The other day, Andie rather luckily spotted that Jonathan Coulton was performing a show in Bristol today. We hadn’t “been out” for a little while, so we decided on a whim to grab some tickets and head along to the performance.
I’m extremely glad we did. It was a wonderful experience. I’ve only ever seen videos of JoCo’s shows before, but being there live was even better — particularly as he was also accompanied by his usual companions Paul & Storm, who also acted as the “warm-up” act.
Paul & Storm are the perfect warm-up act. Blending some light-hearted stage comedy with some genuinely amusing songs, they have a wonderful sense of chemistry with one another and with the audience. They can adapt to the mood of the room at a moment’s notice and engage with hecklers faster than any dedicated stand-up I’ve ever seen. Plus their songs are just plain good — and The Captain’s Wife’s Lament always brings a smile to everyone’s face, however long it ends up going on for.
Jonathan Coulton, meanwhile, is a little more understated than the antics of his friends. His songs are often amusing, but in a way that ensures you have to actively listen to the lyrics in order to “get” them. Some of them assume knowledge of certain mathematical and scientific concepts — he does a love song as sung by Pluto’s moon to Pluto, for example, as well as one about the Mandelbrot Set — but he also does a great job of explaining to the audience what his songs are about.
He describes his music as being ’70s-style soft rock, and beautifully encapsulated this in a self-parodying song in which “soft rock” was used as a not-terribly-subtle euphemism. This piece also included a variety of spectacular, seamless and possibly improvised homages to various popular songs
More than being amusing, though, his songs are clever and often quite touching. Even when he’s singing about scientists destroying the world with robot armies, you know that he’s channelling concepts that the audience can relate to — loneliness, alienation, a sense of not fitting in with “normal” society — and that’s what makes him such a beloved performer among the “nerd” community.
While sitting in that venue this evening, listening to the songs and laughing at the silly jokes, I got a very similar feeling to what I felt when I went to PAX a couple of years ago. A sense of “this is for me. This is something I am a part of, and I like being a part of it.” It’s not a feeling I have particularly often, so I relish it when it shows itself. And that, really, is all I could have asked from this show — I’m happy it delivered.
It’s 3:30am now. I should probably get some sleep. (I’m up so late because I was attempting to finish the latest visual novel I’m playing, Deus Machina Demonbane, but it’s just going on and on and on. It’s good though. Watch out for a writeup on Games Are Evil tomorrow.)