Monday, November 10, 2003

echoes of elliott

singer-songwriter elliott smith killed himself a while back. maybe on october 21? he stabbed himself in the chest -- in the heart, we poetically say. for elliott smith deserved a poetic death, at least some would say so, and i suppose i would be among them, but more for poetry's sake. his reputation was as ... richard cromelin said a bummed-out bard, which is as good a description as any (and better than most). i didn't care for his work too much myself, but i reviewed him three times, and each time he ended up winning me over, or at least i could feel his charisma, what other people found so winning.

anyway. so elliott smith got a lot of ink for killing himself. he was almost finished, allegedly, with a new album. there was a tribute concert at the henry fonda theater last monday, and another one last night at the second/closing day of all tomorrow's parties. i didn't see either one. but his name was in the air for a while, which was just sort of ethereally weird. like, i'd be talking about elliott smith in an interview with matt groening, who curated all tomorrow's parties. editing steve's review of the tribute. talking about him with sara scribner before stew played at largo last week. which reminded me of seeing elliott at the echo with daniel lanois on the bill. the show was so packed. i do remember wondering when it was going to end, that time. oh well. sorry, elliott.


ATP was the second american installment of the u.k.-originating music festival (named after a velvet underground song, for you squares in the audience). among the bands was one called !!! -- really. there's some way of pronouncing it, which i can't remember. i didn't see them, but the name reminded me of that part in "the commitments" where the guy wants to call the band "And! And! And!"

what i did see at the festival, along with a lot of boring esoteric stuff and a few kind of interesting things, was a set by iggy & the stooges, baby! now THAT was a rock show. i mean ... iggy pop. words fail. he's 56, and you can't exactly say he's pretty. but he was riveting doing his explosive punk dervish dance along the edge -- shirtless and wearing jeans just welded to the lowest possible point on his hips -- and singing like these nigh-on-30-year-old punk songs were written yesterday. ron asheton -- pudgy, bespectacled, grey; potentially someone's chemistry professor (but not) -- just WAILING on that gee-tar through a set of mostly classics, and a few new tunes whose relative mediocrity was redeemed by iggy's baptism of fire. he dove into the audience, got hauled out by his handlers, and waded straight back into the fray. (never once hitching up his trousers nor losing their grip -- how did he DO that??) he yelped and howled and seemed willing to devour every last one of us, but also radiated raw fuckin' joy ... as the crowd did back to him. it was bliss. and i had a bitchin' view from the sound board, so yay.

good thing that was so great, however, as the rest of the 8 hours spent at the fest was mainly a lot of walking around. and obscure acts, a lot of avant-garde tedium. ok, there were l.a.- and cali-based acts, but it all felt too new york for me. if that's the way they want it, they should just fucking hold it in nyc instead of subjecting angelenos to their ny-centric yawnfests ... even the publicist they hired was new york-based, which is just stupid.

ok, it WAS curated by a local artist, matt groening of "the simpsons" fame. (read my interview with him in this week's issue of l.a. citybeat.) huh. don't quit your day job, dude. i mean, the handful of times i've met/talked to him, matt has been really cool. they asked him to curate, he likes what he likes, a lot of it was good. but ... this thing could have been fresher. not a drop of hip-hop and precious little color of any sort. no dance music. i mean ... all "tomorrow's" parties? more like all yesterday's parties. whatever. there was definitely a mix of ages, and some people felt they got their money's worth just by seeing james chance and the contortions, so ... that's a success story, i guess.

in truth, the stooges set, which closed sunday, erased almost all of the annoying parts. iggy pop = rock star. the guy was fuckin' blazing. with the ashetons on guitar and drums, and mike watt playing bass, and steve mckay honkin' sax. woo! we had prime positioning in the sound-board area, and i stood on the platform so i could see over all the heads. (fluffy 'fro-like white-boy hair is soooo back. it's funny.) i mean, he still sooo means it, maaan. the songs just sounded so great. people who saw them at coachella last spring said it was much tighter now. of course they did mostly old stuff, but man that stuff came roaring out of the speakers like it was still alive: "1969," "i wanna be your dog," "tv eye," "1970." iggy dedicated an incredibly soulful and smoldering take on "dirt" to elliott smith, neatly bringing us full-circle. was it a sardonic comment? i suppose, but something about the song, the performance, and elliott smith fit together quite neatly.

iggy was in-your-face every fuckin' second of the hour. yet jubilant. a shaman fully in possession of his powers. fuck mick jagger and fuck steven tyler. they ain't shit. and the pretenders in my pathetic generation? give up now.

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