Friday November 13, 2009


The Venue

Camden, SC


Review by Chris McKay

Honestly, this show was so long ago, it’s long since moved into “blur status” in my mind. What I do remember was a strange, sprawling night with family and friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since high school!

Camden is Frank’s and my hometown, but we hardly ever get a chance to play there. It’s really a shame, but it’s been very hard for us to find a regular place to play there. Danny Riddick championed us for this gig and he did whatever it took to get us to Camden. (Thanks, Danny). The last time we played there was headlining the local arena at a benefit for a fallen friend. This time, it was all about reconnecting and bringing our songs home.
Unfortunately, when we got there, we were notified that there was no opener. Well, that was a difficulty for sure. As a trio, we still hadn’t learned hours and hours of material to fill out the usual full night. So I’d decided to break the sets up and brave some solo acoustic requests.


Our first set was the tightest for sure. In addition to the usual standards like “The Only Way”, “Sadder Day” and such, we did brand new songs (depending on how you look at it) like “That Excites Me”, “This Is The Night The World Changes” and “Save It For Another Day”. We ended the set with “Taking Its Toll” and I was happy to see the arm and lighter-waving finale bring out flames as it was designed.

For the acoustic portion, I announced the reason for it (no opener) and said, “This will either be really cool or it will really suck”. It started out
leaning towards being cool, but kind of degenerated by the end. I was happy that when I said that it was opened to requests, the first one we got was for “From Now ‘Til Then”. So, as a band, we played it for the very first time live. Frank did a great job of the bass line (David Barbe did it on the record). It’s certainly one I wish we did more often. The only good reason I can think of that we don’t is because of the difficulty of having an extra guitar and capo at the ready. The next request was for “An Uncertain Flight”. Clearly, we were playing for the Darlings-educated crowd. That was cool with me.



At some point, my sister, who’d been drinking, decided that since Frank and Josh H. were on break and I was up there alone that my Mom should be put on display. So she got a chair and put my Mom up there center stage. That was weird, but whatever, it was that kind of night. We had a request for “Down”, which we did. Then it kind of went south. I take the blame. I had heard Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” and decided I’d try to cover it. I did pretty well, I think. The problem was that it opened the door for people to yell a bunch of covers and songs we didn’t know. I did do a chunk of Prince’s “Darling Nikki”, which was certainly odd with my Mom sitting next to me. Before long, the alcohol and karaoke crowd began encouraging my indulgent side. Someone yelled for “Wanted Dead Or Alive”. I faked my way through it and before long, my cousin Rod was up on stage singing the lyrics (I don’t know ‘em that well) while my sister and my cousin Angie were on the other side singing backups along with Sharon Sinclair. It was certainly fun for us, but it got a bit out of hand and it was certainly not the most professional thing we’ve ever done (And by “we”, I mean “me”. The other guys were not to blame.). I also remember the inevitable, joking request and attempt at “Free Bird”, which somehow led to “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”. Yeah, you’ll never see another set list of ours with that stuff on the set list.
Once we’d finally gathered our bearings and had the stage back in the firm control of official Darlings, the band came back out swinging with “I Won’t Stand Still” and “Phony”. Of course, during Frank’s break, he’d joined in with the alcohol-crowd. So even an old warhorse like “Scared Of Myself” was a bit sloppy. Who could blame him? I think Josh was the only real “professional” tonight. But we did have some fun.


I have no idea what happened from that point. We played everything that came to mind or any song of ours that was requested. The set list was ignored, so there will likely never be a complete list. I think we ended the proper show with “Towel Cape Song” and even added in a request for “Give Up Town” which hadn’t been played in a very, very long time.

To keep in line with the family aspect of this, we were temporarily a quartet for a blast through Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel”. My brother Benji (the
soon-to-be-father, AKA Tyke R., guitarist for The Lovecrafts, Snakebones and the infamous Tykes With Guns) grabbed my guitar. We’d never done it. He’d never played it with me, let alone the band, but he pulled it right out. It was the first time that Benji and I have ever performed together on stage. Of course, since I was free of the guitar, part of that time was spent with me off the stage, rolling around on the floor, bruising myself up and being ridiculous.

If you’re looking for a definite Critical Darlings show, this wasn’t it. Heck, it was hardly a show. But if you’ve ever wanted to see the Darlings “at home”, relaxed and in a mode that was nearly a reunion, this was the one.

Thanks to everyone that made it possible, those that dug on the good stuff, those that survived the rough stuff and every single person that made our homecoming feel “at home”.

Now what do we have to do to get to play again in Camden or near enough by to see you again?




Click here for more pics of Chris McKay and the Critical Darlings at The Venue.



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All photographs by Amanda McKay. Copyright 2009.