He can't sing. He can't play. But Daniel Johnston made me cry.
By: Kai Teo
Photos: Viktor Sundén
Event: Daniel Johnston Live – Debaser, Norraparkgatan 2
Date: Thursday, 17 May ‘13
Supporting act: Adam Evald, DJs Fredrik Lindstrand & Sofia Petersen, Gallimathias
Genre: Daniel Johnston is the genre
Entry: 195 kr
Our rating: 5/5
If you don’t really know who Daniel Johnston is, you’ll easily mistake him for a homeless alcoholic that collects empty cans at the park.
Of course, the real story is far more intriguing, a lot more inspiring, and much more depressing.
Inflicted by bipolar disorder and schizophrenia since he was a teen, Daniel was never part of mainstream society. Instead, he spent his days recording mix tapes in his basement, creating pure music while obsessing about lost love, the devil and aliens.
The innocence of his lyrics, accompanied by violently strung slightly off-tune chords, eventually caught the attention of the world and made him a worldwide cult figure.
So when Buddha Mag heard that he would be playing at Debaser, we knew that we’d have to be there. And sing along.
Thursday night. 9pm. Right in the thick of the Eurovision craze that was sweeping bad-music-taste Malmö folks off their happy feet. No one talked about that crazy shit here in Debaser. But we definitely felt our very own version of euphoria as Daniel walked on to the stage clad in an unassuming t-shirt and a pair of old blue jeans. His grey hair was dishevelled and his unshaven face, rather expressionless. He knew he was there to sing his songs, and then leave.
It almost felt like he didn’t give a shit. He couldn’t care less about the money he’s making. He couldn’t relate to the concept of fame. He just wanted to sing. And he was a performer in his own world.
Under the spotlight, he was gleaming like the brightest star in the Swedish summer sky.
His frail voice broke often. And he was never pitch perfect. But that is what makes his music beautiful.
It’s fucking simple. And fucking pure.
I’m sure it pained the audience to see Daniel struggling to put up a good show for all of us, while under the heavy influence of the drugs that were supposed to aid his condition. His hands were shaking while he held the microphone. And that shook the very core of our emotions.
The band introduced another dimension to his music. It was very polished, flowy and dreamy. Strings that added a “Secret Garden” vibe, infused with a little bit of fantasy. The contrast was enchanting.
And when he sang “True Love will Find You in the End”. Tears just streamed down my face. If there’s one song we’re here to hear, it’s this one. Live. Straight from the depths of Daniel Johnston’s vocal chords, and direct from his broken heart. I was smitten. Daniel, you are my god, even though true love might never find me in the end.
The performance ended with the words “I’m going to the funeral and I’m never coming back.”
True enough. Daniel left the stage. And shortly after, he left Malmö. We never know when we’ll ever see him sing live again. He might decide never to grace the Swedish fans with his divine presence once more.
We forgot about buying the band merchandise. The “Hi, how are you?” tote bag has become a symbol for the senseless pursuit of hipsterism. And we would never be caught dead carrying it.
Everything Buddha Mag needs to remember Daniel Johnston by is already in our iPods and our next can of Mountain Dew.