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All Tomorrow's Parties - A Tribute To Elliott Smith

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All Tomorrow's Parties - A Tribute To Elliott Smith

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Sam Hunt: Where Saturday night’s show featured the counter-intuitive appearance of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band minus the captain himself, this show, while eerily similar in nature, came under considerably different circumstances. This was the only gig that Elliott Smith had scheduled at the time of his death three weeks prior. A musical tribute to his memory, not the first, featured his entire band (with whom he had been rehearsing for this very show), and Elliott Smith friend and neighbor Lou Barlow (Sebadoh/Dinosaur/Folk Implosion) filling in on vocals. The mood was disturbingly horrifying and refreshingly non-exploitative as bass player Robin Peringer took the stage and with a shaking hand addressed the crowd with a gut-wrenching: “Elliott was my best friend, and I feel nauseous just being here.” The band, all of whom were visibly uncomfortable, didn’t miss a beat or a note. Barlow’s vocals approximated Smith’s quite well, but never to the point of awkwardness or imitation. His indifferent crumpling of lyric sheets and tendency to duck or hide while not singing sometimes resulted in the opposite of its intended effect, drawing more attention to himself, but in general Barlow laid respectfully low, serving only his purpose and little more. Barlow led the band through a “greatest hits” set of sorts, playing songs from every Elliott Smith album but Roman Candle. It was clearly not a time for noodling or irregular deviation from rehearsal, and Barlow did well to adhere to this, only making alterations to fit his slightly more limited vocal range (most apparent during the chorus of “Needle in the Hay.”

Barlow welcomed members of “Elliott’s favorite band” the Minders, who played a slightly less tense two-song set with the rest of the Smith band. A cluster of eight of Smith’s friends and family then took the stage for a thoroughly touching and heartbreaking rendition of “Happiness” from Smith’s final album, Figure 8. Joining in on the chorus of “All I want now is happiness for you and me,” the sometimes tearful ensemble was a powerful personification of Smith’s memory, both as a musician and as a person. It is difficult to imagine a memorial more structurally intimate and sincerely sad as the one held at ATP.

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