Gig/Concert: Daniel Johnston with Old Man River and Kid Sam
Venue: Prince Bandroom, St Kilda, Melbourne
Date: 3 February 2010
Headliners: Daniel Johnston
In one word: Religious
Kid Sam started the night off with a fantastically weird and wonderful set that melded together melodic and experimental elements that was a bit reminiscent of My Morning Jacket with an art school attitude.
Kishore Ryan’s drum kit included pots and pans and I don’t think the same beat was played twice tonight. The two cousins complemented each other perfectly and in a song that can be vaguely compared to “The Lengths” by The Black Keys hit a beautiful peak.
Old Man River started off with a bouncy, happy sounding demeanour which evolved into Indian tinged Beatles rock and other hippy stuff. All in all the songs all sounded like someone else and it was easy to say “Oh that song sounds like Belle and Sebastian” or “Oh is Lou Reed in the room?”
The song “Waiting For The Sunshine” (which I think is in a Magners advert or some crap) was the only moment in which I heard a truly original sound. Saying that though, they didn’t put on a bad show and the only real problem I had in this timeslot was trying to avoid the guy with nits in front of me (shoulder length hair, moustache, white t-shirt – you may owe me some head lice shampoo).
Daniel Johnston took an incredibly long time to take to the stage and worries of missing the last tram home were pondered for what felt like a lifetime; when he did come on he did so alone armed with what looked like a Ted Crocker guitar.
Shortly into the first song various people had burst into tears and I felt myself going the same way; his first set was full of songs of pain and was truly touching to hear. Though he’s not the greatest singer or guitarist Daniel Johnston has a true raw talent that’s so deeply affecting and touching it brings out everyone’s softer side.
Watching his hands tremble was truly heartbreaking to watch: like witnessing him trying to control his demons, it was sad to see such a fragile man sing such depressing songs but also brought hope in thinking how Daniel had survived and carved out an iconic career from being the misfit.
After a short break Daniel plus band reappeared and proceeded to kick ass with songs like “Fake Records of Rock n’ Roll” and the just beautiful “Speeding Motorcycle” with the perfect line ‘So many girls have taken you for a ride’.
I think where set 1 was Songs of Pain set 2 was more like Songs of Hope; Daniel appeared in his element with a great rock n’ roll band playing what Daniel has seen in his head for decades. He was truly a great front-man and the atmosphere had just changed dramatically.
Sadly, due to the poor transport system I had to leave early and was left in an even sadder mood when the tram left without me (even after seeing me); it forced me to dip into my rent money for a taxi. Whilst driving through the city in a bitter mood I reflected upon the show I’d just witnessed and concluded that is was like a nearly religious experience in which Daniel as the preacher could bring out the most primal of emotions from his congregation.
Each show he played was like an exorcism of the devil within him and the trembling hands he possessed were scars of each battle. Like Joe the Boxer, Johnston is a fighter and although has had moment of weakness he’s kept on punching and given hope and happiness to thousands across the world.
© Danny Crombie, Music Vice
Daniel Johnston – Official Website