Friday December 11, 2009



Tuscaloosa, AL



By Chris McKay



 What a long friggin’ drive! I had no idea that Tuscaloosa was very nearly to Mississippi. That being said, this weekend was an adventure that I think was important. Honestly, I wanted a “make or break” weekend. I’d had that feeling that something drastic was coming down for The Darlings soon. If you’ve ever been a band for a while, you just kind of know when something’s up even if there are no obvious signs. I’d been getting that feeling from Josh for awhile, despite his assurances that everything was cool.

Part of the reason I decided to take two December nights in Alabama was to force the moment to its crisis. Either we could do it or we couldn’t. I’m still seeing more and more clearly what I need to do to move the band forward. Some of the decisions are nearly impossible, but hey, what will happen will happen. And we will do what we can do however we can do it.

For the record, and as usual, “I Know Too Much (For My Own Good)”. When we got to Tuscaloosa and I saw Josh, I instantly knew these would be the last shows with him. It was painfully obvious. I wish it didn’t turn out to be the case, but it was. And as usual, it’s just as the lineup at hand is reaching its peak.

Egan’s is not the ideal place to put on a rock show. However, it’s the ideal place to ROCK! What I mean is, it’s a small venue, there is no stage, the P.A. is negligible at best, and the conditions are rough. When we got there, we all wondered what we’d done by taking the gig. I’ve done it long enough, though, to have faith in our hosts.

The PINX invited us out and I knew they wouldn’t invite us if it wasn’t worth it, and it wound up being a blast.

This was a supportive ROCK AND ROLL crowd. Once we got onstage, we tore into it hard. It was like being unleashed. It was sweaty. It was raw. We were good.

It was the first and only time I felt like the trio of DeFreese, Harrison and McKay got it all right. I don’t remember much about the set. I do remember being face to face with a guy that just stared and didn’t look happy. He was, though. He was just into the music. I second-hand smoked his cigarette, which wasn’t great for me, but again, it’s part of the rock and roll environment in some cities. Incidentally, the last time I felt that the band gelled this well was (coincidentally?) at the last Athens show that Joe Orr did with us.

Well, what do I remember about this crazy show? I remember digging out “Worms On The Pavement” and it crushing. I remember rushes of applause. I remember frenzied dancing and fists raised. I remember smiles. I remember feeling bittersweet because I knew things were winding down for this version of the band just as we were getting back on track.

The flash-mob Santas added a surreal touch that I enjoyed as well.

Egan’s is a place that I hope we get to hit again. It’s the furthest west we’ve been to date. I’m ready to go further in all directions. And I will...somehow and sometime.

Amanda and I left while The PINX were still storming the joint. I knew we’d be playing with them the next night as well so I figured I needed my sleep. The time change, travel and smoke had me feeling strung out.

For some reason, Josh and Frank decided not to get a cheap hotel room of their own. Of course, The PINX looked out for ‘em. I heard Josh slept on a window sill and that at some point between Tuscaloosa and Auburn they had some amazing bar-b-q.

I don’t think we made as much money as we’d spent, but we’d made some fans in a new city.

That’s the reality of a rock and roll band in 2009 and beyond. And now, we’re beyond.


I think this was the set list. If not, it was close to it.

1. The Only Way
2. I Know Too Much (For My Own Good) / Jam
3. Sadder Day
4. That Excites Me
5. This Is The Night The World Changes
6. Waiting For The Siren
7. Scared Of Myself
8. Happy Here And Now
9. Worms On The Pavement
10. I Won’t Stand Still
11. Phony
12. Towel Cape Song


Click here for more pics of Chris McKay and the Critical Darlings at Egan's.









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All photographs by Amanda McKay. Copyright 2009.