...perform for free - free! You can't beat that! - at Amoeba Hollywood. And it was, quite simple, utterly wonderful. If you've been put off by the possibility it will be just a freak show, forget it. It was 35 minutes of top-notch tunesmithery performed albeit a bit clumsily at times, but I couldn't imagine it any other way. He doesn't play that way to be indie-cool or low-fi or whatever. He's playing the best he can, and he even apologized a couple of times for his nervousness and "amateurness." A large supportive crowd would have nothing of it, however.
Before the show, the store actioned off an original Johnston artwork to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims. It depicted many brightly-colored skulls and captions proclaiming that the Devil is "a drag." It went for $550.
Having just seen the documentary film, "The Devil and Daniel Johnston," I was prepared for the worst - it depicts his mental condition as deteriorating. But the Daniel I saw last night looked fairly healthy, hair neatly trimmed, sporting an oh-so-hip goatee, and a "Hi, How Are You" tee-shirt. He was in good spirits as he performed solo guitar and piano renditions of songs that, in other hands, probably would have been done in a jangly-guitar '60s pop style. The ghost of his beloved Beatles and three-chord classics like "Needles and Pins" seemed to haunt the compositions played last night, even as he dropped in lines like "I'm just a psycho trying to write a song." He good-naturedly put in time at the autograph table later.
Some may have been disappointed that he didn't have a nervous breakdown on stage. Ah well, they just had to make do with one fine tune after another, like: