Tom Cheshire is on fire
By: Han Vance
He appeared to me like an angel in the gutter of Ponce, once kissing me on the cheek when I missed my dad departed.
Initially, I was interested in his magnetic cult of cool and winning personality. I knew he was a singer but heard more about his poetry than his music at first, probably because I was a poet in the same city. I was a fan of the guy, I saw him as a man about town I admired.
Then I went and listened to him on YouTube and was genuinely captivated. They got their hooks in me, disarmed me, charmed me, West End Motel, All Night Drug Prowling Wolves, Tom’s eponymous stuff – anything with Tom in it.
(Photo by: Han Vance)
Drunkenness and love lorn loss, redemption and relocation. Always searching and up real late to tell you about it. That’s Tom’s songs. His poetry. You are living at the time when we have a modern heir apparent to Charles Bukowski in Tom.
Tom Cheshire is the older brother of the fine acclaimed novelist Scott Cheshire. They are from New York. Tom moved down to Atlanta in 1991, so for those of you locally keeping score he was a pre-Olympic plus-five, to our great Southern boomtown. The urban forest. People like Tom.
We crawled out of a poetic gutter together, on Ponce, Tom and I:
It’s quite fine out here, but we look back at that gutter with wandering hearts sometimes. It’s sunny out here…It’s always sunny in Atlanta, as far as the warmth of our people. It’s a city of doers and triers like us. We’re just dipping a toe back into the night and this isn’t going to be one of those fake act like you don’t really know the guy so well, B.S. by a phony, pieces. I know him and we are in art bed together, so to speak. The heartbroken voice of America, I once called him.
Burn it down. Only time can tell. A song about a restaurant I like. Once you know yourself, it’s hard to forget who you are. Cheers to Tom, first time I met Tom Cheshire it was his birthday. Dearly departed Atlantan and musical genius Jade Lemons introduced us on a patio in Atlanta, my wife and I were with Jade. The whole city was with Tom.
Later: the dark booze really hit us as Tom took to the Savannah stage, with just a touch of ELVIS swagger. The band was playing together again, Ben Thrower, Blake Rainey and the boys behind an emotive and on the level American artist, a voice to be heard and felt.
He sang from a jagged heart but tried to reach warm ground, at The Hang Fire, before Wes Daniels opened up El-Rocko Lounge in Savannah, that lovely old jewel of a Georgia city. My buddy Brent Hinds of Tom’s band West End Motel and the enormously popular heavy Atlanta act Mastodon was in the audience, as was yours truly, with my chief photog Michael Santini and another dear friend, Chef Brandon Carter of FARM (of Bluffton, South Carolina), who Michael and I were profiling for LOOKBOOK: http://www.lookbookatlanta.com/news/chefs-journeys
Ever notice how chefs will often just randomly have (comp) bottles of high-end booze with them? We went deep in the cups in the low country, at the hotel before even hitting the door. First, was the drinks. There was a lovely bachelorette party staying at our hotel, we had met in the lobby after; Michael took a few pictures for them. Then, the walk over – they let us right in and my guys were right there. Then, the music. Here is Tom, basically Springsteening an engaged crowd, many don’t know him and maybe a third do, with his stellar act All Night Drug Prowling Wolves, and that’s in no way a comparison I make lightly, either. He brought us with him like the Boss, that night. I remember dancing rowdily with Brandon, lots of shots. And I remember what Santini looked like, beautifully and casually laying on his back on the floor, wasted clicking photos, under the nightclub lights. I was singing along with Tom. I took the walk for us. I remember a janitor’s closet overfull of people. The way it looks in the alleys at night, how you can see down the alleys like a pirate ghost.
Tom Cheshire bands never seem to have a breakup, but they may take extended years’ long breaks. They may not play for some time, but Tom never stops. “Rent Boys formed and played from 1997 to 2000.”
And Tom Cheshire and Brent Hinds have been best mates, “since before he became ‘Brent from Mastodon,'” Tom told me the other night backstage of the Star Bar in Little Five Points of Atlanta. They’ve been in West End Motel as a band since 2002. “Prowling Wolves started in 2006.”
And later by phone Tom also said: “The new West End Motel album is the best record we’ve ever done. There is something on it for everyone. We wore a lot of hats, think Captain Beefheart jamming with the Faces. It’s got wits and it will make you weep.” Brent saying of it in a Facebook message, “Yeah it’s gonna be great!” Heady times for the boys, it seems they could really be on the cusp of something special.
West End Motel played classic favorites from their repertoire and new material from the forthcoming “Bad with Faces, Good with Names” album on FRI Feb. 24th at 529 in East Atlanta, the band noting aloud it was their best crowd. Nice time on the patio, up in the music hall.
+++++AMERICAN CULTURE REPORTER+++++
*Currently a Brooklyn resident, Tom Cheshire signed out of NYC to publish his poetry with Silver Stone Press, as I signed out of ATL to publish myriad written books with them. We were also both featured in the book, “Silver Stone Press Presents.” -Han