April 9, 2008

4 Boulder Water Bottles, 1 Fresh White Towel, and a Caffeine Free Diet Coke

Daniel Johnston came to town. Oh yes. Saturday was a night to remember. (see more pictures on my flickr page.)

My buddy Jason was nice enough to go with (and to drive. my car should basically be considered dead), and with him at the helm, we got there a good 15 minutes before the show was going to start. Perfect timing in my mind. After procuring the obligatory t-shirt, Jason and I headed to the front (because I'm a front row kind of guy, if that wasn't evident all ready).

Bad Weather California opened up. I've been a fan of their studio stuff for a while now (they used to be called The Love Letter Band), and have been anxious to see them for just as long, but the opportunity never really presented itself (or I was just too lazy to notice). Well these cats came out and proved to be more enchanting that previously thought. Killer sad lyrics mostly sung by Chris, front man, though occasionally pedal steel-player Adam (from Littles Paia) and Bass player Joe (from A Dog Paloma) sang or did harmonies. A few times Erin from Porlolo would come out and play some horn parts. All in all Bad Weather California was touching and sad and one of the most genuine acts I've seen in a while. I especially liked how, every once in a while, Chris would same something along the lines of "I swear, we're a real rock band."

(note: they rocked these songs a lot harder live. The recordings aren't as ... stimulating as their live show, though they are just as touching)
Bad Weather California - Ain't No Grave Deep Enough To Keep Me Down
Bad Weather California - Everybody Lives In Their Own Little World
Bad Weather California - Iron Maiden Posters (The Love Letter Band Version)
Bad Weather California - You Be The Jesus

Sadly their set had to end, and soon after came the tense, electric wait, everyone wondering if Daniel Johnston was really here, and if he really would be performing tonight. There was the standard amount of setting up, people checking mics and guitars. While that was going on, a man brought out a table with a black table cloth over it, and placed it next to the microphone. He went back stage, and returned with 4 Boulder water bottles, 1 fresh white towel, and a Caffeine Free Diet Coke. It wasn't a bowl full of only green M&M's, but that's exactly what I thought of when I saw the items and realized their use.

Now, I don't know about everyone else out there, but this was the first time I'd ever had a chance to see Daniel Johnston play, and I was stoked. I had no idea what to expect. The only preparation I had had was interviews and recent photos. But I can safely say I was not prepared for it.

A large, nearing 50 year old man stumbled from back stage and jauntily worked his way up to the front of the stage. It took everyone a second or two to realize that that was, in fact, Daniel Johnston, but well before he reached the microphone the room was exploding in cheers. If you didn't know what was going on you'd have expected that the Pope just walked in. He was wearing a shirt that would make an alternately-flavored-candy-cane blush, and his holey sweatpants were tucked into his shoes. His giant black and bushy eyebrows were contrasted by his quickly graying hair. He shook as he stood there, opening his note books. After he struggled through 2 songs, playing guitar in a way so poorly that it made you love it. His friend, who Jason described as looking like the kind of guy who you would want as a Dad, came out and played a few songs on his acoustic guitar as Daniel grasped onto the microphone, presumably to stabilize himself, and sang his soul. Daniel excused himself and his friend, stating that they would return in a few minutes.

It seemed like the Ogden was still in a sort of hush, despite the clamor the crowd couldn't help but create. 15 or so minutes later, Daniel returned with all of Bad Weather California, local solo act Roger Green, and Erin of Porlolo. With little delay, they awkwardly rocked the house with a sort of mix of whatever the heck Daniel Johnston could be classified as and Indie pop rock. They rocked out so hard on Rock 'N Roll/EGA that I was personally sent into a spell of confusion. Was this really Daniel Johnston? Was he really acting out his rockstar persona? How awkward.

As awkward as it was, it was twice as magical. After however long, they left the stage, and the cheering for an encore began. I, for probably the first time, was genuinely unsure as to whether or not we'd be able to coerce him to play more. Thankfully he didn't have us waiting too long and performed the song that he knew everyone expected to hear: True Love Will Find You In The End. The room was misty, to be sure. After an A Capella version of Devil Town, Daniel Johnston said his goodnight, and left, leaving 2 unused and 1 half used Boulder water bottles, 1 used white towel, and an unopened Caffeine Free Diet Coke.

Brilliant. Daniel Johnston is not for everyone. Chances are the only reason you'd want to see him is if you knew about him and had the connection that everyone there had with him and his music. But maybe I'm wrong, and I hope I am. If you're looking to discover him, seeing him live would be the absolute best way to do so. Pure Magic.

Daniel Johnston - True Love Will Find You In The End (basically everyone covered this song at some point)
Daniel Johnston - Some Things Last a Long Time
Daniel Johnston - Careless Soul (the saddest song ever)
Daniel Johnston - Rock 'N Roll/EGA

Daniel Johnston - Unpack Your Adjectives (song for Schoolhouse Rock)

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