Daniel Johnston, the Texas-based lo-fi musician and visual artist, announces his final tour, backed by Built to Spill, Jeff Tweedy and more.
Photos of Kurt Cobain wearing the “Hi, How Are You: The Unfinished Album” t-shirt under an unbuttoned long-sleeve shirt. If you’re like me, that’s how you first became aware of singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston. It must have been 1991 or 1992, shortly after Nirvana had released Nevermind, and Kurt was everywhere you looked. He used his ubiquitous status to turn people on to Johnston as well as such bands as Flipper, Scratch Acid and The Vaselines by wearing their t-shirts… just like any other fan.
After being overheard singing “Speeding Motorcycle” to myself in the hallway at work, a co-worker lent me some cassette tapes that Johnston made in his Austin, Texas bedroom and handed out at his job at McDonald’s, as well as through local record stores and to people he met on the street. He’d hand them out to anyone who’d listen. Each cassette was its own little work of art, hand printed by Johnston and illustrated with Johnston’s child-like drawing of Casper the Friendly Ghost, superheroes like Captain America or his own creatures like the frog he named “Jeremiah the Innocent” that also appeared on Kurt’s t-shirt.
Johnston’s music is decidedly low-fi. His songs are sung in a high-pitched voice and he accompanies himself by banging on a piano or Casio keyboard or a simply strummed acoustic guitar. The themes of the songs are lost love, the triumph of good over evil and existential angst. His honesty and sincerity is disarming upon first listen, as is his brilliance and his tragedy. Along with his music, Johnston produces art – cartoon-like drawings of superheroes, imaginary characters and animals, demons, and babies that have shown in galleries around the world and sell for thousands of dollars.
In 2005, filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig released his documentary film, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, about the singer-songwriter, a sincere and respectful look at Johnston that examined his influences and the impact his mental illness had on his art and on the family members who look after him. Incorporating Daniel’s home movies, the film traces his early years in rural West Virginia, his self-described “loss of confidence” in junior high school, this creative process, and what happens when he goes off his medication. During one such episode, he attempts to crash the private plane being flown by his father, who manages to make an emergency landing.
Johnston has released 20 albums, countless collaborations, and side projects, and toured irregularly throughout the years. Now, he has just announced his final tour – five dates, beginning this fall. For each show, Johnston will be backed by a band he influenced and who is specific to that city.
Daniel Johnston – 2017 Tour Dates
- September 28– New Orleans, LA – The Joy Theater – Joined by The Preservation All-Stars (Preservation Hall Jazz Band)
- October 4 – Philadelphia, PA – Tower Theater– Joined by The Districts and Modern Baseball
- October 7– New York, NY – The Town Hall – Joined by members of Beirut, Gang Gang Dance, Cibo Mato and others
- October 20 – Chicago, IL –The Vic Theatre – Joined by Jeff Tweedy & Friends
- November 1 – KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic – Joined by Mike Watt, Ben Lee, Maria Taylor, Guy Blakeslee and Joey Waronker
- November 2 – Los Angeles, CA – The Orpheum Theatre – Joined by Mike Watt, Ben Lee, Maria Taylor, members of Silversun Pickups and others
- November 7 – Boise, IL – Egyptian Theatre w/ Special Guest TBA
- November 8 – Portland, OR –Revolution Hall – Joined by Built to Spill and others
- November 10 – Vancouver, BC –Venue Nightclub – Joined by Built to Spill and others
Classic tee shirt. Abrasion and tears throughout. Daniel Johnston album graphic.
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White cotton cashmere blend T-shirt from R13 featuring a round neck, short sleeves, a straight hem, a transparent design and Kurt Cobain print.