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The tale of the pop-up Mic and other far away glows

May 20, 1998 final LA es show The Troubadour, Los Angeles 8:15pm At the entrance to the club, Bigman is waiting for me to give him my ticket: Bugjuice: I really need you to NOT look in my backpack. Is that going to be okay? Bigman: (owner of the Troubadour (often mistaken for a bouncer due to his intimidating size) and clad in *sensible black*...like me, Bugjuice!) You pointing out the fact that I shouldnt look through your backpack makes me really want to ask you to show me whats in the bag. So now look at the position you have put me in. Bugjuice: Oh okay, hmm...woops! Youre right...whats your name? Bigman: Michael. Bugjuice: Michael! I have made a front door faux pas (French for booboo, ed. -) Ok, well, I was just kidding...lets see...hmmm, how was Elliotts show last night? Did you watch him play, any thoughts? Michael: I sit out front all night. Bugjuice: You do? Michael: Yeah, but I find out the next day how the show was when my sound guys wont stop listening to the CD. Bugjuice: Did they like last night then? Michael: Seems so...I think they are going to be playing this one for the next few months. *Michael hands me a VIP pass to The Lounge Michael: Are you a reporter? Bugjuice: Wow, can you tell? Is it showing? Michael: (laughing) This will get you upstairs. Bugjuice: Oh, okay, great! Thanks Michael! (leaving with pass) Ummm, the beer is free up there right? Michael: Ummmmmm , no! ...and we dont check bags here by the way... Last time I was actually able to get into an Elliott Smith show in Los Angeles, I had to wait for over 3 hours in a line of maybe 50 or so other fans, outside of a club known as Spaceland. As we all stood out there, single file against a really dirty stucco wall not at all suitable for long term leaning, the powers that be kept assuring us entry into the show...eventually. So, we all stood out there, like chumps, as waves of guest listed big-wiggers walked in effortlessly. After I saw Ben Stiller breeze on by I became incensed and thought that something had to be done! But having no idea what exactly that was, I started to talk to the people in line instead. Tuned out the guy behind me had a flask of vodka in his vinyl coat that he wanted to share, the girl behind him had a thermos of orange juice, her friend had extra smokes, and the kind employees across the street at the Backdoor Cafe yelled out 2 for 1 closing on all baked goods. Suddenly, everyone was drinking, smoking and eating a pastry...indy rock scenes usually dont connote these sort of images. Maybe five people gave up and left that line, even though there wasnt a single one of us who didnt have to wait at least 2 hours to get in that night. We all saw Elliott Smith play, what most people figured, would be among one of his last shows at such a small venue for quite awhile. So, only two months later, at the notably larger Troubadour, things were looking quite different. The 2 consecutive shows sold out within days of being put on sale through Ticketmaster. I ended up having to buy my ticket from one of those slimy bastard agencies the day before the show for 25 dollars (a price that had come down from $85). Originally, these tickets were sold for $8. Who am I going to see again? Not even 10 minutes had passed after I entered the club and I already had recognized 5 faces from the last Spaceland show. People were also coming up to me asking, hey werent you in that 3 hour line...? Getting statements off of everyone about the whole Elliott Smith convergence was a breeze (it must have been my Radio Shack parking lot sale pop-up mic lo-fi tape recorder that impressed them). I was able to talk at length about any subject concerning the fans of Elliott Smith, topics that ranged from the tooth fairy to going to an Asian country to teach English even if you still arent sure what an adverb is...the fans of Elliott Smith were both well-spoken and refreshingly opinionated! Upon entering the *VIP* lounge upstairs I made the quick discovery that record company people tend to be rather serious in the face of the press (yes, I said, the PRESS, ed.-). So, upon approaching DreamWorksStaffManNumberOne, pop-up mic popped up , I ask if he would mind giving me a few statements about Elliotts upcoming release on their label and what, if any, future plans they had for this newly signed artist. Well, it took a second, and a few sips of his company comped cocktails, for him to say, only off the record. (For the record ed.- If I had a *record* to be off of that night does that mean I can turn in my drink receipts too? 3 Rolling Rocks, $15...) DreamWorksStaffManNumberOne: What magazine do you write for? Bugjuice: Me? Ohhhh, well, all kinds...so many.... DWSMNO: But who are you writing this piece for? Bugjuice: Ohhh, well, I am freelance still...but oh, I see, this will probably be for Rolling Stone... Why is he laughing? (Ok, so bad start, but he probably sorts Dreamworks mail anyway and that is why he wanted to be off of the record ed. - ) After that I left The Loft lounge and decided to rejoin the paying crowd downstairs. The dynamic duo known as QUASI took to the stage first. Noteworthy performances by both Sam Coones (singing simultaneously as he literally HURDLES his really unsteady (I was scared it was going to break) keyboard type instrument labeled ROXICHORD) and drummer/backing vocalist, Janet Weiss, who appeared to have more energy than 100 girl scouts after a sugar binge. She was also clad in *sensible black*...UNCANNY! After about 4 songs a third guy joined them on-stage and put on a bass. Maybe because of the casual way he walked on or maybe just because he had his back to us at first, but it seemed to take people a few minutes before they realized that this guy was actually Elliott Smith. Once this was acknowledged though, people started to applaud a bit louder and heads were swaying at twice the speed as before (concert behavior analyst, Bugjuice). So, Elliott played a few songs with them on bass, left the stage, returned a few songs later and this time joined them on the Roxichord (but unlike Coones, played it with his hands, leaving both feet on the ground at all times). And following with the fashion theme of the evening, Elliott also was in sensible black! Before their last song of the evening, Coones took a minute to dedicate the set to my two favorite people in the world...my mom and Elliott because they've both helped me a lot! I was touched. The girl to my left decided to get comfortable and took off her shoes at this point. Her toes were painted glittery pink and she plopped her naked feet down next to the amplifier that the ROXICHORD was plugged into. I was scared shed get electrocuted as her beer was dangerously close to tipping so I took the liberty to move it to a safer spot on the stage (ed.- you never know, stranger things happen everyday). Between the set change I decided to do a little investigative reporting with the aid of one of the really generous roadies. His name was JB and he had on shorts and a baseball cap, none of which were black, leading me to view him as a sturdy individual not afraid to run against the wind. (Ed. - I am sensing catch phrase censorship right about now) As JB was moving equipment, I couldnt help but notice that there was masking tape with something written in black permanent marker on several amp cases. Cases worthy of notice because it seems that someone on this tour had raided a classic rock auction as these bright red amp cases were authentic concert memorabilia that once belonged to EARTH, WIND, & FIRE. Knowing that it is the details that make a story truly great, I made a discovery that will not now, nor probably ever in the future, have any bearing on anything whatsoever, including this concert review BUT Several amp cases were labeled with the name Luke Wood. Who is this man? I asked JB to fill me in and he said he didnt know. More specifically: JB: What are you talking about who is Luke Wood? Bugjuice: The amp case says Luke Wood...look! Someone seems to have written that on them... JB: Hmmm, oh yeah, they do... (thinks for a minute) Do you need someone to find him for you? Bugjuice: Yes! Can you get him? That would be great...I have a few questions... JB: Ok, hold on... At this point, JB confers with a stern faced man with longish curly hair. This man doesnt look amused and proceeds to give JB a shoe off hand gesture and darts me a people are working here kind of look. Suddenly, an overwhelming wave of not so ambiguous guilt passes over me and I wave for JB to forget about it and get back to work. JB: Yeah, sorry, we dont know who he is...I have to do this now. With that he moves things like wires, drums, and empty bottles of beer. The girl to my left is now lying down barefoot at the foot of the stage. I wonder if she is always this comfortable in public. It seems like about 30 or 40 minutes pass before Elliott Smith returns to the stage again, acoustic guitar in tow. He takes a seat on a regular old folding chair, the kind that people try to not land on at a party, and goes right into his first song, Last Call . Irony? After the applause dies out a bit, Elliott makes a light-hearted announcement to us Elliott: Im going to try not to play songs that I did last night. Which, um, means, songs that I rarely play. So if I fuck up...sorry (smile). And with that he performed a set of songs that he usually doesnt...he wasnt kidding about that. Condor Avenue was the second song of the evening and he changed the lyrics at the end to thats the one thing that I could never do... As he repeatedly stressed this lyrical change I thought that you, the reader, should know about it. (Great place for a RA clip off of my parking lot sale quality bootleg of this very song ed.-) He played a whole set of songs that people rarely think to request. The audience still played along and yelled out their favorites, Needle in the Hay and Coming Up Roses , but Elliott, politely, did not play any of them. He had a whole preplanned list of songs which he more or less stuck to. He would acknowledge the audiences various requests with a hmmmmm or a yeahhhhh and then proceed to play his own choice. About half way through the set some guy in the back of the crowd yelled out play Last Call and Elliott had to explain that he had already done that one earlier in the evening. (I was able to catch up with Last Call request man at the end of the night. His name was Robert and wanted to be *on the record* as saying that he got to the concert late and that he WAS NOT trying to be funny. He just didnt know ed.-) Quasi and a keyboard player named Jon Brion joined Elliott on stage for the last few songs of the evening. They did a few louder versions of songs such as Pictures of Me , Alameda , and Rose Parade (a song which Elliott apologized for saying this is one we did do last night). The barefoot girl had to move her feet at this point because she saw that they were in Elliotts way. They also did a handful of cover songs, including a literal interpretation of 'Im So Tired' that could have easily been included on the Anthology tapes as a lost studio version of the song. The surprise cover of the evening was a bit of Iron Man (unfortunately though, Elliott didnt give us his version of Ozzy as this was an all instrumental romp with Sabbath). In a nutshell, what was happening was oddly casual on-stage behavior. It felt like we were in Elliotts basement watching him play with his friends. The show ended too early as everyone in the place could have easily sat through another hour of music. Someone near the bar said that he heard a guy was hit by a car while trying to cross through traffic on his bike. With that announcement, half of the bar got up to go and check. I went up to Michael at the front door to see what he thought of the evening: Michael: I am sure I will be hearing about this show for the next few months. Thats it ed.- Thanks to everyone at the Troubadour who indulged my pop-up mic, thanks to Michael at the door, Kayseal at the wheel, and, of course, to Luke Wood, whoever he is... (c) 1998 bug juice inquiries
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