Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings



Saturday June 4 , 2005 - Athens, GA

Nuci's Space

Since I was in high school, I've wanted to play a high school graduation party. There's just something so satisfyingly teen-movie about it. It should be a rock 'n' roll rite of passage but to this point, I've missed out. Thankfully, the Critical Darlings have made possible an almost forgotten dream of mine. It's just a slot on the belt that I almost forgot to notch. Better late than never, though. Thanks to Kathleen, Amelia and the whole Oglethorpe High contingent having us out to do this, I got it done. Frank and I got there right at 6. The school and Nuci's space people didn't really seem to have a plan worked out so I kind of jumped in the middle to help get things running. I'm glad I did because there were actually some issues with the P.A. that needed to be worked out. While I was setting up, another band was hanging out on stage, too. Someone said it was their first gig. They were clearly part of the school or freshly graduated themselves. It did me good to hear them pulling the same Zeppelin, Metallica and Rush licks that all guitarists must learn to come through. Of course, they kept leading Tom and me into jamming of said licks. It was fun and it helped to relax everyone. After Roy got there (our good Nuci's friend) to run sound, we tried and tried to work out some mic issues. I finally gave up trying to fix things and took off, assuming that they would be worked out by our 10 p.m. slot. This time, that slackitude happened to work out.


We went on just as scheduled. The sound on stage was a little thin and muddy but from all accounts it was strong out front. Tonight's set was pretty much our default list. Honestly, we still haven't had time to rehearse and the album's been taking up so much time that we couldn't consider it if we wanted. We'll get back on that between now and AthFest. You know, I'd been wondering when summer was going to come. After all, it's June. Yesterday, however, I actually had to wear a jacket out...and the day before. Let me tell you, that wasn't the case tonight. Summer is here, baby. I've never been this hot onstage and indoors. was nearly unbearable. And the studio's gotten me kind of out of shape, too. It was tough. I just kind of relaxed through the opening pair of songs. When I opened up my eyes halfway through "Until The Road Ends", I realized that there was a slew of Critical Dancers out there in front of us. It was great. That really made me feel good. "Sometimes I'm Sam" kept 'em dancing. And I'm not talking about ballroom dancing or MTV video dancing. I'm talking about Peanuts Christmas Special dancing. These people had some of the coolest, quirkiest moves I've seen outside of animation. It was so much fun to watch! Before "Into My View", I needed to breathe for a second (again, it was H-O-T, just look at the sweat marks on our clothes in the pics below) so I invited some guys up on stage who almost caused me to think I was insane earlier in the night. While I was tuning pre-show and had my earplugs in, Styx's "Come Sail Away" got in my head. Not only that, I thought I heard it being sung. Yep, the heat's gotten to me, I thought. But no! There were about 5 guys singing it non-drunkenly for their own amusement. Whew! The madness hasn't totally set in yet. So anyway - I invited 'em up to reprise the sing-a-long. It didn't work out quite as I had planned but it gave me a brief break and set the show back on course for "the new single" "Into My View" which had 'em dancing even more furiously. The one mistake that was made tonight was following this with "It's Never The Same." Perhaps this one's just not appropriate in this environment. Tom suggested we do "Everyday" instead. He would've been right. Tonight, "It's Never The Same" was the absolute lowlight even though it's been a highlight of the last few. No worries, we'll kick it back in with the next bit. "I Won't Stand Still" and "Phony" were rocking as usual. I didn't even forget to use the proper effects this time. It was good to hear 'em again. And a massive roar at the end let me know we'd caught back up. I decided to stick with the rock and jump over "I'll Be Fine" to get to "Worms On The Pavement." There was a rush to sign up on our mailing list during the beginning of this one (thanks for reminding me, Frank.). It's nice to see a LINE formed to sign up! Deciding that it's better to leave 'em wanting more, we went ahead and shut down shop. But not before thanking Kathleen and Amelia one more time for inviting us and being so great to work with. I wish the performance of "Taking Its Toll" would've been better but Frank had some say in it and he completely massacred (no kidding, it was irretrievably and inexcusably bad for a few measures) a full section of the song. I could see the look of terror on his face but his brain just went to Alcupulco for a minute. I felt bad for him but hey, that's what happens with not enough rehearsal! We made up for it on "Give Up Town. You know, it was just the usual rockfest. I posed, stomped and generally sweated into my own eyes (which I guess is better than someone else sweating into my eyes). Big applause sounded at the end. I saw smiles on faces. I was dehydrated but felt okay. Bottom line: we could've done much better but we did just fine overall. I had fun and I think a whole buncha dancers did, too.

Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

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

Photos by Amanda Stahl.