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This Is The State Of The Elliott Smith Wall Today

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I guess it’s about time I say something about Elliott Smith’s memorial wall. Back in August 2016, I had a little chat with Wade McElroy, one of the owners of Downtown’s Horse Thief BBQ, who is opening bar ‘Angeles’ at 4330 Sunset boulevard. This is of course the address of the famous black-and-red-striped wall which is on Elliott Smith’s ‘Figure 8’ album cover, and the mural has been a shrine for the singer songwriter’s fans for over a decade.

At the time, Wade was very reassuring, ‘We are Elliot Smith fans too btw,’ he wrote to me. ‘We chose the name of the place after the song ‘Angeles’. Many fans told me that the ‘Elliot’ spelling (with one t) was already a bad sign, but Wade was so friendly that I didn’t pay attention to this. After all, many people misspell his name, no big deal. ‘And fyi our plan is to leave the wall mostly intact, especially the part that appears on the cover of Figure 8,’ he also wrote ‘We think most of the fans will be pleased. They’ll also now have a place to grab a beer!’

I was reassured, and I may have been a bit too naïve, but when people tell you they are going to leave the wall ‘mostly intact’, what else are you going to believe? … These days, the wall doesn’t look mostly intact, this is the least I can say. A large chunk of it has been removed and there is now a large window made of glass bricks on the left,… the iconic black and red swirl has been cut off. Sure, the portion featured on the album, the right part of the wall, is still there, but I was always under the impression Wade was talking about the whole mural when he said ‘leave the wall mostly intact’.

At the end of last year, rumors started to show up on different blogs, they were reporting everywhere the owners would finally open the wall. I contacted Wade again in November, and he reiterated what he had said before with more details: ‘Yes as I definitely mentioned during our previous conversation we are replacing the old door and putting in some windows/storefront on the east side of the mural.’ For me, ‘on the east side of the mural’ did mean the mural itself was safe, since the mural is parallel to Sunset boulevard and more or less facing north-east. By ‘on the east side of the mural’, I thought he meant the wall of the building facing east… it turned out he was talking about one half of the mural, but you have to admit it was misleading. Did he voluntary mislead me knowing I was a fan? Did he want to reassure fans and avoid some backlash?

I even had another exchange on Facebook with a man named Adam Palermo, who said he was working with Wade McElroy: ‘I’ll probably end up working here. My bosses are the owners of it, they also own Horse Thief BBQ (where I work) and the new café Birdie in Highland park,’ he wrote last November. ‘They are HUGE Elliott Smith fans. Trust me they will be honoring him and not desecrating him’….‘They aren’t removing any of the mural either. This isn’t accurate,’ he continued. I still have the screen shot of the conversation to prove it.

At the end, I know it’s just a wall, but this place meant a lot to many people. I also know this spot had became regularly attacked by gangs and graffiti warriors and it went through successive transformations which were sometimes painful to look at. It got ugly, then went through a long series of repainting jobs, but it never stayed clean for very long, and I am not only talking about the fans’ writing. May be this new bar will manage to keep what’s left of the mural clean. And as a consolation prize, you have to know that the portion of the wall that has been cut out will be integrated into the interior décor. Why didn’t Wade explain this to me in the first place?

I am not a fan of the glass blocks right now, this large window really looks like it was added to offend people… I have read some dramatic comments from fans! But I am waiting for the finale result and an opportunity to meet with Wade in person. I know that everything must pass, everything must change, and I try not to be too nostalgic and attached to things… what’s the point? I am much more attached to living things and people in general. It still sucks Elliott Smith is dead, it still sucks we don’t know what happened to him on October 21st 2003, and this matters much more than a wall, which had mostly become your hipster’s favorite spot for Instagram selfies.

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