The iconic outsider singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston died Wednesday at age 58. Johnston and his music were so widely beloved during his life that new covers of his songs seemed to always be popping up. And in death, more such tributes are sure to come.
One of the first comes from the National. The band’s gloomy, erudite indie rock feels far removed from Johnston’s unkempt folk-pop, but they bridged the difference beautifully. During a performance at White Oak Music Hall in Houston (they had just played Johnston’s adopted hometown Austin the night before), the National dropped a bit of Johnston’s classic “Devil Town” in the middle of “Not In Kansas” from their recent I Am Easy To Find. The song is already strewn with references to the music of Matt Berninger’s youth — R.E.M., the Strokes, etc. — so it feels especially fitting when backup singers Kate Stables, Hannah Georgas, and Kyle Resnick burst into “Devil Town” at the center of the quiet storm.
“Not In Kansas” morphed into “Devil Town” twice, first around the four-minute mark and then again around 6:30. The result was a beautiful collage-like medley of sorts. Watch fan-made footage of the whole performance below.
Sounds like they ripped into “Mr. November” next, which was surely great too.