Holy crap, Internet. It’s the penultimate show. The show immediately before the last show. The show to almost end all shows. For this one I ventured to a place I haven’t been this year and enjoyed the musical stylings of one Jonathan Coulton. It was a joyous and fun filled show.
Starting off the proceedings was John Roderick who plays in a band called The Long Winters. His music is decidedly different from that of Coulton and he warned us of this fact by explaining that his songs contained neither monkeys nor robots. It was a funny introduction and it did a great job of winning over a crowd that was largely unfamiliar with his work.
I was one of those that was not at all familiar with his work, he described what he was playing for us as indie rock but, due to the way it was delivered, it certainly had more of a folk music vibe to it. It was just he and his guitar, which is kind of how I like my music. So it might not be surprising that I liked his music.
The songs were lyrically complicated and rife with metaphor and imagery and they were delivered in such a way that the lyric were highlighted rahter than buried. Part of that is probably the sound mix but part of it is also the simplicity of a man and his guitar. It just works and with music like this it’s probably the best way to be introduced to it live because you are able to hear everything clearly and get a good idea of what the music is about.
the most impressive part of his set was when he did an impromptu mashup of two songs. The songs in question were Cinnamon and Bride and Bridle which were songs I’d never heard so I’m really not quite sue how well the mash up was blended from one to the next but it didn’t feel awkward or stilted it just flowed and felt like a complete piece of music so I’m willing to guess he pulled it off successfully. He admitted after the mashup was done that this was partly due to the fact that the two songs have many chords in common but that doesn’t make mashing them together on the fly any less impressive.
I’ve never heard anything by The Long Winters but after Roderick’s set I definitely want to check them out and see what these songs sound like in their indie rock form.
Like many people I was first introduced to Coulton’s music by way of Portal’s Still Alive. That song plus the appearance of a few of his songs in Rock Band drove me to his website where I found tons and tons of fun, funny, and good music. That’s the thing about Coulton, he’s widely known as nerdy song writer or a comedic songwriter. He’s not really either of those things, what he actually is is a good songwriter who happens to be a funny nerd. Maybe that’s just semantice but I do think there is a difference. He’s not a man who writes nerdy songs to pander to people, he writes these songs because that’s who he is. That’s one of the reasons he’s as popular as he is. He’s genuine.
It’s also kind of a shame that some of his not as funny songs can get overlooked because people like to pigeonhole artists into one category or another. Most of his songs contain more than a few wry turns of phrase or mundane absurdity but they aren’t always intended to be wholly comedic. One of the songs he sang called Glasses was a really beautiful tale of an aging couple in love. Given what you tend to hear about his music it’s sort of unexpected but it’s good and it works.
Of course the comedy was there too, it being especially present in the banter between songs, because he is a genuinely funny human being. It helps to keep the show cohesive and the audience engaged. I especially loved the part where talked about the ‘pretend end of the set’ because I’ve long felt that encores are kind of a strange thing these days. If they are expected by both the audience and the musician then are they really encores? In any case, funny was present, from dropping a little science to introducing us to his merch assistant Scarface it was just an incredibly entertaining show.
Speaking of Scarface, I’m sorry to posts that picture without warning. He’s truly monstrous to look at. Despite his hideousness he treated us to a great version of Skull Crusher mountain immediately after selling the hell out of some shirts. So hooray for Scarface!
About half way through the set John Roderick came back on stage and he and Coulton played several selection from their recently released Christmas album One Christmas at a Time. These songs included tiny amps, rocking guitar solos, a comparison of that Atari 2600 and the Intellivision, a rocking comb solo, and the sage advice “Don’t future fuck yourself with multiple Christmases.” I guess what I’m saying is that you should probably go ahead and buy the album. And this is coming from someone who really dislikes Christmas music.
In closing I’d like to say that the title of this post is what Jonathan Coulton wants on his tombstone. It’s fitting given how he got his music career started. He said that we could put it on there if any of us ended up being in charge of what goes on his tombstone. He also said that this was an unlikely scenario so I want to get the word out there to everyone to increase the odds.