Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings

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Friday August 12, 2005 - Caledonia Lounge - Athens, GA (with Welterweight)

Tonight was the night for PopFest in most Athens venues. Since Caledonia wasn't a part of it, the venue asked us if we wanted to headline "PopFest, Jr." It was kind of a joke but it was the kind of joke that I appreciate so there we were. I'd been having a rough time in my personal life for the last week or so. My Grandmother had a health crisis and I had to keep running back and forth to South Carolina. As bad as it was, it was made worse tonight by my uncle and all of "his" family deserting my Grandmother when she needed him most. I was very angry by the time I got to Caledonia. If there had been anything but a show tonight that I had to play, I would've already been on the way to SC but me and the boys had a job to do. I could only hope that it didn't affect my performance.

Thankfully, it didn't seem to be to big of a problem. In fact, I was just itching to have a good time precisely because things have been so difficult lately. We opened with our usual trio followed by "Into My View" which has actually begun getting some airplay here and there (mostly Chattanooga to which I kept making arcane references all night). Since I was feeling surprising playful tonight and there was a girl named Leah celebrating her 30th birthday (was she hitting on Tom?), when one of her friends jokingly yelled for us to play "Sweet Child O' Mine", I flipped my pickup switch and nailed the opening riff for 'em. They went nuts. So I said, "Alright, we'll do it if Leah will come up and sing it." Now, we in no way no the song. But Leah called our bluff. Frank just laughed. I felt I had to deliver so I called upon the god of muscle memory who more or less came through. Tom joined in and we actually played most of the song, including the guitar solo (I can't believe my finger / ear coordination has gotten that solid). Leah was up on stage singing her heart out. Fittingly, the whole thing fell apart when we got to the "where do we go now" part. And that's where it ended.

We'd killed enough time doing that so we ditched "(Save It For) Another Day" from the set to move on to the rock two fer of "I Won't Stand Still" and "Phony." It wasn't quite dead on tonight but it was still raucous enough. Then the "Towel Cape / I Know Too Much" double shot followed and we tore those two up. It may have been the best time ever for that. Figuring we needed some dynamic, we slowed it down for "Scared Of Myself." It went over great. With a song like that, it's always different from the reaction you get from a rocker. People listen more to songs like this. Tonight, it seemed to connect. As Tom put it, "it killed the rock show momentum, but people were all ears." That's about right. But the beauty of it is that when you kick back in, it's even more powerful. And that's exactly what we did. "Worms On The Pavement" was fairly crushing and the response to it was possibly the best of the night. Feeling particularly inspired, I asked if the band was feeling brave. They said they were game so I pulled out "Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something" for the first time ever with this band. It hadn't been performed live since Star Zero before tonight. We do a faster, punkier version more like I originally wrote it. We also threw out "the Allman Brothers part" which was this extended half-time guitar solo. In its place we put the entire guitar solo from Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" just for kicks. I figured it out by ear while we were in the studio waiting for Asa to get off the phone one day. It fit in nicely here. It was a little rickety tonight but we truly weren't ready to play it so the fact that we got through it was cool enough. It got another big response. Considering that school wasn't back in for the fall yet, we had a great crowd response all night. This was partially because Tom brought a crew from work. We were glad to have 'em all. He later said they were "duly impressed" and treated him like a rock star after the show.

The final benediction followed. "Taking Its Toll" brought out Jonathan's lighter again. The venue even turned out all the lights in the club to make the ending more dramatic. I think this was the first time that people actually waved arms and sang along with the "lay down" bit even without me encouraging it. It felt great. We closed with "Give Up Town" as usual. One guy was thrusting his hands in the air, which was cool. But the truth was, he still had his beer in his hand. You should have seen the look on his face when he went to take a swig and realized he'd spilled it all over the floor around him! I ended by thanking everyone for making my bad day turn out alright and we were done. I think this was our best Caledonia appearance ever. I think I finally feel at home there.

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. Sweet Child O' Mine (with Leah)(N)**
6. I Won't Stand Still***
7. Phony***
8. Towel Cape Song****
9. I Know Too Much (For My Own Good)****
10. Scared Of Myself***
11. Worms On The Pavement****
12. Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something (N)***
13. Taking Its Toll****
14. Give Up Town****

After the show, I spoke to our friend Jonathan who said, "I thought you stomped ass tonight." How cool is that? He also seemed to like "Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something." We've got 3 or 4 more songs that we've never done, too. A couple more Q-Sign additions and some brand new stuff.

Our thanks tonight go out to Sarah and Eric (even though I never saw you for a second), Jeff Capurso (glad you got to see a little - thanks again for saving the album), Jonathan, Gordon Lamb, Mollie, Amanda, Omar, Rosa, David, Joey, Naninia, Jason, Dan, Tony and the club.

Photos by Amanda Stahl.

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