need to bring it back more often. It always kills live. Tonight was no exception. This was one of the highlights of the gig. And yes, last but not least was the tried and true. "Taking Its Toll" was the best it's ever been done. I sang the verses softer than ever and the choruses harder. The band matched my dynamic perfectly. I went over to Frank during the solo and we couldn't help but smile. We've been building to this since high school. Between meetings (that I have to keep secret right now), what went down in the studio, all the massive publicity we got on the biggest radio stations and publications in Georgia and two not only well-played but fun shows, this was the biggest week the Critical Darlings have ever had. And nothing went wrong enough to even slow us. What a week! How else could we cap it but with the most aggressive version of "Give Up Town" that any of my bands have ever done. At the last note, I even went airborne to cue the ending. The band landed with me.


Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. Colors In Black & White ****
2. Until The Road Ends ****
3. Black Diamond (Intro) / Sometimes I'm Sam ****
4. Towel Cape Song ****
5. I Know Too Much (For My Own Good) ****
6. Goodbye Tuesday ****
7. I Won't Stand Still ****
8. Phony ****
9. It's Never The Same ****
10. Into My View ****
11. Everyday ****
12. I'll Be Fine ****
13. Worms On The Pavement ****
14. Taking Its Toll ****
15. Give Up Town ****

If you know me, you know I usually have somewhere else to go or something to do. I had such a good time the last few days that I needed a victory lap with my friends in Sun Domingo. We chatted and schmoozed and generally had a good time hanging out with family and friends. Frank was the first to leave. Tom and I saw the Sun Domingo set through. Mr. Bavis even turned into the lead singer for Sun Domingo during a cover of Radiohead's "Sulk." By the time he special guested, he was feeling no pain. He still did just fine, thank you. I just sat in the back taking it all in. Sun Domingo tore through their set. I'd like to think we inspired them to raise their eyebrows. They seemed to push it harder than I've ever seen 'em. The percussion duo thing was particularly impressive. And Brian's solo in "She Loves New York" was one of the coolest, most whacked out leads I've ever heard. By the time they ended, my adrenaline was running out. I had a great run this week but it's time for a day off. Then it's back to the studio Monday morning for a little more "joy acceptance." You just wait...

Thanks to Matt, Troy and Sun Domingo for having us out again. Thanks to Jonathan, Mary Kat, Julia, Bud, Edgel Sr., Eric and Bill for coming out, too. We sincerely appreciate it and hope to cross paths again soon.


Photos by Amanda Stahl.