There have been many times where I’ve gone to see a gig in LA looking forward to the headliner, but unfamiliar with the opening acts, and quite frankly not looking forward to them. Last night, when I headed to see Daniel Johnston play at the El Rey Theatre was no exception. Though rather than looking down at my watch hoping the hands would move a bit quicker, I was pleasantly captivated by French singer/songwriter SoKo. Gaining a large following worldwide without having put out any physical records (she’s still working on her debut album), is a testament to her live shows. Starting out on acoustic guitar then switching to bass, and later effortlessly moving to the drums (search her out on YouTube playing a drum-pounding “Paranoia”), I was hypnotized by her voice and her stripped-down sounds. Joined by fellow singer/songwriter Jenny O. and actress-cum-singer Rain
Phoenix, they kicked off the night with a memorable set of tunes.
Jason Falkner came on next. Having produced Johnston’s album, Is And Always Was, in addition to a producing heaps of other artists, he was a natural addition to the night’s line-up. With a dreamy pop-blend sound, songs performed included “The Knew”, “This Time”, “The Lie In Me”, and “Holiday”.
Finally — singing songs so honest and so pure, so heart-wrenchingly sad, yet relatable, Daniel Johnston performed to a packed house of fans yelling requests so enthusiastically amidst even more enthusiastic “THANK YOU, DANIEL JOHNSTON”’s. Trembling throughout much of his set, the man wears his heart on his sleeve. If Daniel Johnston were a character in a film, he’d be the underdog who never got the girl. In his rather short, but sweet set, Daniel performed songs from his latest album Is and Always Was (“Lost In My Infinite Memory”; “Mind
Movies”; an energetic “Fake Records of Rock n Roll”; and “High Horse” to name a few), in addition to older material like “Casper the Friendly Ghost” and rarity “Mask”, as well as
Beatles tunes “Hide Your Love Away” and “Revolution” with SoKo, Jenny O., and Rain Phoenix singing back-up. Performing both on his own and with a backing band, this night took you, however brief, into Daniel’s beautiful, tortured world.