A week ago today, OV stood in the effervescent company of local artists and community members at the Mohawk to celebrate the very first “Hi, How Are You?” Day, honoring the birthday of local artist, Daniel Johnston. Most well-known for his famous “Hi, How Are You?” alien-esque graffiti mural, Daniel Johnston is an American singer, songwriter, and artist whose works have been renowned for decades. Kurt Cobain was even amongst the late fan base of Daniel Johnston, mentioning him in several interviews along with wearing a “Hi, How Are You?” t-shirt to the 1992 MTV Music Awards. With a lengthy history of stomach-wrenching and heart flushing works of musical and visual art, Daniel Johnston took his devotion of artist therapy to new heights on Jan. 22nd by being a leading light in the local community’s mental-health awareness scene; a winning night for ATX as a whole.
Mayor Steve Adler was present for the celebration, proclaiming January 22nd to be the very first “Hi, How Are You?” Day in ATX history. The main purpose of the day is not only to celebrate an essential part of our community and the highly beloved works of Johnston, but to assist in the ongoing battle that is mental health awareness. Mental Health can be a thorn of a conversation, as it is weighted with uncomfortable backlighting and a depth of historically being misinterpreted/misunderstood; however, it can be enlightened by the basics-reminding people that sometimes, all it takes is the neighborly act of investing time into those who need you most. Whether it be an invitation to coffee, offering a listening ear, or starting a supporting conversation with the simple question, “Hi, How Are You?”
It Takes a Village
To pull off an evening such as this, it takes an immense amount of passion, teamwork, and community support. Sponsored by the Hi, How Are You? Foundation and the incredible SIMS Foundation, the event itself reminded us so much of what we love about Austin: the live music, the art, the charity, the community support, the natural kindness and electricity that emerges when we gather to celebrate our eccentricity and genuine love for our city; the list goes on and on.
Performing around three songs at a time, a plethora of Austin bands took to the stage, sharing their own music as well as Daniel Johnston covers in honor of the event. With a range in genres overflowing from country, rock, folk, and alternative/indie, all musicians showed the beauty in the coming together of Austin’s community. Josh T. Pierson and Jonathan Terrell started out the night, followed by Will Courtney, Jane Ellen Bryant, Kathy McCarty, and Cowboy Diplomacy; which, in thanks to them, we may have found a new genre: “cowboy punk.”
Moving Panoramas headlined the evening, with front-woman Leslie Sisson opening up personally about her own mental health for all to see and hear, making their performance a powerful and resonating experience. Joining Leslie on vocals for the evening was local KUTX DJ Laurie Gallardo, who covered Johnston’s “Speeding Motorcycle” with a tambourine assist that would have made Stevie herself proud.
Love Will Find You in the End
To close the moving evening, Daniel Johnston himself performed what was quite possibly one of the most touching live performances we had seen in ATX to date. Opening up with a solo piece that brought silence over the entire venue (as well as goosebumps to the back of our arms) Daniel Johnston proved the point of the evening before he had even finished his first song.
For those of you who have a history of mental health or have a loved one who has suffered, you will know this following statement to be true: It’s a wheel house of demons and angels; it’s the best of the best and the worst of the worst. There are endless stigmas, excruciating assumptions, and a high percentage of cries for help that fall upon deaf ears each and every year. There are miles and miles to go in the journey that is mental health awareness, and a single day doesn’t scratch the surface of actual measures and steps that need to be taken to ensure those who suffer have access to the resources and support they need. However, it is a start. It is a conversation. It is an acknowledgment, and it is triumph.
It takes an insurmountable amount of courage to stand in front of people and reveal yourself in the name of art, and Daniel Johnston not only emulated that courage, but he broke down a wall in that moment that stands between a place of desolation and a place of redemption for the mental health community. In that performance, Daniel Johnston stood for all who suffer with mental health in a brilliant display of ATX art, presenting the joys and the beauty that can exist in unison with the conversation of mental illness.
The night was sealed with Daniel Johnston being joined on stage by Moving Panoramas and other local artist to join in on a group performance of “Love Will Find You In The End”. Tears were shed, smiles were shared, and a feeling of hope filled the Mohawk air like we have never quite before experienced. It was humble, it was real, and it was meaningful.
That feeling of hope continues for us, and it’s our wish that you took away similar emotions if you attended the performance, or received a different insight into the conversation that can be mental illness through this article. As a reminder, there are an array of organizations available to you within the ATX community, if you or someone you love is in need of help/support. Here are just a few:
Remember: 30 seconds, and a simple question. To start the conversation, that’s all it takes. You never know who’s day you could make, or who’s life you could save.
Co-Wrote By: Arielle Sutherland
Photo Art: Daniel Johnston