Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings

Saturday May 31, 2008

40 Watt Club

Athens, GA


I was worried about this show.

I made a vow a couple of years ago that I would never, ever play Athens again during the last week of May. I had learned the hard way. No one is in town. The students are gone and the much smaller summer quarter hasn't started. Not only that, many people that live here full time take their vacations now because no one's in town anyway.

Traditionally, this is not the weekend to play in Athens.

Still, when we got the invite to headline the 40 Watt on a Saturday night, how could I say no? It's one of my favorite venues in the world. In a way, that made it even more important to do well at a time that everyone said is impossible to do well.

When we got to the club, everyone was talking about how dead it had been the previous two nights. Oh well, there's was no use worrying about it. Most of the bands we'd asked to play the show with us bowed out sighting the same fears as ours or members "on vacation" or "out of town". Luckily for us, we got our first two choices for this gig. The guys in Make The Fur Fly and Misfortune 500 were brave enough to jump on the bill with us. It was nice to be able to repay Make The Fur Fly for taking us out to Columbus a couple of weeks ago and we'd been trying to set up something with Misfortune 500 for a while.

We decided (since it was our gig and we could) to hedge our bets and play second in the hopes of having the most people in the room during our set. That was cool with everyone and we set out to do the best we could do.

Tonight, I decided for the first time to record the show myself with my little home studio. To hear some of the results of my first tentative experience, click here. Dan The Soundman was great. He really went out of his way to make this possible. Plus, Josh's Dad showed up with a video camera as did Amanda's friend Sarah. So heck, at least we'd have some documentation.

Make The Fur Fly kicked the night off and sounded amazing from out front (and outside). I really like these guys and am happy to share the stage with 'em whenever I can. While they were playing, I started noticing a nice little crowd gathering outside as well as in the venue. I was shocked to say the least. I've never seen this many people in Athens at the end of May.

By the time we got on, we were feeling a bit daring so we opened with Bowie's "Look Back In Anger" for kicks. I think we did it pretty well. You can watch the video below or check out the bootleg page (link above) to hear and see for yourself. The crowd was responsive and it sounded huge.

One thing we weren't thinking of was just how hot it was going to be on stage. It's been a while since we've been up in that kind of hot environment. Between the sweat, Frank's new haircut and just our sense of looseness and fun, I will admit that we weren't as tight as we usually are.

I don't know what it is. We've been doing crushing shows outside of Athens but every time we come back into town, we don't quite deliver as much as I'd like to deliver. Maybe it's because we're home and relaxed. I don't know. In a way, it's good but I'm hoping to put the smack down on Athens at at upcoming show. We'll see when it happens.

"The Only Way", "Sometimes I'm Sam", "Into My View" and "Sadder Day" all were fine tonight but weren't as potent as they had been at recent shows.

I think we woke up somewhere in the middle of "Rage On". From then on, the show was pretty solid. "Towel Cape Song" rocked. "Waiting For The Siren" wasn't quite as groovy as it has been lately but was still just what the proverbial doctor ordered. "Scared Of Myself" was solid and the "I Won't Stand Still" / "Phony" twofer was its usual monster-self, if not a little too fast. Godzilla doesn't need to run after all.

We hadn't done "Give Up Town" in a good long time and it was nice to bring it back tonight. But we didn't wanna leave off with it. So we bookended the gig with another Bowie cover. I put down the guitar and the band ripped through "Rebel Rebel" while I leaped around like the silly-rocker-guy I long to be. I had fun as usual. I hammed it up for the cameras and my guess is the band did too. I wish all the video cameras hadn't run out by this last song because I think it was pretty clear how much fun we were having.

After the show, I was very happy to see quite a few people that I didn't realize were in the crowd. I spent a good while talking to Matt Thompson. He's playing in a band with our original drummer Tom Bavis now. I hope to take all of the Darlings out to see them as soon as we get a chance. I'd love to share a bill with them but my guess is that Bavis would refuse. I could be wrong. Maybe I'll try...



I was particularly proud that we managed to get quite a few people who normally wouldn't be seen in the 40 Watt to come out and see us. I hope they fell in love with the club as much as I am and we can merge them with the college crowd when school is back in session.

Misfortune 500 closed out the evening in style. The other Darlings took off and missed their night ending (talk about bookends) cover of "Look Back In Anger". I wanted to leap up and join them but I stayed in the audience since I had only met them tonight and didn't want to take the chance on upsetting anyone. Later, I was told that they were hoping I would and I got the go ahead to join them whenever I could (so watch out next time)!

The highlight of the night for me came when I asked the club manager Josh how we did. I had been scared we wouldn't make production costs on a night like tonight. Well, we did. Not only that but we actually made a little money. And the capper was when Josh said with a smile, "Oh yeah. You did well. In fact, you had as many people in here as the previous three nights combined." I was stunned in a happy way.



And to think, I know there were a few people pulling against us doing well tonight. Well, we did it. And we'll keep building. Satisfactionista's done and now we can spend our time out there playing and getting to know everyone. This should be a fun summer. Beware, 'cause we'll sneak up on you so that when the fall comes, we'll be everywhere.

That's the plan anyway.

I can't thank the 40 Watt staff, Make The Fur Fly, Misfortune 500, Dan, Chris, Carter, Velena or anyone who made it out to the gig enough. It's nice to come home and feel like you're home.

Athens rocks.




Athens, GA Set List

(with Chris’ totally biased ratings for the evening)

1. Look Back In Anger ****
2. The Only Way ***
3. Sometimes I'm Sam ***
4. Into My View / Unseen ***
5. Sadder Day ***
6. Rage On ***
7. Towel Cape Song ****
8. Waiting For The Siren ***
9. Scared Of Myself ****
10. I Won't Stand Still ****
11. Phony ****
12. Give Up Town ****
13. Rebel Rebel ****