“I loved Elliott Smith. He was difficult, and he was depressive, but he was also hilarious, according to people who knew him, and you can see/hear it in interviews. I met him on my birthday, February 20, 2000, in Washington DC, after a gig at the Black Cat. It was an intimate show, a very warm crowd. He was straight, and nervous. He made lots of jokey comments and asides, and interacted with us.
Afterward, he just sort of hovered, shuffled from foot to foot, and looked awkward. I went up to the stage, which was pretty low anyway, to see how he was doing. He sat down on the side of the stage.
I’d loved him from the time I saw him on the Oscars – homely, pock-marked, wearing a funny rumpled suit, singing Miss Misery– I couldn’t even believe I was seeing this on the star-studded awards show, this completely unpretentious guy, seemingly befuddled by the blue lights and Hollywood, and became a fan.
So back in DC. My apartment was close to the club and had a roofdeck, gardens, trees, pool, heatlamps for winter, and sometimes I had people from bands join my friends and me there, especially performers who were clean/sober (like me), since after-hour options often are either lame or pretty seamy. I knew I would be too shy to ask him over (not in “that” way, but to hang), but wanted to say hi and how much I enjoyed the show, and appreciated him playing Independence Day (you can hear me call it out at the 30-second mark on track 9 before he started playing St Ides Heaven ).
No one else was approaching him at first, so we just chatted. I told him hearing him perform on my birthday was a huge treat – especially Independence Day. He said “Awww, I kinda fucked it up. I haven’t played it in a while. All those bar chords.” I said it was gorgeous. He honestly said “You think so?” I said, “Yeah. I could tell you were hesitating a couple of times but you didn’t falter – it sounded great to us, however it sounded to you.” “Wow…yeah…thanks for saying that. I always think I suck.” I told him I was sober and heard he was clean right then. He said “Yeah…it’s weird,” or something like that. And right then it was like some magic words had been uttered and every creep, cretin, and low-life started descending on him, offering him smack! Like holding out little “packages.” He was so passive, like “Oh…ummmm, hey thanks, but uh…naw, umm…” I was furious! “Fuck off.” “What are you doing?!” “He’s clean!” And swatted them away like mosquitoes. “Whoa!!” I said to him. “Yeah,” he said, grinning, “occupational hazard, I guess.” He was so passive. Seemed like he would have accepted the gifts because turning them down would be too much effort and “mean.” We talked a little while more. Don’t remember what else was said, but he was funny and reminded me of many of my favorite people. As my friends and I were leaving, Elliott had gotten up from the side of the stage, and was hovering again, and some creepy sidewinder called him over and I saw Elliott take a little packet from him.”