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Review Sun Oct 11 2009

Review: Jonathan Coulton @ Park West, 10/10

Jonathan Coulton Photo 3 email .jpg

If it wasn't already hard being a geek or a nerd, last night sure made it more difficult. Nerd rock legends They Might Be Giants played their 1990 album Flood at the Vic while geektastic singer/songwriter Jonathan Coulton played at Park West causing a riff in the space time continuum and freaking out fans of both. Coulton decided to also do a Flood show to calm fans who already had tickets to his show, still wanted to see They Might Be Giants but had not perfected the science of teleportation. It was a show that will be well remembered in nerd/geek music history.

Musical comedy geniuses Paul and Storm, who are Coulton's frequent tour buddies, opened. Some great moments in the set were "If James Taylor were on Fire", "If They Might Be Giants were the Ice Cream Man" and "The Captain's Wife's Lament" complete with Dejected Arrrs and all. They had an amazing raport with the audience and they warned that they were joining Jonathan Coulton in playing Flood, but only had a week's worth of notice and rehearsal.

Coulton started the night as promised playing Flood along with Paul and Storm. There was an eerie feeling as if we were all aware that a parallel universe existed at the Vic where another nerd band was playing the exact same album at kind of the same time. It was a joyfully understated opening as the "Theme From Flood" was sung with no introduction needed. I thought I knew what I was in for until "Birdhouse In Your Soul" was played. You really have not experienced this song until it is sung in three part harmony along with an egg shaker. It was the ultimate communal geek experience to hear the album played in its entirety. Jonathan even made use of the zendrum during "Your Racist Friend," which then cued a trumpet and got the disco ball spinning. I don't think there was anyone there who did not know every word to each song. Even with only a week's worth of rehearsal, the guys nailed it musically and even molded their voices to sound more like TMBG during classics like "Particle Man" "Whistling In The Dark" and "Istanbul." I found myself thinking how different they sounded than the recording then forcing myself to remember that I was not at a TMBG show. Whether this was a unknown psychogenic tribute or a way that Coulton and company could become their nerd heroes for a moment is not known. Either way, it was really cool.

After singing the final song in the album, "Road Movie To Berlin," Coulton, in a mock violent way tossed aside the set list, expressed his dismay at the whole situation and told the audience that he was surprised that anyone was even here to see him perform. False modesty aside, it was time for some Jonathan Coulter originals and the set started out with "Betty and Me," a song about creating a genetic super baby and then played "Ikea" and "Code Monkey," some of his better known material as well as some of his silliest. His next song began with a detailed explanation of the unjust reclassification of Pluto. He explained it as a love song sung from the perspective of Charon, Pluto's moon. Another highlight was "Mr. Fancy Pants," a hyper spastic dance song that would not be out of place on a children's album. Even though he inverted the verses, Jonathan was able make it work. It would not have been a noticeable error except he shouted "I screwed it up"!

The evening started slowing down with "When You Go" a song about a loss that took Coulton away from a Flansburgh-esque style and into a deeper, more sincere croon, his voice breaking, but still being able to capture the emotion. He then played "Skullcrusher Mountain" which everyone sang along to, "Future Soon" and "Still Alive," a song from the 2007 video game, Portal. What I found absolutely adorkable about seeing Jonathan Coulton live, was his ability to request his own encore from the audience. He told us that "Mandelbrot Set" would be his "last" song, (yes, he made air quotes) and told us that we knew what to do, "go clappy clappy" which everyone was prepared to do anyways. And like the sheep we were, we did as told and were rewarded with a three song encore, "A Talk with George," "Tom Cruise Crazy" and the classic group sing along song, Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline". It was a perfect ending to a very long night. The only complaint going around was that it was sad that TMBG, Paul and Storm and Jonathan Coulton couldn't use this opportunity to create the first geek rock supergroup. Maybe next time, boys.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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