Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings

Friday February 22, 2008

Tasty World

Athens, GA


At almost 10 pm on this night, I was trying to sleep in my comfy, comfy bed at home. At 11 pm I was all dressed up and on stage at Tasty World. It was an absolutely strange and otherworldly sensation. I was so sleepy. It had been three or four days without rest. I had a fever today too so I guess I've got a little of whatever that "going around" thing is. The insomnia stacked on top didn't help so I was out of it. I briefly considered pulling out but I've been wanting to play with Blue Flashing Light for a long time. Knowing that it was benefit for the Red Cross and Great Society was playing only encouraged me more. I did manage to get a faux-adrenaline going in my mind and guess what? We pulled it off!


There was no soundcheck with so many bands playing. We just set up and rolled. Unfortunately, Steve The Soundman wasn't onstage with us to hear the monitor mix which was absolutely the most unbearably bad sound I've ever had in the whole history of the whole history of me playing live. So that coupled with my exhaustion and grogginess didn't make it easy. We survived "The Only Way" and "Sometimes I'm Sam" despite the fact that the only thing I could hear onstage was my guitar blaring. And if I'm complaining about my guitar being too loud, you can only imagine. I couldn't even hear the drums a few feet behind me. So basically, we mimed our way through the opening.


When we finally paused, we got a nice round of supportive applause. The sound out front was apparently pretty good. I asked for a few monitor changes (usually a big no-no for me but this was unsurviveable). About this time, Joe made it clear that his humidity-ravaged guitar was utterly and hopelessly out of tune. So I rambled a bit. It must've been a decent ramble because several people came on down to the front of the stage.

When Joe was back in the game, we went off into "Rage On" which eventually landed on "Towel Cape Song". After the ridiculously over-the-top ending, we were heckled pretty nicely by our wrestling afficionado friend Lord Bitter. "Not indulgent at all..." I was proud of that and defended our "indieness" by pointing out that we'd just spent the better part of a minute pounding out one single chord in slightly different variations. It worked and pulled a nice laugh too.



So we're four songs in and to this point, I haven't heard Joe or Frank and no vocals except the a capella bit at the end of "Rage On". So I again asked for some slight adjustments to the stage sound. When we started "Sadder Day", my guitar was gone. All I could hear was Joe. This was quite frustrating. We still got through it. It's such a good song that it can withstand so much. I never get tired of performing it so you'd better get used to it being on the list if I have any say.

We dug out "Waiting For The Siren" next. Finally the mix was normalized. I could hear that there were other people on stage with me. It figures that it would sound best so far for this one as the groove didn't feel quite right on it. It seemed a bit cluttered.

When we finished "Siren" a voice from the soundboard said 'This will be your last song." I responded, "You want this to be our last song?". In a slightly more terse voice I heard, "This WILL be your last song." I called him on it. It just got where I could hear on this stage. I was told by the person who invited us to play that I had 10 minutes more after this song. Nope. I'm digging in. He called back, "Okay but we will have a talk after you finish." "No problem", I said, "We will talk then. I'll be glad to." I was absolutely sincere.



So I ripped out "I Won't Stand Still" before sliding it into "Phony". I was on the verge of collapse from my fever-induced state. I could hardly think. I gave everything I had. About half-way through the song I realized there was a good chance I was going to faint. I could feel my heart rate and blood pressure and they both felt dangerously high. Added to my weakness, I was in trouble. I told myself, "Screw this. I'm up here now. If I'm going out, I'm going out rocking." So I amped it up even more. It might not have been the best performance of "Phony" ever but I promise you it was the most intense. It was crazy. The show was being shot with pro-video cameras. I saw the camera right in front of me and played to it as much as I could. I hope the footage comes out and someone shares it with us! As ragged as it may have been, I guarantee you it was over-the-top enough to make up for it. Frank and I even collided pretty violently in mid-rock.

I looked out and saw the faces. People were wrapped up in it. There were smiles, rock-faces, dancing and moving along. As the delay rang out at the end, I realized that it was our last song. I had nothing left in me. I looked at my watch. We ended exactly when the sound-man had wanted. So we finished on a high note and got out by his abbreviated, last minute and DIFFERENT deadline. So cool. We rocked despite the fact that it was basically a worst case scenario for me. I was proud of us.


Before I managed to get off the stage, Steve The Soundman had leaped up on stage left and started yelling at me. He was pissed. This never happens. He had apparently misunderstood some things but complaining about us making things run late for 10 minutes when we're trying to tear down and make way for Blue Flashing Light seemed a bit ironic. We ended ahead of when we were told. In fact, it was his loud conversation that was running things late if anything was.

Oh well, by the end of the conversation, it seemed that he had gotten it off his chest. We made our peace with each other. He apologized and we left as friends which was cool since every one seemed so freaked out by it. It was nothing. I'm sure it looked worse than it was. Steve and I were both just at our limits. He's a cool guy and I hope we get a chance to work with him again.

After the show, Jonathan (yes, Lord Bitter) helped Amanda and me get out of there. I had to use biofeedback and every other method I could think of to get my body re-regulated and functional. I did as well as I could.

I want to send out a special thanks to Karla from the University Union and her friends for being so supportive. I'm looking forward to playing for you again! Thanks also to the Tasty World staff and to Blue Flashing Ian for inviting us out.



Athens, GA Set List

(with Chris’ totally biased ratings for the evening!)

1. The Only Way **
2. Sometimes I'm Sam ***
3. Rage On ***
4. Towel Cape Song ****
5. Sadder Day ***
6. I Won't Stand Still ****
7. Phony ****