Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings



Friday May 12, 2005 - Atlanta, GA
(with A Flock Of Seagulls and Mighty McFly))

Rock Star Saloon

Well, the time has finally come. We got the opportunity to open up for a name act and we jumped on it. That's something I've always wanted to do. Unfortunately, I've never had a band that could step up to the challenge and go for it. Now I do. I've got to say that I was nervous for a big chunk of the day. We didn't have much rehearsal time and we've only done one show in the last month or so. While I knew that not many of our usual crowd could afford to drop $20 for tickets to see us (especially since we're playing tomorrow for free), I also knew that there would be some important people there to impress...not the least of which was Mike Cohen, the promoter who was kind and daring enough to ask us to open the show! When I got there, A Flock Of Seagulls was soundchecking. Man - it went on and on and on. And it didn't sound like the Seagulls either. It sounded like a generic metal band from the early '90s. And there's no glamour left in 'em either. The only original member appeared to be Mike Score, the keyboardist / singer. Let's just say that his hair's no longer in the shape of a tidal wave and he wears a ball cap at all times. Hmmm... Tom and Frank both had to take time off of work to get to the gig on time. They still had trouble finding the joint! It's tucked into a semi-fancy strip mall (if that's possible) and is a minor nightmare to find if you don't know the area. I had Amanda navigating the Saturn so we went right to it. The club is very nice, clean, modern and well laid out. The thing that amazes me most about the Rock Star Saloon is the lights and sound! It's really unmatchable in a club it's size. After Flock finally deemed the system acceptable, we and the other opener, Mighty McFly, got to set up our stuff. We set up in front of the other equipment, which left us precious little room. Thank God we're a 3-piece. Tom and Frank wound up back lined. That means that they had to use the other band's equipment. (Check out Tom's checkerboard adventure for the evening!) We didn't get a soundcheck but I made sure that they knew what I was gonna give 'em before we started. When I started playing, the sound man (who was great by the way) decided that my sound was too rocking to have blasting the audience and also too rocking to sacrifice so he put a glass barricade in front of my amp. So there's another first for the night.

But it could just barely qualify as night... At 7:35 sharp, with daylight still pouring through the front door, we took the stage. We eased into it a bit with "Sometimes I'm Sam". As it picked up during the coda, I noticed a few people checking us out. Maybe they were wondering who this band was (that they've never heard of) that had two photographers chasing them around. What they don't know is we always have our person (the lovely and psychotic Amanda) and the promoter has his (a good friend of mine named Scott Householder). Oh well, it made us look important anyway. At the end of the song, we had a nice, welcoming bit of applause and cheers. I was actually a little surprised. I'm always that way when we go over well in a difficult situation. I took the time then to introduce us and the next song. I noticed on the way to the show when I not-so-coincidentally heard "I Ran" on the radio that some of the lyrics to "Into My View" were strikingly similar. So I apologized to Mike Score for subconsciously nicking 'em before we took off into it. There was a big dance floor gulf that no one wanted to cross and a gathering crowd right behind it. Since they were so far away, I decided it was time for me to bring out the "grand gestures". No, they aren't our backup singers. They're a set of overly dramatic moves that I haven't used in a while. You know, like the "I'm Jimmy Page and I have an invisible bow above my head" move. Or the Pete Townshend windmill. Or the Paul Stanley sing and point. Then there's the Slash / Neal Schon solo and shout. There's a whole school's worth of that stuff. I'm proud to say that I graduated at the top of my class. That and my Bachelor Of Rhymes are the scholastic achievements of which I'm most proud.

Anyway - back to the show. Everyone of us was playing great tonight. I did notice Frank blurp up a few notes early on but he was a bit nervous (although I don't know if he'd admit it), so it's a slideable offense. I didn't hear Tom screw up anything and I know I didn't. We were on. I was on enough to where I couldn't stand restraining myself anymore. I wanted to cut loose and ROCK. That meant only one thing. It was time for "I Won't Stand Still" and "Phony." I noticed the promoter Mike Cohen and Scoley (also with Quincy Entertainment) smiling and bopping along. That made me feel great to see they were enjoying it. I also noticed the McFly guys (and girl) showing us support. So I turned it up a figurative notch. I stomped around for "Phony," conjuring up all those memories of past bands who self-destructed when anything that might bring success popped up. That whole experience caused me to write a chunk of that second verse. It was freeing to know that I've been able to get back to who I am with these guys. Not only that but we're running with it. It was also nice knowing that Andy Ainsworth (my guitar partner in both Q-Sign and Star Zero) was there. He suffered through a lot of that stuff with me. He also came out better on the other side with his new band Gbanjah. So tonight, this was for both of us. We have been "shaken awake." We're doing it now. As always, the solo got bigger and bigger. And it looked bigger, too 'cause Mr. Lightman was spinning the lights around us, dramatically bringing 'em up and down and such. It was cool. We really should've filmed this one. At the end, as the delay rang out, I heard a nice, healthy cheer run through the room. It felt good.

Since we only had a half-hour set time, I went ahead and launched into our nearly 11-minute "Taking Its Toll" / "Give Up Town" finale. Before we did, I thanked all the other bands and Mike Cohen for having us out. The low point of the night for me was here. As "Taking Its Toll" progressed, Frank's bass got more and more out of tune. He didn't seem to be attempting to remedy it either. If we'd had another guitar playing, it would've sounded terrible. Luckily, as a 3-piece, I can compensate somewhat. After my big ol' solo (thanks again for the idea, Andy) I ran over to him during the held out last rock and roll note and tuned it for him in front of God and country. It was actually a nice show move (are you listening Rock School?). Then we tore through "Give Up Town." It's much faster than it used to be. Lately, it's almost becoming punky except for the progressivish bits. I'm happy to say that Tom nailed the syncopations and I did the same to the solo. I don't think Frank stumbled here either. We all pulled together on this one and turned it up a good bit. Eyebrows were flyin'. When the last power chord came crashing down, we had a great response. The promoter came up to me and said, "you can do one more if you want." But I was satisfied. I thanked him and said, "Nah, we're done, man."




Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. Sometimes I'm Sam ***
2. Into My View ****
3. I Won't Stand Still ****
4. Phony ****
5. Taking Its Toll ***
6. Give Up Town ****

After the show, I got to meet several new people who I hope we've converted. I probably spent the most time with June and her friend Andy. I hope we get to see them when we get back out to ATL. My Andy (Ainsworth) was also there so I had to third-degree him to find out the truth about how we did. Gracious and patient as ever, he pointed out the little flaws that he knows I wanted to know about as well as the highlights. Andy's the best. Neither Q-Sign or Star Zero would've existed as long as they did without him around making it worthwhile. Go see Gbanjah. We're still hoping to put together a show with 'em but their management's been iffy about it. Soon enough...soon enough... Mighty McFly came up next and got the crowd hyped up with a super-energetic run through of some of the biggest hits of the '80s (and a few '70s). While they did, our little trio and Amanda went to the restaraunt section and had a nice, relaxing dinner with our meal tickets (ah, so professional). It actually does ease some of the pressure to know all of that stuff's taken care of for you. Mike Cohen really takes care of the artists that he books. After dinner, it took everything in my power not to jump on stage with McFly...especially during "I Want You To Want Me." After their set, I told their singer Brett that and he encouraged me to just do it next time. I hope there is a next time. They were flat out fun. Finally, A Flock Of Seagulls took over. By now, Frank and Tom had already left. I've got to say that (unlike at sound check) they sounded good. And they actually sounded like they were supposed to. My problem with them was that they seemed VERY, VERY bored. That, in turn, was boring to the audience. Maybe it was just an off night for them as the last time I saw them they were perfectly entertaining. I took photos of 'em for a few songs. As they launched into (oof!) "I Ran 2K", I launched myself out the door to get back to Athens. I have to get a good night's sleep. After all, it's another day, another rock and roll show!


Thanks Mike, Scoley, Scott, Brent, Nikki, Soumen, June, Andy, A Flock Of Seagulls and everyone else who made this show go off without a hitch. We hope to work with you again soon.

Photos by Amanda Stahl.