Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Sunday, May 19

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir Hold Benefit Concert ChiPubLib Sound Off Winners Announced, Concert Date Set »

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.

GB store
GB store

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.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

GB store


Featured Series


Transmission on Flickr

Join the Transmission Flickr Pool.

About Transmission

Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Sarah Brooks,
Transmission staff inbox:



Transmission Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15