Farmington, GA With Clay Leverett, Showtime Featuring Elite Tha Showstoppa, The Rattlers, Athens, 90 Acre Farm, Matt Joiner, Rick Fowler Band and Emily McCannon And The Smokin' Hot Band
Review by Chris McKay
Photos by Manda McKay
Videos by Jay Braver, Jana Grizzard and Jake Mims
Now this is what's it's all about.
Families, good music, a beautiful night, fireworks on the horizon and more friends that could even be counted. I'm so proud that we could do our official launch at FarmFest 4. We've been invited the last several years and could never make it for one reason or another. I said “yes” to this one before we even had a line-up and hoped I could put it together in time. Luckily, I pulled it off.
One of the special things about this show for me was that all-ages could be there and it didn't time out those who couldn't stay our ‘til 2 am. We went on right after sunset. There were also a lot of adults who wouldn't usually hang out in the bars and clubs we often must play.
We came out swinging tonight. We opened with the double shot of “The Only Way” and “Feels Like Yesterday” for only the second time and man, what a difference a good P.A. makes. Unlike the debut show last week, I could hear the power of the band. Ash and Kate's vocals were shining, Alex was hammering that kit and Adam was filling in the space visually and sonically.
Adam had the only real problems tonight. He was borrowing a bass and the strap kept slipping. He'd miss some notes here and there as he tried to catch the bass. Aside from that, it all just felt good.
“Sadder Day” was back to every bit as good as I remembered it. I still love this song and love playing it even more. The musical highlight of the show for the audience seemed to be “Hold On”. By the end of the tune, people who had never heard the song were all singing along. I'm so proud of this tune and the fact that I wrote it at just the right time. The old lineups of the band couldn't have done it like this. We need that 3-part harmony, double guitar and the keyboards to get that right mood. Not only did the song get a great response, but it was the song that I heard the most about after the show. Some people were disappointed that it wasn't on either of our albums. But hey, at least I know there's a future as well as a past and it's coming fast!
“Phony” came next and was pretty intense (as is its custom). I don't know that it was any better or worse than usual. It used to be the regular crowd favorite, but I think the new material has just stepped up so much that it may be just another other in the set now. And that's a great thing!
I did an extended speech to “Waiting For The Siren” to work up that whole retro skating vibe a bit more. I think I pulled it off. It's always a tricky thing to do. You can see it in the YouTube video. Again, we got a great response even though my cables kept getting trapped under my wah pedal. If you watch the video, you can see me trying to play that solo while clearing wiring.
Unfortunately, we had to cut 2 songs from the set to keep things on time. I asked what people would rather hear and multiple people yelled “Woorrrrmmmms”! Okay. That's another one that's bizarre to me that it's become so popular, but who am I to disagree. We slammed into “Worms On The Pavement” and it did rock pretty hard.
Not much time to go so we finished up with me fronting the band and Ash taking over the lead guitar. He had some problems with his sound cutting out, but we got it together soon enough. At the beginning of the song, I shot a little confetti over the crowd which caused a lot of smiles.
Man, it was hot up there. Once again, it felt like my forehead was about to burst into flames. I actually poured ice and water over my head to get through. I've forgotten how hot it is on stage even after dark on a summer night in Georgia.
People were dancing like mad, cheering us on and in all ways, making us feel at home and appreciated. The feeling of hundreds of people in the same moment and enjoying never, ever gets old.
I'm learning more and more just what is possible for this band. There have always been major limitations in the past, but I don't know...I'm not really seeing any with these 5 musicians. I guess it's my job to push to the point of limitations and find ‘em! Part of our job is to outreach our grasp, after all. I hope we get a good run at it!
As an added bonus tonight, after our set, I was invited onstage with Athens to play Ozzy Osbourne's “Crazy Train”. For me, it was like a victory lap. I played this song in a high school talent show back in the 20th century and here I am, once again, onstage with a bunch of high school kids rocking out and just having a good time. Thanks for having me up there. It felt good.
Thanks to Chuck Whitehead for inviting us to play. Thanks to Tracy Carroll for all the help. I can never thank Jimmy Anderson and the Athens Band crew enough for all the stage managing help. There are honestly too many to thank here, but I must mention Amanda and Page for the photos. Thanks to Kevin for the vids and special thanks to Jay Braver for putting together a multi-cam live video of “Feels Like Yesterday”. I'm glad the night was captured.
Super special thanks to Mary Gadd for not only helping Amanda and me out at the show, but for getting us to the location. We would've been lost out in the nowhere without her help!
For a brief moment, I really thought there was a chance we couldn't bring back The Critical Darlings again. Those fears are gone. We are back and nearly as strong as we ever were within a couple of shows. It's all expansion and evolution from here.
Critical Darlings Set List- July 2, 2011
(Click the song titles to watch videos of the highlighted songs)