Elliott Smith -- CMJ Music Fest Westbeth Theatre, NYC Sept. 5th 1997 “so sick and tired of all these digital pictures of me.....you waste your words on the internet baby.....just give me your e-mail address and it just could be a maybe..” mp17 ________________________________ by Casey Crynes
This was the first time since Elliott’s days with Heatmiser that I had seen him wield an electric guitar. This time however it was pure future folk. Right before Elliott went on I had a brief word with him. He appeared overwhelmed with all the people that knew him so I did not want to be yet another gregarious groupie. If you haven’t noticed already most of Elliott’s “come up and meetcha fans” are women, all of which have no problem fawning over the pristine beauty of indie star he has so emobodied. Appearing quite tipsy however he remembered me. I asked him about his presence on the internet. He said he had a computer but had not seen any of the web sites dealing with him yet. I thought for sure he had seen Nathan’s Heatmiser/Elliott Smith site; it had been up for over a year now (guess not -- I imagine its better that way). After our brief conversation he bumbled backstage to prepare for his show. I wondered how he would pull it off being so ‘tinged’ by the water and all - I guess though once a pro always a pro.
Let us just say that what came next was simply flawless, smooth as highly polished silver, no - platinum. Never had I seen someone so at ease and in check with his talents. Backed by Janet Weiss drummer for both Quasi and Sleater-Kinney and Janet’s x-boy/x-heatmiser bass player Sam Coomes, Elliott was pure folk pop - rock for the late 90’s. Elliott smiled in between verses of almost all his songs -- (never had I seen that before) radiating a message of unprecedented indie coolness (like a ya - ya - ya I know that you know - and this is where it’s at -- right here folks, but I am nothin’ you know..just glad your all here), I think everyone knew they were at the right show that night. When Elliott made his way through a rapturous ‘Alameda’ and into his eventaully into the infamous Beatles’ cover; ‘Something’ I as ready to hand over my pride. Elliott has definitely found a future folk-rock niche with Quasi backing. I just hope it can withstand the inevitable triumph of Sleater-Kinney going universal. Janet said Sleater was going to Europe for a tour so there goes his drummer for a while.
During many of the songs both Janet and offered backing vocals to compliment Elliott’s front man - ing emo-drama. The crowd seemed to be quite content with Elliott’s electric selection’s off ‘either/or’. “Pictures of Me” opened the electric set and in predictable indie fashion the camera’s and flashes started whirring. It’s funny how the photo-journal-folks in NYC still can’t seem to get it -- that they can be awfully annoying and potentially distracting -- especially when the song they’re cameras are intervening upon is all about the problem itself. Need I mention a Diana or a Cobain? (that’s most likely a stretch). In all actuality though the rise of the stardom aura, even in indie circles, is just another hurdle the Elliott Smith’s of the world will have to surpass and get comfee with. I think it’s a documented fact that when you are good at something and people recognize that talent -- the world finds the need for it to be documented. In essence, I think what goes on is the need for the small to prey upon the glowing coattails of the “big”. Perhaps I am a victim of that too...most likely not though. As an unaccomplished and downright tangentially superficial writer of music criticism I can only aspire toward the greatness of an Elliott Smith.
Let it be known that the unsatiable media monster will have their day with Elliott one way or another. Let us just hope that as he continues his steady climb to post indie success - that another Seattle tragedy does not occur -- I am most likely just being apocalyptic and delusional -- something that appeases the lack of stimulating experience in our march toward the millennium. Perhaps I am just a jaded negative, but I feel a necessity to worry as Elliott is amongst the greatest new talents our genre and generation has to offer the next.
mpriss17 September 8, 1997 (c) 1997 skylash media lab