Saturday March 28, 2009


Prevue Music Hall
With The Stellas & Grown Up Avenger Stuff
Charlotte, NC


Review by Chris McKay



The “Charlotte Curse” is broken. It wasn’t easy but we did it. Following last year’s attempt to play the Queen City, I was a bit superstitious about Charlotte. I know it’s silly but it’s true.

Of course, tonight was the first show I wasn’t feeling that well for since sometime last fall. I wasn’t going to let it stop me. The trip up was rough. A pouring, cold, driving rain fell. That wasn’t going to stop me either.

In fact, it didn’t matter what might be wrong. When I saw Chris and Angie come in, I knew I had to give it my all, no matter what happened. Before long, my brother and April showed up. Then Side B label mate Chris English and his girl Donna.

And here I was expecting no one would care or know us here. Instead, several people drove hundreds of miles in a round trip (the first part of which was in the aforementioned endless downpour) and several more made it in from the region! I was thrilled!

I probably spent the most time talking to Kim and her husband. They were great to hang out with and I look forward to spending more time with them. Apparently, Kim’s doing a review of our show for a Charlotte publication. It’s cool how things work out, y’know?

By the time Don and Daniel got there, I was stoked (I don’t know if I’ve ever used the word “stoked”, but it’s accurate here). On top of that, plenty o’ other people started filing in and we could see when Grown Up Avenger Stuff took the small stage that the people in the audience were very receptive. I didn’t get to hear much of their set but I liked a sultry take on The Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (which coincidentally is one I’ve been hoping I could get The Darlings to do, but alas, it looks as if it may never happen).

The one drawback to the Prevue is that the stage is very small and only one band can set up at a time. This makes the changeovers take longer than I like. It’s cool. We did what we could do and just lit into it as usual with “The Only Way”.

By the breakdown in “Sometimes I’m Sam”, the girls in front (Nice tiaras, girls!) were clapping along and giving us a great response. It was hot up on that tiny stage. And since it was so small, Frank kept unplugging my fan, so I eventually had to give up on that too and just sweat. I never sweat…well, almost never.

“Sadder Day” went fine and got a huge response and I felt like we were hitting a groove. Then, about halfway through “Rage On”, my guitar dropped from my neck. I’d snapped another super-strong lock-in strap. I tried to pick the guitar up and play along, but even my guitar can’t take a shock like that. It put a bit of a damper in my mood but just a little. So we had the one guitar version of “Rage On” for once!

After borrowing a strap from The Stellas, I made a speech as I was retuning about the “Charlotte Curse”. I let it be known that if there was such a curse, “Charlotte will give up before I will, because we will keep coming back”. I meant it. I’m not giving in that easy.

Then we launched into “Phony” and from there all bets were off. “Waiting For The Siren” and “Scared Of Myself” had ‘em moving along. By the time we got to “Happy Here And Now”, everyone had moved closer and we were all interacting rather well.

Despite Frank’s bass freaking out for a portion of “Happy Here And Now” (which almost caused a good old fashioned crash landing), we pulled it back from the brink and did what we came to do. We’re getting good at that!

Unfortunately, since the changeovers took so long and The Stellas still had to play, we had to call it a night just as we were starting to get to the “take no prisoners” attitude. We were just getting our eyebrows on as it was time to put them away for the evening.

I couldn’t resist pulling out “Rebel Rebel” to close out the night and there were smiles all around. It felt like a victory lap for me. I didn’t have the room to get as crazy as usual but I think I almost pulled down the mains via a cable that I almost got tangled in the mic stand. Luckily, that ugly death was thwarted (or at least postponed).

Immediately after the set, I met a few more new friends who really seemed to enjoy themselves (Hi, Tajmah!). I even posed for more pics.

Not long afterwards, I talked to the venue owner and let me tell you, The Critical Darlings will definitely be back in Charlotte. In fact, it looks like we’ll make our return to the Prevue Music Hall in late May.

And curses be damned, now “I know this city is mine”.

Thanks everyone!






Chris’ totally biased and semi-arbitrary star rankings of each song performance tonight!

1. The Only Way****
2. Sometimes I’m Sam****
3. Sadder Day****
4. Rage On**
5. Phony****
6. Waiting For The Siren****
7. Scared Of Myself****
8. Happy Here And Now**
9. Rebel Rebel***




Click here for more pics of Chris McKay and the Critical Darlings in Charlotte.



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All pictures by Amanda McKay. Copyright 2009.