Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Aging Rocker and Daniel Johnston

Our great pallie and one of the truest culture vultures out there, Mark Cutler, was kind enough to provide the following insightful account of his recent gig as both opener and accompanist to cult figure Daniel Johnston.

We showed up around 5:00 with our two little amps, 3 guitars, kick drum, snare and high hat and there were ten guys there to help us load it onto the stage. Pretty funny but we were glad not to hump the junk onto the stage. Mike D and the crew from Providence were really good to us. We set up and played a little bit then the sound guy started checking his equipment so we sat in a booth out in the main area.
Daniel Johnston and his brother Dick arrived and we waved to them. We approached each other and shook hands. Dick is a good guy and obviously a good brother. He takes care of all Daniel's needs. He's a manager and a big brother. Daniel was a very sweet guy. Kinda like Brian Wilson, Jojo Richmnan and Santa Claus combined. A bit absent minded. We went over the songs we were playing together ( “Go”, “Worried Shoes”, “Fish”, “Rock n Roll EGA”, “Rock This Town”, “Casper”, “Life In Vain”). Dick got out Daniel's notebooks and pulled out the lyrics to the songs we were to play and put them in the order we'd be doing them so nothing could go wrong. Daniel reads from the lyric sheets in concert. We did a quick rehearsal onstage playing the first verse and chorus of each song so Daniel wouldn't strain his voice. He had a bit of a cold. After that, we talked for a while in the dressing room and I left for a couple of minutes. When I came back in it was like we never met but that was ok he was very nice when we met for the first time again.
When we went on as the opening act, the place was pretty jammed but just as I suspected, they were there to see Daniel not us. And as I suspected again they are very protective of their Daniel and that's cool. But sometimes it seems a bit patronizing if you know what I mean. We got some good ovations but nothing approaching the adoration that he would soon get. I figured we'd stick to some softer songs (although we opened with “Lonesome Pain” and closed with “Jumpin Time”).” I Could Get Used to This” went over really nice as did “Lie Next to You”.
We finished our set and hung with Daniel and Dick for a while. Daniel likes to smoke cigarettes and drink Mountain Dew. He went outside a few times to puff his butts.Whenever he came back into the dressing room the first thing he would say was, "Where's my brother?" He is very dependent on Dick.
He went on at first by himself and the crowd was Moonyesque as you probably could imagine. Then his friend Bret joined him onstage and they played a few songs. Short break and then we went on. We started with “Fish” I think. When I looked out into the audience just about everyone's eyes were on DJ. A lot of energy flowed his way, He was engaging and funny and very fragile. After the show, he signed autographs and took pics with fans. He offered his lap to a young girl who wanted her photo with him. I offered to take the pic and told them that it would take about ten minutes to get it right –hahaha. Daniel told me how sells his drawings for 100 bucks a piece and we both nodded when I said how nice it is for him to make a living as an artist. He made some dough that night. Anyway it was an exhausting day, we left at 2:30 PM to get to Boston and got home around 1:00 AM and I was up around 6:00 to get to work today. Ah the life of an aging rocker....

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