there is no nighttime, only a passing phase

I discovered Elliott Smith in college, and for a while during my undergrad years, I listened to Elliott almost exclusively. I spent a lot of time in my campus apartment bedroom listening to music and avoiding my roommate; it was an overdramatic/melancholy time in my twenties that felt like it came too late. I’ve always felt that I age slower than others. I still feel that way today, as I have absolutely no desire to procreate despite my Facebook feed being full of persuasive arguments to do so. My first serious relationship was not until my early twenties. (High school was a wash and a forgettable time overall.) That is to say that my first serious breakup was also in my early twenties. Elliott Smith’s music was so perfect and so fitting for that time in my life, even though I only felt faux-depression and this was a guy with much more of a legitimate reason to exhibit the feelings in his music. I’m almost embarrassed to reflect back on my early twenties because of how long it took me to stop being a teenager.

That’s not to say that Elliott’s music is exclusively sad; he has plenty of happy songs and songs that examine a variety of subjects and emotions. But his voice was and is like nothing I’ve ever heard, and no matter how happy his subject matter or melodies, it sounds like all of his songs have this raincloud hanging over them. There’s certainly an unjust romanticism of mental illness in music and art criticism, but the way it comes through in his music really is nothing short of beautiful. Early on, I enjoyed more of his heavier produced material like XO and Figure 8, but it was his first posthumous album From a Basement on the Hill that helped me appreciate raw Elliott, and then my wife who encouraged me to give the self-titled album and Roman Candle more listens. And then there’s Elliott’s work in Heatmiser–which I’m tempted to describe as what it would sound like if John Lennon fronted Green Day, but somehow that sounds terrible, so I’m not sure, but it’s all just as brilliant as his solo work. In particular, Mic City Sons.

This live recording at LA’s Henry Fonda Theatre is one of his most shared live recordings and is my favorite for many reasons. First, there’s no band–it’s raw Elliott, with an occasional guest on percussion. It’s a set of over 20 songs, from his Heatmiser work, to Roman Candle, to Basement on the Hill. This rendition of “King’s Crossing” is possibly my favorite Elliott Smith recording. And this is also among his last live performances, in January of 2003. You can find this recording on a lot of places on the Internet, but I’m still proud to share it and I enjoyed reflecting back on what has made Elliott’s music so special to me.

Elliott Smith – Live at Henry Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – 1/31/03
Download ZIP Archive

1. King’s Crossing
2. Memory Lane
3. Happiness
4. No Confidence Man
5. A Passing Feeling
6. I Figured You Out
7. A Fond Farewell
8. Strung Out Again
9. Twilight
10. Coming Up Roses
11. A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity to be Free
12. Pretty (Ugly Before)
13. Plainclothes Man
14. Long, Long, Long
15. No Name #1
16. Division Day
17. I Don’t Think I’m Ever Gonna Figure It Out
18. I Better Be Quiet Now
19. Say Yes
20. Brand New Game
21. Shooting Star