Tonight’s sold-out Elliott Smith tribute concert at Glasslands in Brooklyn will find Cat Power, Zachary Cole Smith & Sky Ferreira, Yoni Wolf of Why?, and others paying tribute to the fallen singer-songwriter on the 10th anniversary of his death. The bill also features some Massachusetts voices, including Marissa Nadler and Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis, in addition to Providence’s the Low Anthem. But the New England ties don’t stop with the performing artists; the show’s organizer, Jen Brown of Believe Digital and new media outlet the Bomber Jacket, booked her first tribute show to Smith at Boston University five years ago through WTBU and BU Central.
Tonight’s event is on a much larger scale, even scoring a New York Times endorsement this morning, and last night Brown detailed her desire to pay tribute to Smith via thebomberjacket.com. She agreed to allow us to re-post it below; it captures the essence and spirit Smith’s music has retained even a decade after his death, and her own story is one familiar to many fans.
My name is Jen. I work at Believe Digital in NYC and on the side I run thebomberjacket.com.
^That is how I started many emails a couple months ago when I decided to commit to organizing this Elliott Smith tribute show here in New York.
I am writing this now because two nights ago, while speaking to my mother over the phone, I realized I could either share this passion with people, and explain why this show is such a big deal (beyond cyber hype/Facebook shares), or leave the details in the dark and keep the passion inside. This show isn’t about me, at all, but I DO want to use an opportunity like this to share things that are important in order to 1.) Get Elliott Smith’s music “out there” to new ears, 2.) Increase our donations to charity, and 3.) Help people, specifically youth, who deal with mental and emotional struggles.
Elliott Smith’s music became important to me when I was in high school, dealing with some family issues, and a friend of mine gave me a mix tape with Elliott’s music. Until that point, I had really only listened to top-40 hits and mainstream music that didn’t really stick with me. After hearing some of Elliott’s songs, I wanted to explore further and see what he was about–see how he was able to articulate his thoughts so carefully and capture emotions so fluidly. He and his music intrigued me because I didn’t really talk about what I was dealing with emotionally/mentally at the time, in my teens. Hearing someone else be so honest and open about feelings and thoughts helped me feel like less of an alien. It also opened me up to other, similar music that pushed boundaries and brought people closer together. It ALSO inspired me to learn guitar and write music of my own.
The influence was significant. With time, it took different forms, as I experienced various situations in life and faced some things I hardly expected. It was like I had an Elliott Smith song for each unique, challenging circumstance I encountered as I was growing older. There are some very vivid memories attached with some of the songs.
The fact that MUSIC got me through some situations where I could hardly find light initially meant the world to me, and it still does. This effect that music has on people–the fact that music can heal people–is why I wanted to work in the music industry.
When acknowledging the extent of this professional impact and then also the extent of Elliott’s personal impact on others like myself, it was hard for me to not want to do a show of this kind. When I weighed my options, Hmmm, should I do a CMJ show for THE BOMBER JACKET, or an Elliott Smith tribute?, the latter idea sounded so much more fulfilling and selfless. When you’re committed to something in the world that is so much bigger than yourself and your comfort zone, you’re putting yourself in an opportunity to grow and inspire others, and you’re even allowing a chance for change. I love that, and I don’t take that for granted.
SO I decided to book this show. It seemed like a good idea and I wasn’t scared by the work because I’d done a similar event before and I sort of remembered how to tackle each part of things. A tribute show builds itself in a way that a typical concert does not, and there’s never really a limit on how big and wonderful things can go…there’s always more money to raise, more people to include, higher goals to set. In my opinion, you just have to “choose” to go forward with things and then also “choose” to go big or go home. You can’t host a wimpy tribute show. People don’t do that.
I decided to go big, not go home. I sent hundreds of emails out to friends, co-workers, and acquaintances in the industry. I was pushing hard and fast because time wasn’t on my side (I started the planning a little late due to my personal schedule, not smart). I made some mistakes along the way, but overall the amount of support and the response was so beautiful.
I’m incredibly touched by the response this show has received.
Your support (whether you’re my friend, family member, co-worker, or whether we don’t know each other at all), means a lot because you are supporting something that is creating positive change in the world (you can read about the ES Memorial fund and the charities at the link below). Elliott’s music has helped so many people, and to acknowledge it fully means that we are also helping others in the world–that we are looking beyond ourselves.
If you haven’t donated to the fundraiser yet, please consider doing so. Here is the link:
We still have a brilliant Ben Folds hand-made print available, along with some other gifts…your generosity will not go unnoticed; it is a part of a bigger effort to improve the world around us and honor a person whose life and work changed people’s lives.