SXSW: Daniel Johnston at Emo's

So I generally don't know how to feel about Daniel Johnston. I think he's a songwriter whose simple chord progressions and simplistic lyrics meld together into absolute brilliance, no matter that his voice belongs squarely in the love-it-or-hate-it camp. I'm just uncomfortable with his history of mental illness, not in the sense that I have a problem with him having problems -- far from it -- but I often wonder just what people are getting out of seeing him stand up on stage, chain-smoking cigarettes and shaking the mike back and forth.

Are we all just staring at some kind of human zoo animal, or are we seeing beyond all that and just appreciating his awesomeness? I don't know, although I suspect the answer lies somewhere in between.

Either way, his awesomeness was on display Saturday night, and after he ditched the backing band and just became a dude on a stage with a guitar, the audience was transfixed, cheering along as he went through a few songs sans anyone else. It was magical, and simple, and a great way to end four days of sensory overload.

Thank you, DJ. Here's hoping you play Houston again sometime soon.


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