Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings


Friday December 2, 2005
Tasty World - Athens, GA
(with Community Chaos, Second Shift and The Empties)


Okay, so we were due...

And this is our due being paid. Tonight wasn't quite right. From start to finish, the feeling wasn't there. We played okay - nothing more and nothing less. We had our share of screwups as a group but that wasn't the problem. The problem was in the energy. I wasn't feeling it. I feel particularly to blame because I let my "dayjob" frustrations slow me down. But still, I think my personal performance was solid. It just wasn't special and I want each of our shows to really sparkle. This one definitely didn't. It all began with tempos being out of whack. When the Darlings began as a band, Frank, Tom and I discovered after a few shows that "Colors In Black & White" and "Until The Road Ends" have very specific tempos that are needed live. Basically, they both have to be faster. Tonight, we played them at about the album tempo. Live, that just seems to drag us down. I don't know why but that's the way it is. As this is the first time this version of the band has played "Colors", we slipped. It sounded really good by the way. I didn't even miss the harmonies. It was just too slow. After "Until The Road Ends", I gave the opening banter and welcomed everyone to the Quaalude edition of the Darlings...which is what it felt like. To top off the energy drain of "Road", Frank broke a string during the second verse. Ack! It was definitely gonna be one of THOSE nights.

"Sometimes I'm Sam" was next on the list but we ditched it. We ditched it in favor of "Into My View." Honestly, it was taking a chance and it showed right at the start. Frank lost his place immediately so I insisted we hit it again. I love this song and am pushing myself to get to do it. I wasn't gonna let this performance off that easy. You see, I've been a little hesitant to do it because the middle 8 is such a voice wrecker for me. That's why I always had Tom do it. Tonight, I did it myself and nailed it. I couldn't believe it. And it was easy, too! This one was the highlight of the whole evening for me. I'm so happy we got it in. The coolest thing is that Mike actually plays all of the parts that Tom overdubbed on the album. Tom did have a cool arrangement live but he didn't get everything in (of course, he was singing too!). Mike's got all the polyrhythms. That pushed this one to the next level. The energy level should've recovered here but on "Into My View", Mike started having technical problems. I don't know exactly what was going on. I think he lost his kick pedal. Good thing it was a 2 minute song. The bad thing was that it was supposed to segue into "Phony." This is the first time ever that it didn't. Oh well, the problem was soon fixed. "Phony" was professional. Everything was there but it didn't go over the edge like I like. I also overshot the "whammy" at the end but I doubt anyone but me noticed. It still got a great round of applause. Mike really added to this one, too. He's added a lot of power to the solo. If we ever get to rehearse it'll be better than it's ever been.

Mike then strapped on his cape and ran to the front of the stage. That could only mean "Towel Cape Song." This one was perfectly fine. I enjoyed it even if my energy wasn't quite there. There was nothing wrong in this one or "Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something" (although I'd like "Someone's" to be a little faster). This was a good little bit of recovery. Sure, my figurative eyebrows weren't on at this point rendering even the high points as more of a revue than an exorcism. (I prefer exorcisms when I play). Still, this was as close to stride-hitting as we got tonight. Since I caught a glimpse of our friend Ty (from The Bearfoot Hookers) in the audience, I had to pull him up there for "Taking Its Toll". I also got a friend from another life up. Todd Cash was the founding bass player for what became Star Zero but he had to leave so Frank stepped in. The rest is history. As it is, it took till December of 2005 for us to perform at the same show at the same time on the same stage. But I was glad to have him out tonight as he and Ty added (possibly) the best live backups to "Toll" that we've ever had. Frank's brain took a slight vacation near the end (just like the old days) but he pulled it together pretty fast. The solo was full on and Mike even made it more of his own thing this time. Ty decided to stay up so I pulled out the intro to "Black Diamond" to precede our should've-been-more-obnoxious show closing "Deuce." The guys from Second Shift were super supportive and hanging out right in front. It did me good to see them and my friend Caren West getting into our set. Of course, they'd never seen us before so they don't know what we're actually capable of but still, it did make me feel much better to know that they were digging it. So we sprinted through "Deuce". It was just fine. Our big finale wasn't so big tonight, we just kind of ended it. There was no leaping, windmilling, bloody fingers or anything else. But it was suitable (which is not the kind of word I like to use to describe us). We got through, though, and considering we've had as many rehearsals as shows, I guess that's saying something.

Completely biased star reviews of each song performed.

1. Colors In Black & White****
2. Until The Road Ends**
3. Into My View****
4. I Won't Stand Still**
5. Phony****
6. Towel Cape Song ****
7. Someone's Trying To Tell Us Something ****
8. Taking Its Toll ***(with The Bearfoot Hookers)
9. Black Diamond (Intro) / Deuce *** (with Ty Manning from The Bearfoot Hookers)

So here's my thing. This ain't the Critical Darlings. I know I've said that before but it's just the truth. Tom was vital in that particular energy. That being said, we are the Critical Darlings. Tom left on his own and we must now re-invent what the Darlings are. We are up to it. It's just going to take a few months to figure it out. In doing my post-show thing, I found that every single person who had never seen us thought we did great. They commented particularly about stage presence, guitar solos and melodies. Baker from Second Shift had the best quote of the night. He said my solos were "sick." Then he added, "No, they weren't sick, they were retarded." So there you go. You heard it from him. Who are you to question? My solos are officially "retarded." That goes nice with "gorgeously indulgent", eh?

Now, Jonathan, our most faithful and ardent show goer was the person most qualified to judge this show. He used the word "train wreck" and I can't really say he was wrong. As always, he found plenty to compliment but he knows that the Spinal Tap-like equipment malfunctions really stunted us. I choose to use the word "inauthentic" for tonight. And that's the antithesis of what we are on an okay or good night. Granted, I still (and ever-so-humbly) say that we're better on a bad night than most local bands on a good night. Still, that's no excuse for us not being what we're capable of being. Also, our standards have raised. What would've been an okay night a year ago is a "not good" night now. That's where this one lies. Overall, I'd put it in the top 5 least satisfying shows we've ever done...

Live and learn. We'll see what happens next week in Atlanta. That will play a big part in determining what's next. I'm ready to shake things up. And just so you know, we're carbonated.


Photos by Amanda Stahl.