Elliott Smith never turned down an invitation to play a benefit show.
About a year before his death in 2003, Smith was the main attraction at a fund-raiser at the Echo in Los Angeles to help pay for the medical bills of the club’s booker, Jennifer Tefft. Smith’s sister Ashley Welch attended the concert with her older brother and witnessed firsthand the singer/songwriter’s generous nature.
“He actually stopped at the door and paid for himself and me to get in,” Welch recalls, noting that Smith was in the process of setting up a nonprofit for abused children at the time of his death. “They were like, ‘No, come on, you’re playing the benefit, you’re not paying to be here.’ But he insisted on paying. That stuck with me.”
To celebrate what would’ve been Smith’s 44th birthday on Aug. 6, Welch and musician David Garza have organized benefit shows that week at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Ore. (Aug. 4), Largo in Los Angeles (Aug. 6), Scottish Rite Theater in Austin (Aug. 9) and Bowery Ballroom in New York (Aug. 10). Proceeds from the events will benefit local charities Outside In, Free Arts for Abused Children, SIMS Foundation and New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth, respectively.
The concert series, dubbed No Name #1: A Celebration of the Life and Music of Elliott Smith, will feature a variety of Smith’s closest friends and collaborators, including director Gus Van Sant, Jon Brion, Rhett Miller, Chris Thile and members of Grandaddy. The shows will primarily feature performances of Smith’s music, cover songs he often performed in concert and friends sharing fond memories of him. Welch says she’s also working with photographer Autumn de Wilde for a possible slideshow of never-before-seen Smith photos.
“It’s going to be a night for fans to get together and remember Elliott and celebrate his life and music,” she says, adding that Largo owner Mark Flanagan played a significant role in organizing the benefits. “It’s meant to be a happy, celebratory event.”