By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The results are now there, for all to see, to hear and to marvel at. Fleischmann’s dream of an audible bass section has now come true. “It’s the first thing you notice, brilliant, warm and sweet,” he reports, “and it goes right to your gut.”
At last week’s inaugural concert, Disney Hall’s immediate perpetrators — architect Frank Gehry, acoustic wizard Yasuhisa Toyota and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen — received their deserved audience acclaim from center stage. In front, over to the left but still in the spotlight, stood Ernest Fleischmann, beaming, fulfilled, deliriously happy.A Lot of Night Music: Alan Rich reviews the first two performances at Disney Hall.
Misery seeks company.
(Photos by Tom Christie)
Elliott Smith, 34, critically lauded and much-loved singer-songwriter, was discovered at his home in Echo Park Tuesday morning of last week with a single stab wound to the chest. He was rushed to USC Medical Center, where efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.
Born Steven Paul Smith on August 6, 1969, in Omaha, Nebraska, Smith grew up near Dallas, where he showed a talent for playing a variety of instruments and a knack for songwriting at an early age. Relocating to Portland after earning a degree in political science and philosophy from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, he formed the band Heatmiser, and began his solo career in 1994 with the release of Roman Candle, a collection of introspective ballads and haunting instrumental work on local label Cavity Search. Switching to the Olympia-based Kill Rock Stars label the following year, Smith earned mounting acclaim for his self-titled second release, and in 1997 achieved something of a mainstream breakthrough with Either/Or, a work whose spellbinding melodies caught the attention of filmmaker Gus Van Sant, who featured several of the album’s songs — along with the Oscar-nominated “Miss Misery” — on his Good Will Hunting soundtrack.
After a brief time in New York, Smith relocated to Los Angeles and made the leap to major label DreamWorks for his next two releases, 1998’s XO and 2000’s Figure 8 — both of which won well-deserved critical accolades and moderate commercial success. But around the time of his disastrous appearance at the 2001 Sunset Junction Street Fair, it became apparent that he was losing his battle with the alcoholism, depression and heroin addiction he had chronicled so candidly in compositions like “Needle in the Hay.” At the time of his death, Smith had been working on a double album, tentatively titled From a Basement on the Hill, with local producer Fritz Michaud.
I knew Elliott. But I don’t pretend that I knew Elliott. I met him about a year ago, at the beginning of what appeared for him to be a slow rebirth following years of self-destructive behavior. He was a strange guy, acutely sensitive, but totally sweet. He didn’t say much, but when he did, you held your breath in anticipation of his thoughts, always profound and often witty. He was unflinchingly honest. His brain seemed to operate like a computer designed to accept only truth and produce only beauty. He recognized falsehood instantly, but he rejected it awkwardly, as if it threatened to crash his system. He seemed utterly unaware of his own genius and processed every compliment with total humility.
Like his idols, Lennon and McCartney, Elliott wrote melodies so perfect, so natural, they seemed to creep into the marrow of your bones and permanently etch themselves onto your DNA. As soon as he completed a song, it just rang out as though it had existed forever.
His music was so enrapturing it seemed to infect your ear at the cellular level and metastasize throughout your body, affecting heart and mind in equal measure. And his lyrics were the product of great intellect and limitless imagination. If Elliott never sang a note, he would still have been in the running for poet laureate of his generation. Like Dylan, his words always painted a complete portrait, not simply tailored to his lush melodies but interwoven with them as if they’d been born conjoined twins. Sometimes nakedly confessional, sometimes steeped in metaphor, Elliott’s songs were never works of fiction. Though he exploited artistic license to great effect, it was obvious he knew exactly what he was talking about. His fragile singing embodied those lyrics with a conviction so real it was almost frightening. His voice haunted your speakers, leaving the air around them thick with the unfiltered essence of pure soul.
(Photo by Ted Soqui)
“Mr. Misery,” they called him, and he despised the simplistic tag, but there was some truth to it. As all things in the universe have a resonating frequency, so did Elliott. As a man he was capable of experiencing the full gamut of emotions, including great joy, but as a songwriter Elliott was a sounding board for sorrow and pain. Not that he burdened you with his problems. He confided in you his most personal thoughts, with a sublime generosity. You could commiserate with Elliott. He understood you. If you needed a soul mate when you were upset, he was there for you.