Friday, November 20, 2009

Daniel Johnston

At approximately 5 pm Friday evening, a small crowd gathered inside Waterloo Records to hear Daniel Johnston play a small set of three acoustic pieces on his out-of-tune guitar. In his usual attire of holey sweatpants and a stained shirt, he shook profusely while singing selected songs from his new album, Is And Always Was, his first release in over 7 years.

After the show, he walked off quickly and nervously to sign a few autographs, but didn't make much conversation.

His next performance began at 8 p.m. at St. David's Episcopal Church. This was a more intimate setting, in which the crowd was allowed to sit and listen for the entire show. Austin's own Will Taylor and Strings Attached both opened for and accompanied Daniel throughout his hour long set. A less nervous Johnston sang a few songs from his new album, along with some old favorites. While less nervous this time around, Johnston almost ended the set after three songs, stating that someone had sabotaged his notes and he didn't have anything else to play. Will Taylor and his band quickly jumped in and suggested a song they could all play, and Johnston complied. In between songs, Johnston guzzled down seven Diet Cokes, frequently opening one before finishing the previous.

While the audience was told that Johnston would be playing some songs on the grand piano, it never happened because his notes were for guitar only. He made a joke that he tried it twice earlier and it didn't work out. He then told the audience "his second joke", which was about a dream he had, where a man was sentenced to death for attempting suicide. The man was Daniel Johnston, and as he heard the verdict from the back of the room, he shouted "No, no!"

After asking the audience for a short break, he resumed with a few surprises including "True Love", and a cover of The Beatles "Eleanor Rigsby".

It's hard to believe Johnston's pre-pubescent voice has stuck with him throughout his career, but it's continually consistent in both live performances and album recordings.

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