Posterized: Elliott Smith / Steamboat / Austin, Texas

posterized n  - 1. North American slang derived from an action in the game of basketball in which the offensive player “dunks” over a defending player in a play that is spectacular enough to warrant reproduction in a printed poster  2. to be humbled, shamed, and exposed as an inferior athlete   3. a blog series on BDWPS.com that revisits various concert posters collected over the past ten years by contributor Android50

To be posterized is to be remembered – whether it be Tracey McGrady over the towering Shawn Bradley, Malik Rose humbling the finger wagging Dikembe Mutumbo, or Vince Carter shaming every unsuspecting European that got in his way during the 2000 Olympics.  The concept of being posterized began with the Airness himself, Michael Jordan, victimizing NBA rosters throughout the late 80s and early 90s. Guys like Patrick Ewing, Kevin McHale, and Hakeem Olajuwon will forever be immortalized thanks to their inclusion on iconic Jordan posters that adorned the bedrooms of every warm-blooded teenage boy between 1986 and 1993.   My childhood bedroom would be one of these many Meccas to Jordan thanks to my older brother who shared a room with me. I tried countering my brother’s yearning to be “Like Mike” with as many David Robinson posters as I could find in Northwest Iowa (as difficult as you would imagine).   I eventually held a dominate Admiral grasp on the room once my brother and his Jordan posters went off to college.

I still have some of those old tattered posters stashed away, I suppose for sentimental value.  When I dig them out of storage and look at them with all their rips from my nightly Nerf basketball games, my adolescent feelings of joy, insecurity, and confusion rise to the surface.  Which leads me to a question I’ve been pondering as of late: am I a hoarder? Not only do I still have posters from my childhood, but I continue accumulating posters from concerts I’ve attended.  Like my old bedroom, my living room is lined with posters collected over the past 10 years – some exquisite works of art and others crumpled up Xerox papers scribbled on with a Sharpie.

Mind you, there are two more walls in this room.

I don’t keep these posters for monetary value, and even if they were worth money, I can’t imagine parting with most of them.  I keep them for the same reason I’ve kept the David Robinson posters all these years – the memories.

Chin-Nuts.

In the same way David Robinson posterized Gerald Wilkens, forever enshrined in that embarrassing moment, those concert posters commemorate shows I’ve been to and the experiences I’ve had, both good and bad. I know that I don’t necessarily need the posters with the memories already gathering dust in my brain, but the sight of each of these beauties always helps shake the cobwebs within my head.

I never intended to collect concert posters; it just kind of happened. It all started with my first poster for an Elliott Smith concert in Austin on May 3rd, 2003. The show was billed as a tribute to the recently deceased musician and middle school History teacher Glynn Allen Owens. It took place at the legendary venue The Steamboat. It had been a few years since his last release “Figure 8,” and there were rumors of a new album in the works. As you can imagine, my friends and I were teeming with anticipation for new material. I’d been listening to Elliott Smith since college, owned all of his albums (even his work with Heatmeiser), yet I’d never seen him perform live.  This show was a big deal.

The magic began the instant we walked through the door. Next to the merchandise table stood a short, frail little man with greasy hair swiped to one side. He resembled Elliott Smith – he was Elliot Smith – an Oscar nominated genius hanging out by a merch table at a little venue in Austin. It was all so surreal. I walked past him with my head down, avoiding eye contact with the man who had spoken directly to my soul all these years. Everyone knows that you don’t look into the eyes of God, and I didn’t want to tempt fate.

The bar area led into a giant room where the stage was located. It was a strange venue indeed. It had several levels, much like risers, but there were no seats.  I’m guessing at some point there had been seating, or that maybe for a big show like this they’d cleared them all out. The problem was that without seats, the audience claimed seating space on the floor like it was the land rush of 1889.  We ended up finding ourselves in an awkward corner on one of the upper risers.

Several opening bands and artists played, but I don’t remember much of it.  One band that I recall enjoying was The Jetsuns out of Austin, but I’m guessing nothing much ever came of them since I never heard or saw of them again (a quick Google search says they broke up in 2007).

This is about the only thing I could find of the band other than a ghost town MySpace page:

After a couple hours of openers, the room was bubbling over with hipsters. Despite staking our claim on the corner, by the time Elliott came out we had been sequestered to a space not fit for a veal calf.  Elliott sheepishly came onto the stage to uproarious applause.  It was obvious from the start that it’d been a while since he had performed. Some songs he’d forget lyrics, others he’d stop completely and announce to the crowd that he’d forgotten how it went.  But each time, the crowd laughed and nodded like you would do to a child performing a play in their grandmother’s jewelry.  You just wanted to go up on stage and give the guy a big hug.  It was Elliot Smith in all his splendor: tender, troubled, and pure. Each miscue only furthered our adoration of this man and his music that was just as flawed and unadulterated as his performance.

Here are the first two songs from that night (you can skip the first 30 seconds of crowd chatter):

On the way out of the show, one of my friends said he wanted to get a poster at the merch booth, and still reeling from the energy of the show, I decided to make the impulse purchase myself.  Weeks later, with the poster still sitting on my coffee table, I decided to get my $10 bucks worth and threw it up on my barren bedroom wall.

Five months later, Elliott Smith was found dead in his home with what looked to be two self-induced stab wounds in his chest (the case is still opened to the possibility of homicide).  After the show I’d seen in early May, Elliott would only play one more show months later in New York.  I remember the day of his death as vividly as I remember that concert.  The pain and suffering that drew us to Elliott’s music was the same agony that led to his demise. If only his listeners could have consoled him through his hard times like he’d done for them.

After Elliott’s death, there was no turning back on my concert poster collecting.  That night it had been just another souvenir, but now, it has become part of the legend – the night I saw Elliott Smith.  From that point forward at shows, if I spotted an errant poster on a wall or saw that the band was selling $20 prints at the merch booth, I was all in. I’ve bought/stolen some pretty lame posters over the years, and my only explanation can be that I want to rekindle that posterized experience I have each time I look at the first edition to my collection.

I’ll admit it – my attachment to my posters probably has some psychological connection, putting emotional value in items and stockpiling them in my apartment. So yes, I guess I have a pack-rat issue, and I’m fine with it. One of these days you might just see me on “Hoarders,” nestled behind piles of concert posters, CDs, and records, hugging my Elliott Smith poster while rats nibble on my toes, and smiling as “Memory Lane” plays on a stereo buried beneath a pile of used adult diapers.


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4 Comments

Filed under Posterized

4 responses to “Posterized: Elliott Smith / Steamboat / Austin, Texas

  1. Nick Hoyer

    Still have mine in a tube. Waiting for that day when I open my “home bar”. What a great night tho. The recording that I got of that show still plays regularly. I finally read “elliott smith and the big nothing” and and it just made me want to do an Elliott smith tour of the US, to his past haunts. Good stuff.

  2. Wonderful post. It makes me regret passing up on concert posters for years. What a great way to remember/relate to your musical heroes.

  3. Ricky

    I just bought this exact poster in mint condition on eBay for a $50 offer (guy wanted $75). It has a small signature in the bottom right hand corner. I bought it from a pretty reputable place out of Boulder, CO that specializes in concert posters. I already have it framed up. I have a couple other posters including 1 of E.S. in LA and another one from a show in Kentucky.

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