I wasn’t a huge fan of Vic Chestnutt; I have Drunk and About to Choke and I saw him around 2000 in Tempe at a club (I think) now closed called the Balboa Cafe. I first became aware of him when Sweet Relief II came out — I don’t think I can add anything to the many fine things that have been said of his lyrics or his peculiar and appealing musical phrasing. He seems to me to have been a person of strange and admirable artistic vision, and because the vision was strange, perhaps, he fell into that realm of critically acclaimed/commercially limited — a place in which the relative paucity of fans is made up for by their passion.
When we saw him in 2000, I had this sense that we should seize the opportunity, because it seemed unlikely to me that he’d be around forever. The music was great, but the show was odd — I remember thinking at the time that it was visceral. This is meant literally: it had an unexpected intermission. VC began a song, and not a minute in, stopped and announced matter-of-factly that he had to take a shit. So some guys lifted his chair off the stage and he vanished for a while. This is pretty funny, of course, but at the time it seemed quite solemn to me, or at least that’s how I remember it. It was probably a Sunday night show, which were typically sparsely attended. So there’s that — a small crowd there to see a singer-songwriter with a great reputation — and of course exposure to the bodily needs of a man in a wheelchair, which can be uncomfortable (however unfairly) to able-bodied people who haven’t spent much time with differently-abled people.
I was surprised and saddened today to hear about his death. I can’t believe he was only 45.