Chuck Prophet Closes Out A Rainy, Happy Summer Shade Festival
Chuck Prophet headlined the The Grant Park SummerShade Festival, one of Atlanta’s more impressive neighborhood festivals. The festival is in its thirteenth year – it boasts two stages and a variety of food, art and craft vendord. A throng of free range children of all ages passed afternoons climbing trees, swinging from branches, playing in mud and rolling down hills. Strong sets by some talented locals like Adron, Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics and Nerdkween on Sunday, a Saturday night headliner of Jason & The Scorchers… I knew I’d stick around till the bitter end for the unparalleled Chuck Prophet. There must’ve been 80-100 people up close to the stage, some of whom Prophet cajoled into squeezing up to the very edge, and plenty more spread out across the grassy dell under the great century-old oaks. The sound was ably run and that’s a good thing because of his possibly squirrely dual-miking set-up; aside from a few tiny squeals, his set was free of feedback.
Funny, engaging and upbeat as ever, he got the audience enthusiastically singing along to “You Did” and made a hilarious remark about people video-ing with phones: “If you’re gonna film this show, please make sure you get this next song – it’s real good.” and, “I’ve seen people pick up cd’s, look at ’em, turn ’em over, smell ’em…” A crowd of happy folk swaying on the damp grass under a mercifully cool gray sky sang woozy backing vocals to “Willy Mays Is At Bat”.
Prophet shows are good for the stories as well as the songs. The man knows how to command the energy of a room and give an audience a good time. He manages to write songs hooky enough to be called “pop” but with content that’s gritty, real, mundane and poetic. These days, he uses two microphones – one ordinary dynamic mic for clarity on verses, and a second, possibly a ribbon mic with an interesting slap-back delay for “backing vocals” and weird choruses. He uses the set-up to marvelous effect. With decades under his belt, his guitar playing covers way more bases than your average solo singer songwriter. One of my favorite Chuck hallmarks is his ability to play a song’s changes “each and every way”, making the guitar into a rhythm section hitting all the accents, picking fine leads without losing a beat and ending a song with a well-executed crescendo worthy of the E Street Band. When you can keep people this engaged and happy, muddy, late and probably a little toasted on a Sunday evening, you deserve the tag “consummate performer”.