Lincoln Hall; Thu 5
The small, bustling community of Athens, Georgia, has bred giants: R.E.M., the B52s, Of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel. Yet a fair number of overshadowed treasures still slip through the cracks. Singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt is one of them. He’s been recording prolifically for more than 20 years, and despite a spike in popularity following the 1996 release of Sweet Relief II, which featured covers of his songs by Smashing Pumpkins and Madonna, his fan base has never risen above cult level.
Fortunately, the consistent championing of Chesnutt’s music by his high-profile peers has prevented the 44-year-old paraplegic, who flipped his car in a drunken-driving accident at age 18, from gliding into obscurity. Michael Stipe produced his first two albums in the early ’90s, Little and West of Rome, while in 2007 Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto and a gaggle of Godspeed You! Black Emperor members—who also join Chesnutt tonight—collaborated on his most impressive full-length, North Star Deserter.
The wild orchestration, waves of shoegazey guitar feedback and epic songwriting marked a bold shift from Chesnutt’s earlier folky material while retaining the fragile, introspective lyricism at the center of all his songs. Since then, the medical-marijuana advocate has stayed busy with Dark Developments, a collaboration with fellow Athens hometowners Elf Power, followed by this year’s At the Cut, featuring North Star’s same indie-all-star cast exploring themes of death, morality and the acceptance of personal demons. Melancholy and misanthropy may fit him like a glove, but there’s something powerfully nourishing and redemptive in his stark, gothic anthems.