Sunday, October 18, 2009

Daniel Johnston Live: A Nice Dose Of Humanity

I attended the Daniel Johnston concert at the Ukrainian Federation, basically a church, this weekend (Friday, October 16th, 2009, to be exact).

I did everything to see this show: I applied to be the opening act (and was declined because he didn't require a local opener, seeing as he's touring with his own openers who also work as his backing band for the second half of his set); then I purchased tickets - which I ended up giving away when, finally, I was hired to work security for the show.

They didn't know where to park me for this, though: they started by putting me out front to make sure the doors to the place were shut at all times, and to keep the conversation levels low for the people outside, so they don't disturb the neighbours of this residential area, who aren't used to having concerts be held at their local church.

But an acoustic/semi-rock show held in a church isn't the place where you require security in front of the stage to prevent moshing, body-surfing or injuries...

Eventually (and to my satisfaction), I was put in front of the backstage area, and my job was to make sure no one who shouldn't be allowed in to wander there. A really easy task that kept me in contact with everyone who was performing that night, from openers The Capitol Years to Mr. Johnston himself.

As a member of the staff, I was allowed free beer - and the show was co-organized my my 'arch-enemies' Pop Montreal, so - while I did remain in total control - I wasn't going to shy out on the free beverages. I likely ended up having a dozen Griffons - quality local microbrew.

Saving $80 on beer, though, I did spend cash on merchandise; I bought a vinyl from the opener, and a Daniel Johnston double-CD (one record a compilation of his songs, the second one the same songs, but by current idie musicians like the Flaming Lips, Beck and Eels), aDVD of The Devil And Daniel Johnston (a superb documentary), and was given a recyclable hand-made knit bag to stuff everything in it.

I really wanted Mr. Johnston's autograph, and two fellow fans wanted to have his picture taken with him after the show. But Johnston was just walking around everywhere, avoiding eye contact with anyone, turning around as soon as anyone would open their mouths in his direction. Like a shy child, you could say. Which, you know, fits with the character we've come to love from the documentary.

I ended up asking a member of his entourage, who said it'd be easier if we got a girl to pose with us, because he ''loves the ladies'' (can't blame him, really!), so I did manage to find one, a very friendly Pop Montreal volunteer from Brazil, but it took so long to get the star close enough for a picture that she'd left by then. But we got it made anyhow, it's the one right below, and you can see how thrilled he was... (hint: he's the one who is not looking at the camera...)

As soon as the flash came on, he was ready to just up and leave - he made a 180-degree turn and was just going to walk into the wall right behind us when I asked him if he could sign my CD. He was gracious enough to say yes, grabbing a marker from the table right next to us, signing the inside jacket of the double-digipak I mentioned earlier, then proceeded to hand me the marker back as if it was mine.

- Uh, no, sir that's yours.
- Oh, it's mine?
- Yes.
- Huh.

Then he put it back on the table and left the scene quickly.

You probably can't tell from looking at the picture of seeing him in person, but that man is quick on his feet - I'm talking Olympian Speed Walker-type speed.

What a night. It was good, it was weird, it was short and definitely sweet. Everything I expected it to be, and I got souvenirs- and saw it for free from a terrific angle.

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