People have been saying, ‘Yeah, man, it sucks

©Rebecca Gates

“People have been saying, ‘Yeah, man, it sucks, but I guess we all saw it coming’. And I’m like, ‘Fuck you!’ How is it ever inevitable that someone’s gonna stab himself in the fucking heart? He’s not another sad junkie that someone found three weeks later in his apartment. It was an incredible shock.”

Ted Leo

Almost ten years ago, my old band, Chisel

“Almost ten years ago, my old band, Chisel, was on our first full US tour. Nothing west of Chicago was particularly well attended, but that never really gets me down — I try to keep hopes up but expectations low. Anyway, what was getting me down, was a certain lack of respect I was often feeling from people in a lot of places, which reached a real boiling point in Portland, Or., at a place called the “O,” where we were being treated less than kindly by the promoter. It was summer, and very very hot inside the club. We attracted about 20 people that night, and played a pretty ripping set, if I remember correctly, during which I asked the promoter if I could have one of the 7-Ups he was selling for a quarter each from a cooler at the back of the room. He said, “For a quarter!” I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. I sputtered through the sweat dripping down my face and across my mouth, “Well… Can’t I pay you after we’re done playing? Can’t you take it out of our pay?” He just stared at me, then made some quip about, “What pay?” Which, since we’d only drawn 20 people, was a legitimate question, granted, but I was kind of dumbfounded — I couldn’t believe that he was going to not only NOT offer me a soda for busting my ass on stage, but was going to embarrass me in this way in front of an audience that was actually there to see us as well. I had a serious existential crisis at that moment. What the fuck am I doing here? Why am I giving it up in this way every night? Why are people so petty in their power struggles? Is this all there is? Just then, a person stepped out from the 20 person crowd, put a quarter in the promoter’s hand, and walked the soda up to me on stage.
It’s largely due to that small gesture that I’m still playing music today, and in years to come, I got to know that person better, and count him as a friend. That person was Eliott Smith. And though I know he’s now free from the very real demons that were gnawing at him… Man, I think I’m going to miss him very very much. My love to his other friends and family, and my love to you all. Spare a thought for Eliott today.”

Ted Leo