Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings



Monday August 29, 2005 - Chattanooga State Campus - Chattanooga, TN

What a strange, tragic and fun day it was. I guess which side of tragic and fun things fell on depended solely on who and where you were. We were having a good time in Chattanooga thanks to the great hosting of Dave Weinthal of Enigma Magazine. He put us up in the gorgeous Read House Hotel and introduced us to WAWL who then became the first station on the planet to play us. When they invited us to play their 25th anniversary show, we all jumped on it. We were scheduled to play outdoors at the Chattanooga State amphitheatre but a little storm called Katrina decided to come through that day also so we wound up moving indoors to the cafeteria. I'd spent the night before in the hotel restringing my guitars and watching the storm come ashore on the gulf coast. I kept hoping for the best but it didn't happen. I lived through Hurricane Hugo so I know what these suckers are like...well, not this was much worse. So while we were scrambling to get set up in the cafeteria, we got an invite to be interviewed for some TV show (local cable access, I'm not really sure). I couldn't leave right then so I told Frank and Tom to do it. I did get in by the last half of it. Then we were chatted up by several potential fans who had heard us on the station. That was pretty cool. Then we got back in and kicked off the show. And it was just noon!

Tom had forgotten his drum stool (seriously, it's a bar stool), so he wound up uncomfortably perched on a flight case. Behind us, a big screen TV showed continuous coverage of the progress of Hurricane Katrina. It was very odd turning around to see that monster crushing one of my favorite towns via satellite. One of the dj's from WAWL actually came up an introduced us. He seemed a bit nervous. I was nearly in hysterics when he said, "All the way from Athens, please welcome Critical Meltdown." Then while we were all still laughing, we forged into our usual three-fer. Even though the sound was still being worked out for the first few, I was feeling brave. We had no set lists so I segued "Sam" directly into "You Don't Know Me" which we've never, ever done. Frank looked shocked but he pulled it off as we all did. The "jam" at the end even worked. Looking back, I believe that song is too confrontational to have that early in a set where people haven't seen you. We need to push it back later. Still, it worked. We followed that with "Goodbye Tuesday" which was making a rare appearance. I dedicated the hurricane related song to the ones in Katrina's path.

"Into My View" came next. It was odd doing it as our "hit single." Locally, it was getting a lot of play. In fact, I actually heard it on the radio while we setting up. It was even stranger to see that some people recognized it. That's not the only odd thing. Since we were playing in a cafeteria, we'd have a bunch of people watching us for a song or two (I guess while classes changed?), then it would become nearly empty except for those bobbing along while eating. It wasn't the most conducive to flat-out rocking but it was certainly another lesson in our development. The "I Won't Stand Still" / "Phony" pairing killed today. Playing it this early in this place seemed completely whacked out but people still responded the same. It got the biggest applause yet and caused several people to just skip their next classes. Next up was another new segue. We successfully took "Towel Cape Song" into "Worms On The Pavement." I was proud of us for that because tempo-wise, it's not an easy transition. We then thanked everyone and wrapped up with our usual. About this time, I also saw a scroll across the bottom of the big screen that said that one of the levees had given way in New Orleans. It was such a strange feeling knowing that was going on while this was. To distract myself and get back on task, I amused myself with the fact that a janitor came through who clearly did NOT like us. He was making a face and holding his ears. Granted, this will certainly be the "loudest lunch of the year" at Chattanooga State and I might've done the same thing had I been walking through. Still, I'm glad we had enough there that actually liked us. "Give Up Town" was even faster than usual today. I'm not sure why. But it was cool to end that way. The energy level was definitely kicking in. As we had an appointment to be interviewed, we went on and ended it, got our stuff packed up, hung out for a few minutes with some new friends and dashed to the radio station.

Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. Colors In Black & White***
2. Until The Road Ends***
3. Sometimes I'm Sam***
4. You Don't Know Me (N)***
5. Goodbye Tuesday***
6. Into My View***
7. I Won't Stand Still****
8. Phony****
9. Towel Cape Song****
10. Worms On The Pavement****
11. Taking Its Toll***
12. Give Up Town****

Afterwards, I spoke to our new friends Sarah and Emily while I tore down. I hope we get a chance to get back up to see 'em soon. It was a bit hurried today. We then followed up at WAWL and our host Dave interviewed us for 45 minutes or so. He also played about half of the album on the air. It was our first on-air radio interview and it was a good time, even if we weren't particularly polished or well-spoken. I thought Frank was the star of the interview and should be promoted to the leader of our radio interviews. I'll post the radio interview as soon as I get a chance. By the time the interview ended, the outer bands of Katrina were reaching us. We needed to get back on the road. It was a terrible, stormy drive home. Considering we were 500 or so miles from the center of the storm, I could only imagine. Little did I even realize at the time. There were even a tornado just outside of Athens that I saw with my own eyes. What a day, what a day!

Thanks to everyone at WAWL, Chattanooga State and all of those that hung out, watched the gig or listened to us on the radio. We can't wait to come back to your beautiful town.



Photos by Amanda Stahl.