Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings



Saturday September 17, 2005 - Freedom Fest - Madison, GA
(with Sun Domingo, Donnie Henderson, Roger "Hurricane" Wilson, Southern Rock All-Stars, A1A, Ghost Riders)

As some of you have no doubt noticed, my schedule of late has prevented me from updating these show reports as I'd like to. As a hint of things to come, let me just say that things will be getting more and more intense (in a good way) for the band over the next few months. By the turn of '06, we will have wrought something...we just don't know what yet. To that end, our intrepid photographer / semi-tour manager Amanda Stahl has agreed to take up some of the show report responsibilities. Tom, Frank and I will also be beginning to alternate these show reports to make it all a bit more manageable. Here's Amanda's first report. The star ratings for the songs are still mine, though!'s Amanda:

"This benefit concert took place at the 4C Ranch in rural Buckhead, GA.
Most of the other bands on the bill were Southern rock, so the Critical Darlings and Sun Domingo definitely stood out! In spite of their feelings toward the war itself, the Critical Darlings certainly want our soldiers protected, so they donated 20 cd's to the merch tent to sell, with ALL proceeds going toward the Armor 4 Troops cause.

The day of the festival was dry and extremely hot. Luckily, the stage and seating were set in a covered riding ring/bull arena, which made the temperature tolerable, especially near the "wind tunnel" beside the stage (which became known as The Towel Cape Ride for the day). The floor of the arena was red clay dust that resembled the surface of Mars and coated everyone from the knees down. As a weird juxtaposition to the down home"floor," the stage was enormous enough to seem worthy of a coliseum, with a gargantuan American flag as the backdrop.

The festival was professionally run every step of the way, mimicking large-scale festivals. Everyone, whether a musician or a photographer, was issued laminate passes. The band had its own air conditioned RV to use as a dressing room (although no one dared to sit on the bed -  it looked clean, but you never know.). All artists were provided a free barbeque buffet, with enough vegetarian sides to satisfy our buddies in Sun Domingo, who followed the Darlings on the big stage.

The cd's started to sell before the band even played a note (perhaps the eye-catching cover art was responsible?).One man working the merch tent saw the description of the Critical Darlings in the program and wanted to know, "If I saw a 'gorgeously indulgent guitar solo,' what would it look like?"

The Critical Darlings were the first actual band, so they needed an endless (it seemed) sound check, until finally, Chris announced, "I can't take it anymore! I have to rock!" amid cheers from the small crowd. The band launched into its set even though the mix was not yet perfect. Soon everyone was moving along to the music. The barbeque cooks were paying close attention. Even the teenaged boy in full-on rodeo gear and trophy belt buckle seemed impressed. The band came across as surprisingly well rehearsed on the newer songs, and for a three piece (and a skinny three piece at that), they managed to fill the stage. The only real flaw in the show was that the guitar was too quiet for the solo in "Phony." It was hard to make out the notes over the rhythm section, and people were not as jaw-dropped as they usually are for this reason. The solo for "Taking Its Toll" was more obvious and appreciated. The set ended with a flourish (and a leap from Chris off the drum riser) appropriate for the large-scale setting."

Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. Colors In Black & White***
2. Until The Road Ends****
3. Sometimes I'm Sam***
4. I Won't Stand Still****
5. Phony***
6. Towel Cape Song****
7. Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something****
8. Taking Its Toll****
9. Give Up Town****

Oh, hey, it's Chris again - I just wanted to add that it was so cool doing this show. Well, not fact it was ungodly hot up on that stage but you know what I mean. Thanks to Jason from Sun Domingo for walking up side-stage to tell us "Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something" was "awesome". Thanks to Bill Turpin for letting us know that he adapted the C'mon, Accept Your Joy concept as a "sermon" for his Sunday School Class and for giving us a rock star worthy monitor mix. Thanks to Bull Moon Digital for recording the show (you'll be hearing it here soon). Thanks to all the crew, security, police and EMT's working the gig, too. It was also nice to meet and hang out with Sloan Hayes who was the keyboard player for '70s hitmakers Starbuck (remember "Moonlight (Feels Right)"?). And of course, thanks to Edgel, Sr., Eric and the Armor 4 Troops crew for having us out for the first show of the C'mon, Accept Your Joy era!


Photos by Amanda Stahl.