. : : June 6th, 2012 : : .
I’m not a Jonathan Coulton fan.
Not that it’s a bad thing to be. In fact, based on the show I witnessed at Toronto’s Mod Club Theatre earlier this week, I’d say it’s a damn fine thing to be. Never have I seen such an enthusiastic — nae, INTERACTIVE — crowd at an indie rock concert in my life.
I don’t mean in the “drunkenly yelling lyrics at the top of your lungs” interactive, nor the “wildly dancing and flailing about with no regard for the people around you” interactive, or even the less annoying “get on stage and dance with the band” interactive. I mean the give-and-take sort of interactive where the audience interaction is almost as much a part of the show as the songs are.
I mean, how many shows have you been to where the audience spontaneously started their own meme? Or the entire first three rows instantly cosplaying zombies as they reach lifelessly for the performer(‘s brains)? Or traded one-liners back and forth for over an hour-and-a-half? It was ridiculous, absurd, bizarre, and… well, a lot of fun.
Of course, the fun is encouraged by Jonathan’s body of work. His performances are almost as zany as his songs. Don’t believe me? Check out Tom Cruise Crazy, a song about — ah, you can probably guess by the title — or Je Suis Rick Springfield, a song about a man in Paris trying to convince a gaggle of girls that he is in fact Rick Springfield. Whether he is or not — or whether the girls even know who Rick Springfield is — is ambiguous. This song, like many others, is in-character, and performed entirely in french. That is, anyway, until the bridge, in which the band breaks out into a verse and chorus of the Rick Springfield hit, Jesse’s Girl.
But let me take a giant step back. I am not a Jonathan Coulton fan. How can I be? I’d barely even heard of him before seeing him live. I knew of him peripherally. The Long Winters‘ John Roderick, subject of the previous blog entry, has played shows with and for him and his fans aboard the annual JoCo Cruise. I knew his fans were rabid — rabid enough to justify a specialty cruise, anyway — and prided themselves on being on the fringes of society. Computer nerds, sci-fi junkies, code wizards and such. But I don’t think I’d ever heard one of his songs before this evening.
So, no, not a fan. But a n00b, perhaps?
I wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for the draw of opening act, John Roderick, but I’m glad I went, and glad I stayed. Jonathan Coulton’s performance was a unique experience that no recording could quite recreate, but will give you a good idea of just how off-the-wall the evening was. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Jonathan brought Roderick back out for the encore’s closing two numbers, Nemeses (from his latest album, Artificial Heart) and a cover of Bad Company‘s Feel Like Makin’ Love.
Unlike John Roderick’s opening, acoustic performance, Jonathan’s headlining set, performed mostly as an electric three-piece, suffered a bit more from the venue’s notorious bass-heavy set-up. A recent visit to the Mod Club’s website discovered the venue boasting about 218 sub-woofers, or more than one sub for every three people at full capacity! YIKES! But, again, the high’s and mid’s were still uncharacteristically clear (if not just a little overwhelmed), and vocals especially shined through with pizazz. Colour me impressed, Mod Club. As such, the recording sounds great. The bass drum is front-and-centre, especially if you’re listening to the recording with a half decent sub yourself, but doesn’t overpower the tape. Definitely something the dedicated droves of fans will be interested in hearing. And maybe my fellow n00bs will be tempted to give JoCo a spin, too? You could do worse if you’re looking for starting places.
The only flaws I know of are all audience based. The people around me sometimes got a bit extra rowdy, and as I was standing on a staircase, you here a couple of people apologize as they walk in front of me. No big deal, and doesn’t happen frequently enough to really detract.
Enjoy this tape, and check out Jonathan’s website for songs, videos, and more.
01. Code Monkey
02. Sticking It To Myself
03. Big Bad World One
05. Red Shirt
07. The Future Soon
09. Skullcrusher Mountain
11. A Talk With George
13. You Ruined Everything
14. Tom Cruise Crazy
15. Fozy Lady [Jimi Hendrix] [tease]
16. First of May
18. Good Morning Tucson
20. Still Alive
22. Want You Gone
24. Mondelbrot Set
25. Shop Vac
27. Je Suis Rick Springfield
> Jesse’s Girl [Rick Springfield]
29. RE: Your Brain
32. I Crush Everything
33. Mr. Fancy Pants
35. Nemeses *
37. Feel Like Makin’ Love [Bad Company] *
* performed with John Roderick
Huge thanks to John Roderick and Jonathan Coulton, and an extra special thanks to Kathleen Edwards, who as I understand it, had to rush right out after the set to get back on the tour bus and head to Kent.