Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings


Friday January 13, 2006
The Evening Muse - Charlotte, NC


Well, it was our first time in Charlotte and we didn't know what to expect. Especially when we got there and saw the venue. It seemed like more of an artsy place. And when the "early show" started, it really freaked me out. Dromedary played first. They're from Athens, too, but's a heck of a lot different from what we do. Or from rock 'n' roll in general. If you don't believe me, check out their brand of acoustic world music by clicking here. They were followed by a zydeco band that had the words Alligator, Carolina and Gumbo in their name but I can't remember the exact order! Mike seemed surprised to be doing a show where one of the other percussionists played a washboard. Well, they were both fun bands but I just could not for the life of me figure out how we were gonna fit. I didn't want to scare the crowd off with our overthetopness. And while it was a small club, it was pretty close to packed at the time. At one point, I leaned over to Jason from Sun Domingo and said, "Okay, we're placing bets. How many songs do you think it'll be before we clear the room?" He had more confidence than I did. He's played here before and he assured me everything would be cool. I wasn't convinced. My major dilemma was that a few friends came out to see us and I needed to figure out a way to balance what we usually do (for them) with what we should do (for the room). Among the friends that made it out were Doug Shockley of (Carolina Concerts fame) and Daniel Coston. They're both great photogs based in the Charlotte area. It was great to see 'em again. 'Twas a little strange that it was at a performance of my own, though. It meant a lot that they made it out. Mike even had a couple of people show up right near start time. So Star Zero hasn't been completely forgotten. Therefore, Vanessa and Diane will be known as "the Star Zero girls" in our circle. I was happy to see em but I still had to figure out what to play. Really, it didn't matter because we don't know that many songs with Mike yet so it's more a case of how we shuffle the songs. We didn't even get a sound check. We set up and 3-2-1, we were told to hit it. So we kicked off the "late show" right about 10:30.

Unlike any other show ever, we opened with "(Save It For) Another Day". I don't know that we've done that at all since last summer. It was pretty good still. If Frank hadn't had some problems with the back lined equipment, it would've been nearly perfect. What amazed me most was that people seemed to be enjoying it. In fact, I was happy to see that people were NOT fleeing in droves. They seemed to be settling in. Frank's technical problems occasionally reared up during "Colors" and "Until The Road Ends" too but after that, it all leveled out. I can't say we did much rocking tonight. Due to the laid back vibe of the venue, it just felt more like we were playing for friends at someone's house than a show. It was a nice feeling but I'd still like to have had the guts to just cut loose and rock. I tried a few times and did okay but none of us ever fired all cylinders tonight. This was more of a slow burn type gig. About half-way through I noticed that only a few people had left. That made me feel good to know that we've still got enough melody to not just chase everyone off. We pulled out the ol' "I Won't Stand Still" / "Phony" twofer and even in this environment it worked. "Scared Of Myself" felt confident and together. It's a strong addition to this lineup's set. Although, I wonder if it slows things down too much between "Phony" and "Towel Cape". Maybe I'll bump it up to before "I Won't Stand Still" sometime. "Towel Cape" did its thing as always. I noticed a good few bopping along. The high point tonight was clearly "Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something." Even though Mike missed a cue and I didn't execute the "Whole Lotta Love" bit perfectly, it had several people up and moving. I even caught one of the Star Zero girls singing along. Wow! I couldn't believe she'd remember it after all this time. We closed out with "Taking Its Toll" and "Give Up Town." They were fine and I was glad we're starting to get a little more consistent. Still, there was a coat of rust on us and we need to get it off soon. We've got a live radio performance to do on Valentine's Day. All in all, this was merely a competent show. There was nothing bad about it but (aside from the new friends we made and the old ones we were reunited with) it wasn't really all that special. Cool venue, though. I'd love to go back sometime now that we know what to expect!


Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. (Save It For) Another Day ***
2. Colors In Black & White ***
3. Until The Road Ends ***
4. Sometimes I'm Sam ****
5. I Won't Stand Still ****
6. Phony ****
7. Scared Of Myself ****
8. Towel Cape Song ****
9. Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something ****
10. Taking Its Toll ****
11. Give Up Town ****

After our gig, I settled in to check out my friends in Sun Domingo. I wish I could've stayed and heard the whole set. They were sounding nice 'n' friggin' tight and they focused much more on originals this time (which is the way I like 'em). Their songs just get better and better. Even the older ones seem to have taken on a new life. There's a nice consistency that manages to never get boring. That in and of itself is an accomplishment. Here's to you guys. Thanks again for having us. We hope to see you again soon.

Thanks also to Laurie, Joe, Daniel, Doug, Lewis, Joe, Matt, Diane and Vanessa ("the Star Zero girls") and everyone else who comforted our worried minds.


Photos by Amanda Stahl.