I'm sad to admit this, Portland, but I did not realize until Sunday morning that it was the four-year anniversary of Elliott Smith's passing. No one had mentioned it to me but Spokane, Wash., my car's likely-possessed CD player and a Smith fan's MySpace page—not a peep out of you, Portland, not a peep.
Portland, did I somehow miss the Elliott Smith tribute show this week? Maybe it surprises you that I'm asking this question. Maybe you are thinking, "Why should there be a tribute show? Any special reason?" Maybe a great show did
happen, where Portland musicians sang songs off Roman Candle
and remembered the man who wrote his best songs in (and about) our city—and I just didn't know it was going on. Maybe, Portland, you didn't know about it, either. Hopefully, we were all just oblivious to an event that actually happened.
I started wondering about this a week ago, when I learned that Spokane was having a tribute show and I couldn't quite figure out why. This turned out to be a highly coincidental discovery, Portland, as on Saturday morning the CD player in my car broke, making it impossible for me to eject the most recent CD I'd put in. It was Smith's Either/Or
, and I listened to it four times before I had to turn off my stereo. Later that day, I did some googling, and I learned that Walla Walla, Wash., was also holding a tribute show. I was informed of this by a comment on a MySpace page devoted to Smith's memory:
Oct 12, 2007 11:27 AM
Subject: elliott smith tribute/ benefit show!!
Body: Oct 10, 2007 4:20 PM
Subject: Elliott Smith 3rd annual tribute show
Body: Hey there friends! I'm doing an Elliott Smith tribute nite in Walla Walla.
When? October 20th 8:pm till late.
Where? Grapefields 4 E. main st. Walla Walla, Wa
What? Elliott Smith tribute show with all proceeds going to the outside/in foundation in Portland Oregon.
Are you surprised that you forgot all about Oct. 21, too? I'm being presumptuous, Portland; I apologize. Maybe you didn't forget. It's possible that you remembered, even felt a little sad about it, but you probably didn't talk about it with anyone. You probably just thought of Sunday as one more day, marking more one more year since Smith died. And I know, Portland, that you've done so much to keep his memory alive, from helping to release two posthumous albums (From A Basement on A Hill
and New Moon
) and installing a plaque at Smith's high school, Lincoln High. I realize that LocalCut and Willamette Week
have written many things about his memory—the most recent being just five months ago.
But I think, Portland, we should all feel a little bit little guilty that Walla Walla and Spokane brought musicians together to pay their respects but we—the city where Smith cut his musical teeth—just let the day go by. It's a big month for Smith's memory, too: Just last week, pitchfork.com reported that Smith's former live-in girlfriend, Jennifer Chiba, lost a court case that would have given her 15% of Smith's earnings as his "manager." Later this month, a photo book compiled by Autumn De Wilde will be released through Chronicle Books. And we've let it pass without much reaction.
I'd like to feel, Portland, that Smith is so much a part of us—sneaking his influence into our songwriters, his rarely-smiling face still pictured driving up and down SE Division Street—that we don't need a tribute to remember him. But as sad as I am that Smith is gone, I'm a little more heartbroken that it feels like this city is slowly letting him go.
Pitchfork story about Chiba
Pre-order the new photo book at Powell's
One of many "Elliott Smith" MySpace pages