Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings



Friday June 24 , 2005 - Athens, GA

Wild Wing Cafe (with The Bearfoot Hookers, Carla Lefever & The Rays, The Critical Hookers and The Quincy Jonestown Choir)

I've got to tell you...I've never been happier to be onstage as tonight. I was sick all week, completely bedridden with the flu. I thought for sure this was going to be a cancellation. 24 hours before the show, I started to get better. So, despite being a bit weak and a little out of it, I convinced myself that not only must the show go on, but it must be a full blast show. When we were setting up, Tom was even trying to talk me into pacing myself more. I'd have no part of it. If we're going to do it, let's just freakin' do it, man. This was the most rock and roll show we've ever done. It's only appropriate to have done it on a bill with our good friends The Bearfoot Hookers and new friends Carla Lefever & The Rays. I figured we'd be really sloppy tonight. After all, with one thing and another, I hadn't even taken my guitar out of its case since our last show 3 weeks ago. No rehearsals. No nothing. What are the odds that we could pull this off unscathed? Well, it wasn't totally unscathed but it was close enough. It started at soundcheck. We plugged in, ran through one of the best versions of "Scared Of Myself" we've ever done and didn't look back from there. We did start the show with our usual 3-fer. Perhaps because of the familiarity of it all, we didn't really kick in 'til we got through those 3. We did 'em remarkably well but no sparks were flying yet. That changed for "Into My View." We did it faster and sleeker tonight. It was a rocker. And we slammed headfirst into the usual finale immediately after that. "Give Up Town" was a monster. All that built up frustration and aggression came out in the form of R-O-C-K. This may have been the best overall version of it we've ever done. At the end, there was just a massive roar from the crowd. I was duly impressed with the sound coming back at us. It immediately galvanized me. So we kept pushing. "I Won't Stand Still" and "Phony" came next. The first part was cooking. Unfortunately, the usual peak of the show ("Phony") was the lowlight tonight. During the solo, Frank apparently was "blinded by the light." He played for a good minute and a half in the wrong key! It would've been tragic if I hadn't been wailing the solo. No one seemed to notice but it definitely didn't have its usual teeth. Too bad. If we'd have pulled this one off, too, this would've been one of my choices for best show ever.

We did redeem ourselves quickly. Another double shot of rock with "Creepy Jackalope Eye" and "Worms On The Pavement" came next. "Worms" was waaaaaaay too fast and out of control. I looked back at Tom near the end and he looked on the verge of panic / collapse. He made it through and then we took our one reprieve from "the rock." Since we had The Bearfoot Hookers in the house and a couple of others who had participated in our studio session for "Taking Its Toll," we invited 'em all up for it tonight. Tambourines were banged and the big "lay down" section got its biggest rendition ever. The crowd reaction was great. There was even at least one person (thanks, Jonathan) waving a lighter for the big solo! Then everyone came back in to reprise the "lay downs" at the end. It was huge fun. Since we'd already used our big finale early in the set, we didn't have anywhere to go. That big ol' "Toll" could've closed it but I wanted more. I wanted to really push it into overdrive. Hmmmm...what could we do for a victory lap. Well, we kept Ty from the Hookers onstage with us. I started noodling KISS' "Black Diamond" and he actually started singing it. He did a killer job on it, too. When it came time to kick in, I dived headfirst into "Deuce." Now - keep in mind, we've only done this, like once. It's a rehearsal / fun / goof song for us. We don't really know it that well. That showed tonight. Frank got lost at one point, in fact. But you know what? It didn't matter. All FOUR of us gave it our all. My fingers finally gave way on the solo but I still tore through it. While I did, Ty physically shook me like a bad child. I think he vibrated my brain a little too much but it's all for rock and roll. At the end, I kept the guys pounding that open "A" chord for an inordinately long time. It was definitely big, dumb rock. And tonight that equaled big, dumb fun. As Tom said later, "as sloppy as it may have been, the "Taking Its Toll / Deuce ending was perfect." I couldn't agree more. And it's not something we're going to do that often. Tonight felt special. Whether it actually was or not is up for debate...but feeling that way's a heck of a start. For the record, I feel tonight was the end of Mach I for the band. When we come back in a couple of weeks, it's time to up the ante. I can't wait.

Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. Colors In Black & White***
2. Until The Road Ends****
3. Sometimes I'm Sam***
4. Into My View****
5. Give Up Town****
6. I Won't Stand Still****
7. Phony***
8. Creepy Jackalope Eye****
9. Worms On The Pavement****
10. Taking Its Toll (with The Quincy Jonestown Choir) ****
11. Black Diamond (Intro) (lead vocal by Ty Manning of Bearfoot Hookers)****
12. Deuce (co-lead vocal with Ty Manning of Bearfoot Hookers)****

The Quincy Jonestown Choir - Amanda, Jon, Julia and Ty - make a guest appearance for "Taking Its Toll".

(Above photo by Daniel Peiken - thanks!)

All hail and beware The Critical Hookers tearing up "Deuce"!

The one bad thing tonight was that after I got everything loaded and the adrenaline waned, I started feeling sick again. Amanda seemed to relapse a bit, too. So, basically, I had to reluctantly leave and go home for rest when I really wanted to stay and party with The Hookers. I did get to see some of Carla's set. They did a wild version of KC & The Sunshine Band's "Get Down Tonight." I also got to meet Tom's parents. They and his sister were here tonight. His Mom and Dad had only seen him perform once...ever. I'm glad they chose to come to this one. Again, I wish I could've stuck around longer.

Here's Tom's post show report!

"I made my way back to Wild Wing after midnight. By then, Carla & co. were breaking down. Drag. I did get to hear them from the street when they started at 11. But unfortunately I wasn't able to answer her question of whether they were too loud out front. I hung out mainly with my old pal Sibley Bryan at the sound booth, and had a couple "jaeger bombs" before I realized that the secret ingredient was not Sprite (as i thought) but Red Bull. Before long, with their instruments in hand and a line of shots at the ready, The Bearfoot Hookers got things going with an impromtu run through of "Whiter Shade of Pale." Ty made lyrics up befitting the evening, including that "Chris McKay was feeling kinda seasick / But he still kicked Ace Frehley's ass!" Then, in our honor, they kicked into their version of Hank Jr.-fronts-Kiss version of "Love Gun."  I went up front and, in leiu of dancing, bobbed my head and air drummed. The Hookers kept the crowd singing along, dancing, and most importantly, buying drinks past last call."

And we need to thank a bevy of people for the support tonight so thanks to:

The Bearfoot Hookers, Carla & The Rays, Erica, Emily, Rosaria, Amy, Joan, Luis, Jim, Katie, Barbara, Julia, Jonathan, Daniel, Jason and friends, Sibley, Molly and family, The Critical Hookers and The Quincy Jonestown Choir.

Photos by Amanda Stahl and Daniel Peiken.