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Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Johnston’

(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

The nights are cooler now. After months of record-breaking heat, dusk is finally a time for relief. It makes evening activities tranquil and comfortable. It gives us opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. And if you sit under the cover of trees at the Prospect Park Bandshell, there are few better late-summer events than a Celebrate Brooklyn concert. They create a special environment by pairing live music with a beautiful setting. So last night, at the final ticketed show of the season, we got it all: the perfect scenery, weather and lineup of acts.

M. Ward, the night’s highly anticipated headliner, came on after some prompt stand-up by Wyatt Cenac and a hushed set by Yo La Tengo. Ward, a unique American musician, mixes elements of rock, folk and blues along with his melodic yet gravelly voice and creates something all his own. His guitar work is magnificent too. During “Rollercoaster” he evoked the namesake’s unbalanced feeling with an effective slippery riff. And in other places, he was simply the full package—masterful songwriter and spot-on performer.

“Chinese Translation,” from the album Post-War, is a clever piece of imaginative folklore concerning an inquisitive protagonist and a sagacious elder. It was also made all the better by Ward and his band’s light touch. They knew how to blow the lid off at times, like during “Primitive Girl,” but the quiet moments were my favorites. An encore violin-and-keyboard duo of Daniel Johnston’s “Story of an Artist” was beautiful and apropos. Ward slyly dedicated the song to “the artists in Brooklyn.” He surely knew his audience and played perfectly for the moment.

Photo courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.wordpress.com

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This past weekend I saw a fascinating documentary on the American songwriter Daniel Johnston. While I am not too familiar with his music, I’ve known about this movie since it came out and I was very excited to rent it using my new Netflix subscription. Released in 2006, The Devil And Daniel Johnston looks into the cult musician’s life and the tragic events stemming from his bi-polar disorder. I feel that the film is artfully constructed and researched, however it gives an incomplete look at Johnston, in regards to his music and personal thoughts. Similarly, Johnston recently revealed the following about his thoughts on the film:

“It wasn’t really fair because it really talked about the worst experiences of my life,” Johnston said. “I wish they had included more music instead of making it one of those Stranger Than Fiction shows.”

Read more from his interview here.

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