Merry christmas from Mary Lou Lord: she just uploaded the full 45-minute video file -- complete with classic Billy Ruane intro -- of a legendary Cambridge gig by ELLIOTT SMITH. (It was #14 on our list of the 40 Greatest Boston Concerts of All Time.) This one comes from January 8, 1998 -- about a month after the theatrical release of Boston's national anthem, Good Will Hunting, introduced the world to "Miss Misery," but still two months before he played it at the Oscars. Smith was already indie royalty, so the fact that he was playing the Green Street Grill -- yes, the same closet-sized spaced dinner room you'll find if you wander over to Central Square today -- was extraordinary.
The bill that night also included Western-Mass folkie Steve Westfield, Come's Chris Brokaw, and the headliner, Smith's pal LOU BARLOW. Barlow was arguably more famous at the time, having had a left-field hit with Folk Implosion's "Natural One" -- and the gig at Green Street was actually his going-away party. (Barlow actually brought and gave away to the audience a bunch of stuff he couldn't take with him, including, I recall, a DVD player and several boxes of CDs.)
The room could comfortably seat perhaps 40 people and it felt like about 300 were crammed in -- it was solid bodies from the downstairs bar all the way up to the small clearing upstairs where Billy shouted at everyone to sit the fuck down. (For which I, for one, was thankful: my wife and I were crammed in about four feet from what passed for the stage.)
Smith went on before 10, and played the best set I ever saw him perform: shortly after this, he more or less stopped playing "Miss Misery," and I don't think many of us expected him to play it when he dragged it out for his final song. Thank god Billy Ruane recorded all this stuff; and thanks to Mary Lou for curating. The audio cuts out briefly at a couple of points but is otherwise fantastic: you can download the mp3s below.