Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings



Friday November 5, 2004 - Athens, GA
Georgia Music Industry Association Songwriter Showcase & Competition

This was a bit of a strange night. First off, it was a "battle of the bands" for songwriters! That's strange enough. Everyone else was all acoustic. I brought my acoustic and we even soundchecked that way. Our plan was to strip it back and be more focused and melodic tonight than usual. By the time we went on, we abandoned that and went full on electric. We figured, if we're gonna be odd men out, we'd might as well go all the way. Just so you know, the Washington Street Tavern is a really tiny place and you basically play in an even tinier basement. We went on 4th of 5 and I've gotta tell you, you couldn't have fit another person in with a shoehorn. I was actually getting claustrophobic. It was packed. Oddly, I wasn't nervous this time. We jumped right into our usual opening two-fer because I overheard someone say that "Colors" was "phat" during the soundcheck. We weren't gonna do it but what the heck, right? Nothing wrong with being "phat". We hit it just about right tonight and pretty much the same can be said for "Until The Road Ends" (even though I did actually juxtapose a few lyrics). We had no set list for tonight so I casually looked around to ask the guys what we should do next. Then I heard a yell from the audience, "The Towel Cape Song!" It was our good friend Mary Katherine. Later she said she missed hearing it at the last show. No problem, "Towel Cape" it is! This song was as closed to perfect tonight as it's ever been. The energy was up, the vocals were there and the music was air tight. Afterwards, our friend Jonathan said, "I've always liked "The Towel Cape Song" but tonight you nailed it." Thanks, Jonathan. And thanks Mary Katherine for requesting it. Oh - I dedicated "The Towel Cape Song" to all the Democrats in the audience. It just seemed appropriate after the election 3 days ago. That being said, I got a whim to do "I Won't Stand Still," so I dedicated it to the Republicans. Around this point, a girl kept yelling for us to ROCK! So we indulged her with "Phony." It was suitably rocking but Frank was out of tune during the second riff section. That was a little distracting but we recovered with a pretty good freakout at the end. By now, I was sweating. It was unbelievably hot in that little packed room. I heard someone in front of the stage say they'd like to hear "a ballad" so we brought out "Taking Its Toll" replete with massive arena-rock guitar solo. It was good to hit that one again, too. All in all, it was a pretty good set. No complaints, anyway. Amanda perhaps gave me the best compliment when she said "You had eyebrows tonight."

After us, a couple of guys named Steve & Hodar came up to do their set. They had the crowd eating out of their hands. Everyone knew the words to their songs and were singing along. At that moment, I decided we were dead in the water. They entertained their people and had a great sense of melody and harmony. I've been in enough of these battle of the bands type things to know when I'm beat. After they finished, the crowd was still chanting their names and "wooooooing" them. I went ahead and started to get ready to leave. There's no way we could win this with them getting that kind of massive response...

Imagine my surprise when a few minutes later, we were announced the ONE point!

Alec, the guy in charge, said there's never been a score that close. Of course, the Steve & Hodar crowd was not happy. They were gracious enough, though. I don't remember anyone booing us. When we went back up to do our encore, I made a statement to the effect of "We must and do respect the popular vote. We acknowledge that Steve & Hodar have won that hands down. However, the electoral college has also spoken." I then asked for a big round of applause for the guys. Then we did "Everyday" because it seemed fitting to do the first song I ever wrote at the first battle of the bands I've ever won. Plus, Jonathan wanted to hear it. Then we did "Give Up Town." I heard a lot of screaming during the solo and I appreciate Steve & Hodar's people for being okay with us. For the finale, I got Steve & Hodar to come up onstage with us. The MC, Drew, also came up. What's a song we could do that they might know? Of course, Tom reminded me of "A Hard Day's Night", which we've never performed before and rarely rehearsed! So we ran through a sing-a-long of that with the "other winners." In the process, we kept our record of adding a new song at every show for the last few months! It was a good time. We're looking forward to going back to the finals on January 14. Come on out if you can. Win or lose, it should be fun. Just get there early if you want a good seat (or any seat at all for that matter)!

Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. Colors In Black & White****
2. Until The Road Ends***
3. The Towel Cape Song****
4. I Won't Stand Still***
5. Phony***
6. Taking Its Toll****


7. Everyday***
8. Give Up Town****
9. A Hard Day's Night (N) (with Steve & Hodar)***

Final scores for us (10 being highest possible):

Category 1, Performance:

Judge 1: 9
Judge 2: 9
Judge 3: 10

Category 2, Vocal Ability:

Judge 1: 8
Judge 2: 7
Judge 3: 8

Category 3, Instrumental Ability:

Judge 1: 10
Judge 2: 10
Judge 3: 9

Category 4, Songwriting:

Judge 1: 9
Judge 2: 9
Judge 3: 9

Comments from the judges:

Judge 1
-great rhythm section, especially the bass.
-gotta love a singing drummer.
-one of the bettter 3 piece bands ive ever heard.

Judge 2
-dig the sound and the style! great show!

Judge 3

-great energy up there, you guys rocked


Thanks so much to the judges and Alec "The Man In Charge" Wooden for having us out!
See you in January!

Photos by Amanda Stahl.