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May 15, 2010


Melting Point
Athens, GA



By Chris McKay

“Let me tell you, all in attendance of tonight’s (Critical Darlings) show would agree that this is a band with the tunes, the musicianship, and stage presence to not just be a local flash in the pan, but a band that can make it in the real world, the rest of the world, and the world that GETS rock.”

-Michael Guthrie

Tonight, I was just glad to be here. 

This was one of those shows that was special to me personally. Michael Guthrie had asked us to open for his band, which is easily one of the best power pop bands in history. Heck, even Rolling Stone ranked them in the top ten of the genre. 

Andy couldn’t make it to this show, so Josh Couillard, Frank and I did our first appearance as a trio. It seems like every show we’re doing lately is a first (or last) of some sort. Ah well, it’s cool. We’re moving on. The music and the vibe survives. I’m learning more and more with every rebirth that, even with all the changes, The Critical Darlings are The Critical Darlings.


Even without the second guitar, we went ahead and opened up with “The Only Way” and “Sometimes I’m Sam”. It felt a bit slow, but as we moved into “Sometimes I’m Sam”, it felt more like it should. It reminded me of the early days of The Critical Darlings. Josh had only done vocal harmonies at the “warm-up” show a couple of weeks ago, and honestly, we hadn’t worked on the harmonies like we should. Still, he did pretty darn good. It was certainly as solid as any of the stuff that Tom Bavis ever did. It’s got to be hard being a drummer and having to hit those very particular harmonies, especially for someone who’s never really sung live like that.


The applause at the end of the first song let me know that we were connecting. It was wonderful to be playing at this amazing venue that I’d always wanted to play. Being summer in Athens, the students are out of town, so I was surprised that there were as many people as there were. Athens is a ghost town from May through September. Still, we had 50 or so people, and not only were they there, but they were vocal, welcoming and very supportive. I was even more happy to see quite a few singing along. 

I decided to go ahead and start taking some chances early. We went off into “I Know Too Much (For My Own Good)”, including the “jam” ending that isn’t really worked out with Josh C. To my surprise, it was worked out tonight. That was the jolt of self-confidence I needed.

With the weight of the human losses that the music scene of Athens has experienced over the last year or two (not to mention the personal losses), “Sadder Day” felt even more powerful. l think we did the song and its meaning justice tonight.

After that, I decided to veer off into a very first performance ever for Josh. He played the drums on Satisfactionista, but surprisingly had never played “Happy Here And Now” or “Worms On The Pavement” with us live. Tonight, we remedied that. Of course, he stepped up and rocked it out. The vocal harmonies were shaky (especially on “Worms”), but  hey, we’d never done ‘em, so that’s just a matter of working into them.

(Webmistress Mary's note: I disagree to some extent, but see for yourselves to the right. What do you think? Maybe I'm just biased because "Worms" is one of my favorites and I was overwhelmed and so impressed by the fact that Josh had never sung or played it live!)

I enjoyed watching people flailing around and dancing to “Worms On The Pavement”. I always forget how that song riles people up. I hope we get to play it more in the future than we have. Since people were dancing, we went ahead and pulled out “Waiting For The Siren”, which lead into “Scared Of Myself”. Both of them were pretty solid. I think “Scared Of Myself” was particularly strong.

While I still miss “Rage On” being the lead-in to “Phony”, “I Won’t Stand Still” works fine with its chaotic energy before the preciseness of “Phony”, which was as it should be. Again, if you’ve seen us, you know what went down. It was right on tonight. By the end of it, I was sprawled on the floor, partially in show and partially in exhaustion. 

“Towel Cape Song” brought us back to power pop. I don’t remember much about this song, except that I was excited to get through so that I could relax and see The Michael Guthrie Band. I knew that I’d be taken to school. And I was. It was a great night all the way around.




Critical Darlings Set List (May 15, 2010)

  1. The Only Way
  2. Sometimes I’m Sam
  3. I Know Too Much (For My Own Good)
  4. Sadder Day
  5. Happy Here And Now
  6. Worms On The Pavement
  7. Waiting For The Siren
  8. Scared Of Myself
  9. I Won’t Stand Still
  10. Phony
  11. Towel Cape Song

After our show, I talked to quite a few new and old friends. We sold some music. We took names. We shared our gratitude with Michael, his whole band, Reid from Vinyl Strangers (who opened the show in solo acoustic form and was PERFECT), Carter and everyone there who was so supportive. Super kudos must go out to Kevin Sweeney,  sound man extraordinaire, who not only recorded the board mix, but even custom designed our pre-set psyche music (“Brontosaurus” by The Move? How did he know?).

I need to thank Mary, Martine and Jazmyn for videotaping and, as always, Amanda for taking pics and sharing.

When The Darlings were done, I was happy to go into a semi-trance listening to The Michael Guthrie Band play some of the most pristine but not-sanded-down power pop I’ve ever had the good fortune to hear in person. And of course, I was completely humbled and thrilled when he first borrowed a joke from me (about “The Ceremonial Removing Of The Jacket”), then went on to say wonderful things about the Critical Darlings, our set and deeming us “too good for this town”. Wow! Thank you so much, Michael.

I can’t wait to do it again. It would be a sin for us not to share the stage with MGB once again and sooner than later. 

"Sometimes I'm Sam" and "Towel Cape Song" videos were shot by Martine Hollander.

The rest were shot by Mary Gadd.






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All photographs by Amanda McKay unless otherwise indicated. Copyright 2010.