Alex Chilton passed away the day before my 30th birthday, and his death is something that I’ve struggled with all year. I was unexpectedly devastated by it when it happened, and I have found myself blindsided repeatedly by the fact that he’s gone, more than once at more than one random moment, this year. And not just small grief, either, strange and unsettling tidal waves of grief from the oddest places brought on by the oddest things. I’ve also struggled with why I was having such a hard time with his death, and it is not just my love for Big Star and Chilton’s songwriting, really, though that is a lot of it. The timing, too — I had finally made peace with turning 30, with that new number in front of my age, and Chilton’s death was a reminder that we are all still getting old, no matter whether you are me or Alex Chilton.
Tonight is the first of two nights of Big Star tribute concerts at the Cat’s Cradle, where an unbelievable all-star team of musicians will perform a fully orchestrated version of Third/Sister Lovers. Chris Stamey, with help from Cradle owner Frank Heath, put the project together, assembled the group of musicians from friends of Big Star and locals in the NC, and the cast of players is truly unreal. (Stamey has been blogging about the process of orchestrating and rehearsing here and his posts make me cry, too.) Big Star drummer — and the only surviving member, now — Jody Stephens will be behind the kit. Mike Mills on bass. Stamey and Mitch Easter on electric guitar. It’s absolutely crazy, when I stop to think about it, and the thought of it makes my heart ache and shiver the same way that Chilton’s death did, albeit in a more joyous way.
(There’s a story about R.E.M. that could go here, but it’s not going to. Maybe next week.)
shep. bought me (and herself) a ticket to tomorrow night’s show for Christmas. It’s a fitting way to close this year, to find some peace in Chilton’s death that’s eluded me all year, to be proud and amazed and delighted by what musicians in the Triangle choose to do with their time and energy and passion. I might cry like a baby for most of the set. I think that’s okay, though. That might be fitting for the end of this year, too.