Following my commitment to musical excellence, and my word to Daniel Johnston, me and three friends took the 45 minute journey to Thousand Oaks California to Open Borders. The drive proved to be worth it instantly, as we arrived in amazement finding hundreds of people from Los Angeles, and the surrounding area filling the Venue. The 40,000 square foot venue was once a Borders Bookstore, and seemed small with the growing number of bodies that seemed filled the room. In March, Open Borders stood empty, full of nails, dust and peeling wallpaper. Borders had become a story that will be left untold, until a group or individuals took it upon themselves to question the vacant building. How can such a large building, that once was home to endless insightful teachings, and love, stand empty and alone for such a long time?
The Open Borders team, came in and transformed it into a summer-long “Flash Venue” that will host 4 shows a week, as well as maintaining a daily functioning gallery, with live performance art, a life sized chess board, vintage clothing, and an interactive wall of art for every visitor to express themselves on. All proceeds benefit Regenerate, a nonprofit media arts organization dedicated to teen suicide prevention and amplifying voices for human rights, health, the environment, education and art.
The team of people who created Open Borders is also the team making the Daniel Johnston narrative biopic, making the show on July 24th, a really special one. Unlike most shows, this venue stood as a music and art show duo, with interactive incentives to bring everyone together, erasing the borders between Artist, and fan. Guests were highly encouraged to dress like their favorite Comic Book Character, or an original Daniel Johnston Character. The Venue has over 40 original drawings on display, even dating back to 1979. Daniel Johnston, not only known for his music, is also known by many for his truthful, childlike depiction of life, love, and betrayal, in a vulgar simplistic way. This venue seemed fitting, sitting on the outside of Los Angeles, home to Daniel Johnston’s music and Art, who is widely known by many as an “Outsider” visual artist, and musician.
Daniel Johnston was joined by Soko, who again gave us a breathtaking proclamation of the trials and tears that line the broken hearted street of her soul. The venue’s 40,000 square feet, gave the ability to separate the music from the movement through the gallery, creating a quiet, intimate love affair between Soko and her fans. Soko, again Joined by her brother Maxime Sokolinski, a fast moving talent who plays in many bands throughout the Los Angeles music scene. The two of them together, proving to be a family of talent, well beyond their years.
“I like that you guys are sitting down and being quiet. It makes me really want to sing to you.”
Soko, who’s beautiful songs, full of heartache, are to personal to be listened to from a distance. The intimate, and open experience made this one of the most beautiful and honest performances I have seen from Soko. Look out for her new album, “I thought I was an alien”, to be released on October 31st for Halloween.
Daniel Johnston also respond kindly to the attentive crowd, as he stood confidently on stage for his opening song “Masks”, a rare song about the every dying day of lost love. Daniel played passionately, while maintaining his shy, introverted disposition on stage. He engaged the crowd with stories about his songs, and respond to the fans shootouts with childlike-confusion, and amusement. Joined again onstage by local Los Angeles musicians, Isaiah MacMenami, Maxime Sokolinski, and Miles Marisco. After playing the El Ray show together, the band seemed like old friends, and the feeling between them and daniel proved to be of a deep musical understanding. I asked one fan, who claimed to be the number one fan of Johnston, why he connects with his music? his response, “His songs are painfully truthful to the point of complete internal isolation. Yet the exasperation in his words are so powerful, and delivered without refinement, that you want nothing more than to be a part of it. ”
My two experiences proved Daniel Johnston to have some of the most dedicated fans. Again they sat quietly and seemed to linger on every word and movement his body made on stage. The respect the crowd had for Johnston’s performance, is the ultimate proof that his music stands for the truth, and is no way a byproduct of his fans, or the music industry. Johnston, unlike many other artists, has created something that is purely out of his soul, as a gift to the world.
After the show Daniel came quietly backstage as dozens of camera crew fled back to catch a glimpse of those precious moments you experience after a show. After a busy three day weekend, Johnston expressed to his brother and to the crew that he wanted to go home and sleep. But standing behind the wall, stood hundreds of dedicated fans waiting in line for a chance to meet the great Mr. Johnston. After viewing the extent of the love from his fans, and a couple cookies, Johnston came out to the crowd, and walked around looking at his work, and the other art work that Open Borders had on display. and then just to prove how great he can be, he proceeded to sign, and draw pictures for any and every one of his fans.
Closing night of Open Borders will take place this Saturday, August 6th starting at 6:00 pm. Come see the end of summer love at Open Borders with performances by Single Wing Turquoise Bird, and Jeffertitti’s Nile. ( Ericka Clevenger)