Memorial Gig for Elliott Smith

by Suw on September 25, 2004

On the 22 October 2003, I tearfully wrote with the news that Elliott Smith had died. An extraordinarily talented singer/songwriter, Elliott wrote some of the most delicate, emotive, beautiful music I have ever heard. As part of the Elliott Smith community over on the Sweet Addy message board, I had come not only to love his music but to feel a strong empathy for him, as many of his fans did.
When he died, aged 34, on 21 October, I was totally shocked and deeply upset. We all were. Unfortunately for me, Elliott's death came hot on the heels of one of the hardest, most unpleasant periods of my life, after my business had collapsed, taking me with it. I was red raw from spending eight months trying and failing to save my company.
In the days after Elliott died, people asked me why I was so upset – he was someone I had never met, never would have met, who never knew I existed. Why should I be crying over him? But Elliott didn't feel like a distant pop star to me, more like the brother of a close friend. Someone who was a palpable presence in my life, despite not being actually there.
Partly this was because there were people on the Sweet Addy board who did know Elliott, including Charlie who looks after the Sweet Adeline fan site which eventually became the official site and upon which I helped out in a tiny and insignificant – but significant to me – way. Partly it was because occasionally Elliott would pop up on the board to squash a few rumours. Partly is was because his lyrics were so honest, so vulnerable, so powerful – in the mirror he held up to the world, we all saw ourselves.
When my business went under, I had been forced to return to live with my parents, so I had neither the privacy nor the strength to really face Elliott's death at the time. I found I couldn't listen to his music without crying, so I stopped. Completely. Even thinking about him or his music upset me greatly, so I did all I could to avoid it.
Last night at ULU was held a memorial gig for Elliott, raising money for the charity Kid's Company. Last night, for the first time in nearly a year, I heard Elliott's voice, heard people singing Elliott's songs. For the first time in 18 months I met up with some of the wonderful people from Sweet Addy, people I had had the delight of hanging out with in Manchester in Jan 03. It was both a sad and happy evening. I finally had the chance not just to grieve, but also to bury some hatchets, to move on.
Right now, I am listening to Figure 8. I feel kinda sad, but the sadness has been largely replaced with the familiar warmth that the beauty of his music engenders. It's the first time I've put it on since he died. At least now I know that it won't be the last.

Anonymous September 25, 2004 at 10:28 pm

i waivered back and forth for a long time between being able to listen to elliott to not being able to listen to him at all… on my birthday, september 16th, elliott appeared in my dream for the first time since he died. it was like something cleared for me. when i woke up, i was able to listen to either/or from beginning to end… and i found the joy in that album again. it used to always make me feel better, but it destroyed me to listen to his music (particularly that album) after he died… so i can truly relate to the feeling that you can connect with the warmth and the beauty of his music once again.. and not just the sadness…

Anonymous January 11, 2006 at 6:00 am

I think I got the same reaction from a lot of people as you did when Elliott died. My boyfriend at the time definitely didn't understand.
I remember the day he died. I was in college, and I went to the library to check my email and whatever else I needed to do. I checked my friends' page on Livejournal and saw the most horrible news ever…that Elliott had died. Strangely, earlier that day I was thinking to myself about how much I wanted Elliott to tour again, as I had missed him at the Field Day Festival in New York (moved to NJ). I could have seen him, but for some reason, things didn't work out. It happened to be 50 degrees and raining all day long, and the lines to get to the second stage were long and frustrating. On top of that, I everyone had to show their tickets…mine happened to be an e-ticket that was incredibly drenched and crumbling by that time. Finally, I got out to the stage, Bright Eyes was playing (Elliott was supposed to be), so I thought I had time to kill. I went back to the main stage to watch Beck. I waited for about an hour, and Beck never played…and I'd missed Elliott. I was just too drained to go through the frustration of going through the line to get outside again. When the festival was over, we were making our way back to the car, and I overheard people talking about Elliott's set, about how he was so amicably taking everyone's requests. I'd missed his beauty that June day.
After reading this news, I was dumbfounded and speechless. However, I cried…right there in the university library, with people sitting around me.
Like you, it took me quite a long time to be able to listen to him again. It was just too painful.
Yesterday, I was able to find his biography: Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing, and I'm feeling the same emotions over again. That's how I found your blog.

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