Brow Beat

For One Fun Night in 1994, Elliott Smith Was in a Devo Tribute Band

For most people, the name Elliott Smith summons thoughts of heart-on-sleeve sincerity—not satire and kitsch. But then, no reputation is ever entirely true. And while Smith definitely shied from many a spotlight (endearing Oscars anomaly notwithstanding), his friends have always maintained that the guy really loved to goof around. Now, to fans’ great amusement, we’ve got footage to prove it.

The clip is from 1994—Smith was still in Heatmiser but had recently released his solo debut—and comes from a talent show put on by local Portland venue the X-Ray Café. Smith and a handful of other area musicians had come together for one night only as a Devo tribute band (yes, that Devo). Sparing no expense, they took the stage in full Devo getup, complete with some flower-pot helmets, and proceeded to plow through more than 20 minutes of Devo classics. Come for the songs; stay for the dancing.