Friday April 3, 2009





The Independent (Formerly Rooster’s)

With Magnolia Sons

Auburn, AL


Review by Frank DeFreese



Our Auburn, Alabama debut (at The Independent) marks our farthest trip west. It's not like it was a giant step for mankind or anything, or even our band, it's just really a pain in the ass to have to drive through Atlanta at 5:00pm.

When we got there, the Magnolia Sons had already set up, and was indulging in a pre-sound check sound check. Of course, we do that all the time when we can. I mean, they're the headliners, right? At least that’s what we’d been told.


As the rest of the guys started filtering in, the Sons decided amongst themselves that they would rather play 1st. That's weird. It’s THEIR show, THEY have a following in Auburn. We're new in town, and you want us to play when people will actually be there? What gives? They said they had a 9-hour drive back home, and need to hit the road. Fine. We’ll take some pity on them as we only have a 4 hour drive back. So suddenly, we’re the headliners which (since we’re on central time in Alabama) makes our start time 1 am for us!

The Independent used to be known as Rooster's, and they've apparently done a lot of renovations, most notably on the stage, which by all accounts had grown massively in just the week prior. We got fed, too! Bonus!!!


While we were lounging around, the club owner comes up to us with the local entertainment paper. Apparently, they had done an article on us that we should check out. I'm always a sucker for smart-ass journalism anyway and figured since they didn’t know us here, we might get a some hooks in us. Here's the official Critical Darlings take on it: RIP US ALL YOU WANT!!! Just be clever about it.

As it turns out, Jesse White wrote a very kind assessment of us and our new album. For an unsolicited review in a publication we'd never heard of or had any contact with, it was a total ego-stroke and a nice way to come to town. So, then it became more and more apparent why we were playing last.

The other band had a good crowd. So it was odd that they pushed their 'opening act' set back by about 45 minutes, and played for an hour and a half. It turns out, we had actually played on a bill with them in 2008. As soon as I saw them actually play, I had one of those "oh, yeah" moments. They’d pulled the same thing back then, too, and while it was our show then, we did them the favor that they refused us tonight (even when we asked nicely).

After seeing their set, it became apparent why they didn’t want to follow us. God bless ‘em. We don’t usually say things about the other bands we play with and, well, maybe we should say no more.


We went on close to midnight central time, and I gotta say, the Independent has a good crowd. People were still coming in. The new stage is really nice, but they're still upgrading the P.A. The soundman was a roadie for Helmet back in the day, and he really knew how to squeeze the most outta what they had. We didn't make anyone wait, least of all ourselves. As soon as we got our levels more or less right, Chris ripped right into “The Only Way”, and we were off!

I didn't have a monitor on my side of the stage, so I really couldn't comment on the overall performance, except that it felt way more 'loose' than we normally run. There wasn’t even a set list. It was cool, though. The kids out front really seemed to dig it. They were dancing, slapping hands and generally rocking out. Joe went bat-shit crazy onstage. Josh held it together and Chris did his best despite near exhaustion at the time and heat.

It's kinda weird when you go to a new area and check out its local hipster
variants. Most of the time, they hang back and smoke cigarettes in a pose befitting a high-ranking Nazi officer, indulging in the occasional head bob, but these guys 'N' chicks were right up front dancing, singing and having a blast. Most strangely to me (having never played Alabama before), no one in the audience yelled out "Freebird", not even once! I was so proud of 'em!

We played a shorter than usual set, since we had to get back on the road. Don't get me wrong, we had a great time and we wanted to stay. The club couldn’t have been cooler and the people were just our type. In fact, everyone (except a certain other band) was very gracious to us. Alas, Joe had to work the next day, and was on the losing end of the time-zone change. If we were 20 miles closer to Athens, he might've gotten a 1-hr nap.

So, it did strike us as a bit odd that the other band that HAD to play early and drive 9 hours home, were still hangin' around after the show. We stuck around as long as we could and wanted to stay longer but we just couldn’t tonight. We didn’t want to leave ‘em hangin’ but let’s try to do it next time.

After the show, we were invited back for a football night in the fall, in Auburn, that’s as big as it gets.

We’ll see you in September!




Set list for the evening:


1. The Only Way
2. Sometimes I'm Sam
3. Into My View / Unseen
4. Sadder Day
5. Rage On
6. Phony
7. Waiting For The Siren
8. Scared Of Myself
9. Towel Cape Song
10. Worms On The Pavement
11. Happy Here And Now
12. Rebel Rebel
13. Dancing With Myself



So, how was it for you? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

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Wanna see more pics of Chris McKay and The Critical Darlings at The Independent? Click here!















All photographs by Amanda McKay. Copyright 2009.