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A Daniel Johnston Tribute Show’ to raise funds in hopes of bringing the musician to town

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With his mental illness in mind, Blackbird owner Gina Quaranto believes that getting Johnston to play the city is a now or never situation.
Peter Juhl

Most Daniel Johnston fans can recall the moment they first heard his music. It was personal and precious, a pause in the ordinary, much like the folk singer/songwriter himself. And as the years pass, an occasional dose of Johnston becomes almost necessary.

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A Daniel Johnston Tribute Show
October 22, 8 to 11 p.m., $10 donation.
Blackbird Studios, 1551 S. Commerce St.

That’s how it is for Gina Quaranto, owner of Blackbird Studios, who not only needs a Johnston fix, but wants so badly to bring the artist to Las Vegas that she’s spent months brainstorming how to get him here for a performance—talking to his father, hunting for potential financial donors, mapping out options. Her solution (or part of it) is A Daniel Johnston Tribute Show at Blackbird Studios to raise funds to bring him here from Austin. Given Johnston’s condition, it’s now or never, Quaranto says.

Johnston, who came into cult stardom in the 1980s as an odd, scrawny, lovable outsider with an eerily beautiful voice and raw lyrics, has spiraled deeper into mental illness in the two decades since arriving in Austin, fresh off the carnival circuit and handing out self-made cassettes of his singing.

The still-growing list of local musicians who will perform Johnston’s songs at Blackbird includes Paige Overton (The Clydesdale), Dreaming of Lions, Noah Dickie (Coastwest Unrest), Heidi Guinn (Dusty Sunshine), Tristan Moyer (Darby O’Gill) and Walker Rose (The Pines).

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