Saturday, December 26, 2009

RIP: Vic Chesnutt (1964-2009)

It's been a long time since I was getting Vic anecdotes on the regular, but it's no surprise here that he checked out over the holidays. I started getting e-mails and texts right before the holiday that Vic was in a coma (again). As Jem Cohen and Kristin Hersh started sharing more info, word of a suicide note started circulating, culminating with formal word of his death on Christmas Day. It's been a touch time for Athens, GA, especially in light of Jerry Fuchs' passing a couple weeks ago.

I saw Vic for the first time in the early 90s. He was opening for a Bob Mould solo show at Bogies in Albany and not especially well-received. Tolerated for a bit due to the wheelchair, room chatter soon threatened to overpower Chesnutt. As the room grew closer to capacity (and proportionally more intolerant) Vic quickly asserted the fact that he didn't give a fuck, croaking off-key and making up songs on the spot. I seem to recall something about Winona Ryder. He had been in the chair for a decade at that point and had obviously learned very quickly that it took some doing to get him on or off the average crappy club stage, so he was almost always going to get to play for the duration. Plus, to be crass, he was already paralyzed, what were some drunk assholes at a bar going to do to him. Either way, Bob seemed amused, the crowd less so.

Tam got me West Of Rome and I decided to give Vic a second chance live when he came through the QE2 with Syd Straw. Syd was out with a Lou Whitney driven band for that record and was all in all pretty awesome. At set's end they were looking for weed and so Vic, Syd, Lou shared some delight out front with me, Tam and Steven. They were a good bunch and I saw a lot of the trio's shows collectively and separately over the next couple years. Vic's shows were mercurial to a degree that only Mark Eitzel has been able to approximate for me, vacillating between sublime trancendence and utter trainwrecks. I last saw Vic with Scott at SXSW four or five years ago, where he played his by-then-usual average set to a full, yet lukewarm crowd. The prices his stuff commanded during my on-going Ebay poverty purge made me think that I should check his last couple records out, especially as I heard they featured Guy from Fugazi and members of Godspeed! It appears that I'll have to do it posthumously now. Apologies to those that were closer to Vic and are taking this harder, but with all due respect, he seemed miserable, so perhaps he's in a better place. Here's hoping.


1 comment:

dantera said...

"It appears that I'll have to do it posthumously now"

Heavens, I hope not! I'd prefer it if you stuck around a bit longer.
Thanks for the write up. I was just telling DD that I feel like I'd only just rediscovered Vic Chesnutt. NPR did a great interview with him a few months ago:

and more recently in memoriam