Jon Brion and Elliott Smith Will Make You Cry

by Matt De Mello


When I worked at an unassuming chain restaurant in the early aughts I had a few friends that were musicians. Every waiter wants to be an actor or a musician is the assumption and really it isn’t far from the truth. I wanted to be neither, but I did/do have a strong affinity for music. These friends were big fans of an artist named Jon Brion, someone I had never heard of. He played at a little club in Hollywood every week called Largo and oftentimes would have famous guests come unannounced to either watch or perform with him onstage. 

It wasn’t a cheap show, but every Friday there Brion was, like clockwork, performing for the pre-hipster masses. I went once with them and it was magical. Fiona Apple played and I was astounded by how serene a setting it turned out to be. Music, in certain instances, can be one of the most beautiful settings for serenity. 

Speaking of serenity I wasn’t always a fan of Elliott Smith’s. I found his music to be beautifully heartbreaking. It made me sad and it was just hard to listen to for a kid that had self-esteem problems and wanted to be as happy as possible. I was going through a punk rock phase anyway and couldn’t really allow myself to not be angry. Then he died and I remember the girl that lived across the street from me in Huntington Beach was beside herself in tears. It was one of the saddest days in my musical existence, not for what I’d personally lost, but for what we lost as a community. 

The other day this was discovered by producer Al Rosen while he “was digging up the floorboards”. It’s an episode of the Jon Brion Show with Elliott Smith. It’s wonderful, heartbreaking, funny and sad. The legacy of Smith is still felt deeply today by those that loved him and is commemorated well in this nine song episode. It’s 43 minutes so it’ll take a good chunk of time to watch the whole thing, but believe me it’s well worth it. Here’s the playlist:

1. Son of Sam
2. Independence Day (also accompanied by jazz pianist Brad Mehldau)
3. Bottle Up And Explode (also accompanied by percussionist Dan McCarroll)
4. Everything Means Nothing to Me 
5. Waterloo Sunset (a cover of a song by The Kinks)
6. Jealous Guy (a cover of a song by John Lennon)
7. Trouble (Jon Brion performs his own song, and Elliott Smith accompanies him on guitar)
8. Nightime (a cover of a song by Big Star)
9. Happiness


2 thoughts on “Jon Brion and Elliott Smith Will Make You Cry

  1. Would have loved to see one of those shows. Jon Brion seems like such a champion of the understated, carefully composed music that ES was known for. This pilot is such a gem. Glad to hear he has gone on to success with film scores. Infinitely sad, too. We’ve lost such a tremendous talent.

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