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It all came together with just two or three weeks of planning, but Monday’s “Hi, How Are You?” Day show at the Mohawk turned out to be a grand success, as many Austin musicians and hundreds of Daniel Johnston fans turned out to help the legendary Texas songwriter celebrate his 57th birthday.
Presented by the new Hi, How Are You? Foundation, the event also benefited the mental health oriented SIMS Foundation and received support from the City of Austin’s Music & Entertainment Division. Mayor Steve Adler kicked things off with a proclamation and a short speech, saying that he is “no more proud to be a part of this community than I am when we take something like mental health and mental illness and we say that it is real.”
A half-dozen local acts followed with short sets, most playing one or two original tunes and then one of Johnston’s songs. Of the latter, the highlights in chronological order: Josh T. Pearson and Jonathan Terrell’s medley of “True Love Will Find You in the End” and “Don’t Play Cards With Satan”; Will Courtney singing “I Live My Broken Dreams”; Jane Ellen Bryant performing “Peek A Boo”; Cowboy Diplomacy playing “Some Things Last a Long Time”; longtime Johnston champions Kathy McCarty and Brian Beattie doubling up with “Hey Joe” and “Living Life”; and Moving Panoramas’ romp through “Speeding Motorcycle” with guest Laurie Gallardo.
Johnston hadn’t been formally announced as a musical participant, but he was onstage at the start with event organizers Tom Gimbel and Courtney Blanton during Adler’s proclamation, and he returned at the end to close things out with “Casper the Friendly Ghost” and a couple other short fragments of songs. Many of the night’s performers joined him for a touching return to “True Love Will Find You in the End.”
“Thanks so much for the party tonight,” he said with a final wave to the crowd and a “God bless you.” Inside, a cake awaited, baked in the shape of Johnston’s trademark Jeremiah the Innocent frog. All in all, a pretty beautiful way to spend a Monday evening in Austin.