I looked around the corner of the backstage curtain at Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte, NC and saw him sitting by himself by the side of the stage.. Vic Chesnutt had just played for 90 minutes to a hushed crowd of 150 people and sat there staring into the darkness with a look of calm on his face.. I wanted to talk to him.. I really did.. but he looked so serene I hesitated.. Unfortunately, the two other people who also saw him pushed past me and broke his contemplation.. He wasn't annoyed; on the contrary, he seemed touched and took pictures with them and nodded at all of their questions.. They were giddy to meet him, and after seeing him play I really understood why.. The quirky, introspective, and wonderfully witty songs he gave to us verified what we had all heard come out of Athens, GA; that this was another of their wonderful freaks and that they would lend him out to us for moments of time, but only for those understood moments.. As his two admirers left, he looked up and saw me standing in the corner and smiled.. 'hey, Vic', i waved at him... he waved me over, and for about 10 minutes we talked about music, and Athens, and the songs of Jimmy Webb, and his planned nighttime drive back to Athens that night.. He fidgeted in his wheelchair, laughed a lot, and seemed to be in a very quiet, peaceful place.. I stepped out into the warm, Southern night that night and smiled at our conversation, and I have to admit that no matter how dark his music became after that and how removed from the world he seemed in future performances, I always remembered him in the context of those few minutes..
This afternoon, I heard that Vic had slipped into a coma after an attempted suicide attempt, and tonight, right before I was to sit down with my family for Christmas dinner, I heard that he died.. Somehow that didn't seem right at all.. I knew he battled depression and that he was besieged with medical problems, but the trick of my mind was to still always remember him from that night in late Spring so long ago.. Maybe in a few months I will again remember him like that, but for now I feel sad for another of my favourite artists who fought against the darkness as best as he could, but could not win against at the end.. It's an odd contrast to the light of Christmas Day, but I suppose that when the light of something burns that bright, it only makes the dark more blinding for somone..
If you have never listened to his music, I do encourage you to take a look for it the next time you're online, or walking through a used music store.. I'm sure there will be a lot written about him in the coming months, and a lot of examination about his state of mind, but on this Christmas night I can only hope that he has somehow slipped back into the serenity he was staring in to on the night I met him, and that for the rest of eternity he can remain there.. rest in peace, sir.. thank you.. x
Vic Chesnutt - 'Gravity of the Situation'