october 22, 2003
So sad to hear about Elliott Smith today. Sad to think that no one will get to see him play again, as he had an amazing gift, and sad for all the friends he left behind; by all accounts he had a lot more to share than his music.
We had a few friends in common, and so Rachel and I met Elliott once a few years back, when he played a show here in DC with Quasi, right around when XO came out. There weren’t more than six people in the room backstage before the show - I think Rachel and I may have been the only two people there that weren’t his close friends and bandmates - and yet, regardless of the love and awe everyone there had for him, he was the quietest guy in the room, sharing beer from a pitcher in plastic cups and making some polite small talk. Who knows what he thought of the packed room waiting for him outside - our impression was that he seemed a little stunned by everything, and just a little too nice for the place.
Rachel had introduced me to Elliott’s music not too long before - she had been listening to him for years - and my first gift to her had been a ticket to one of his shows, so meeting him was a pretty big deal, but you got the impression that to make a big deal of it would have made him uncomfortable, so we simply acted like any friends of friends, told him how nice it was to meet him, and tried to make him feel at ease. We were lucky enough to get to watch the show from the side of the stage - it was his first tour with a backing band, and one of the most amazing things either of us had ever heard - and we hadn’t had a chance to compose ourselves when, at one point, he rushed off the stage to take a break between sets, and literally ran right into us. For a second, he was looking at us, and we at him - this suddenly sheepish guy who had just played his heart out; our mouths probably still hanging open in amazement - and then we managed to give him a smile and tell him that he had been great. And then the moment was over: he seemed to take notice once again of the crowd cheering over his shoulder, gave a small, polite nod of thanks, and disappeared backstage.