Saturday night Abby and I went downtown to see Jonathan Coulton play at Off Broadway. He is the indie-DIY-er of the geek-rock scene with a catalog of pop/folk songs about math, zombies, vampires, and mad scientists. Etc.
The opening act was a duo called Paul and Storm who were extremely fun, performing a set that ranged from meta (Opening Band) to crude (Captain's Wife's Lament, in which the captain's wife complains about finding seamen all over the house) to absurd (Nun Fight, in which an announcer introduces two boxing nuns in the style of Benedictine chant). Other highlights included Frogger! The Frogger Musical and If James Taylor Were On Fire.
I felt ruthlessly entertained.
Then came JoCo. I had no idea what an excellent guitarist he is--the complexity of chord structures and arrangements doesn't come through when you simply listen to his recordings. He played the requisite favorites (Code Monkey, Re: Your Brains, Skullcrusher Mountain) and some requests (Presidents, The Mandlebrot Set, Dance Soterios Johnson Dance) and brought Paul and Storm up for a few songs, including a rendition of Soft Rocked By Me that devolved into an impromptu medley of sappy love songs, which then devolved into the audience singing the chorus of Hey Jude while Paul (of Paul and Storm) sang C is for Cookie over it.
And since Saturday was also International Talk Like a Pirate Day, there were no shortage of pirate jokes to be had. And because keeping things timely is good, one song was interrupted by Kanye West (the song in question, Mr. Fancy Pants, was played on what Coulton described as a $1300 purse). All in all, I think the most compelling thing about the show was the the performers were clearly having a great time up on stage. There was a lot of back-and-forth and interaction with the audience (Paul and Storm gave out prizes periodically and explained the ridiculous inside-jokes on their T-shirts). But my favorite joke might have been when Jonathan Coulton announced is "last song" in air quotes, only to leave the stage to thunderous applause afterward and then run back on 10 seconds later talking about what a shocking and surprising turn of events it was to be called back up for an encore.
He sold out the venue and the crowd was really responsive to him, so it's reasonable to think that he'll be back through again some time, probably playing someplace larger, and if you get a chance, it's a show I highly recommend--not just because it was a great show, but because of what it means for independent, and I mean truly independent, music. Neither Paul and Storm nor JoCo are on labels. They don't have professional recording studios or radio play. They are do-it-yourself-ers, and they are part of a growing trend towards middle-class-musicianship. And it's nice to think that part of the aftermath of Napster and P2P is that it's becoming easier to make a living as a musician without having to satisfy all of the superstar formula.
Also, I tried a Colt 45, and it did work every time. So that's good to know.