Jonathan Coulton Feels Fantastic

Published on July 30th, 2008 in: Canadian Content, Comedy, Current Faves, Issues, Music, Reviews |

Lula Loungue, Toronto ON
July 9, 2008

By Megashaun

The Lula Lounge in Toronto isn’t your typical rock show venue, but then again, Jonathan Coulton isn’t your typical rock star. The man has made a name for himself via Internet superstardom. He’s just a dude, really. No fat record company executive pushing him around, telling him what to play or what to look like. No. He’s just a former database programmer and Yale graduate who turned to making a living by making music. In what used to be part of his kitchen.

joco photo2

A friend of mine introduced me to the music of Jonathan Coulton, aka “JoCo,” years ago by sending along the song “First of May” because he thought I would think it was funny. And I did! Soon, I had downloaded all the Coulton tunes I could find on his site and I must have listened to them hundreds of times. But I didn’t have the opportunity to see him live until this year, when he made his first visit to Toronto with his friends Paul and Storm, who served as an excellent opening act.

The Lula Lounge is a dinner theater, of sorts. There are raised booths along the left and right walls of the venue with smaller tables arranged in front of the stage. During Paul and Storm’s set, a very fancy and filling dinner was served. Amidst the clanging of forks and knives on ceramic plates, Paul and Storm delivered their brand of humorous musical entertainment.

Having never heard them before, it was a very special treat. The two men stood on stage, each with an acoustic guitar and began singing “We are the opening band!” loudly and proudly, with following verses indicating that they are not the band we wanted to see, but that we’d have to listen to them anyway (watch the YouTube video here). And they weren’t joking! I wasn’t there to see them, but unlike other shows where I am not interested in the opening act, Paul and Storm put on a truly remarkable and memorable set. Their songs were funny, full of little side jokes, and more often than not involved lots of audience participation.

If you’ve been to a rock show in Toronto, you may be familiar with the pithy response bands tend to get when they so much as ask the apathetic audience to merely handclap along. It’s enough to make you wonder why these people, these supposed fans of the bands they’ve paid to see, even bother going out to the show. Is it just to say they went, or are they actually enjoying themselves, yet emotionally unable to coerce their muscles into clapping, into smiling?

This wasn’t a typical venue, it wasn’t a typical show line-up, and this was obviously not your typical Toronto scenester audience. Everyone clapped along when prompted. Everyone shouted refrains of “ARRR!” during Paul and Storm’s “Pirate Song,” even if it was between bites of a steak dinner (watch the YouTube video here).

paul and storm tears by eric and david schulzinger
Paul and Storm: “Tears”
Photo © Eric and David Schulzinger

But their audience participation wasn’t just limited to hand-claps and pirate calls. Paul and Storm had purchased grocery bags full of snacks with suggestive names to give out as prizes throughout the show. The decision on who got the prizes was somewhat arbitrary, but that just made the whole concept even funnier. I wish I had written down the names of the various snacks that were bestowed upon people, but I do remember that one in particular was called “Softies” and no one knew quite what they were. Another product was “Dunkaroos.”

For me, the highlight of the set came when they performed a bunch of joke jingles they wrote for different products in the styles of other artists (watch the YouTube video here). Paul and Storm played for what felt like hours, and I mean that in the best way possible. They gave us the best performance they could and crammed in so many laughs that by the time they were done, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. For an opening band, they sure put on a much better show than hundreds of headliners I’ve seen over the years. In fact, they even had the headliner onstage with them for a few of the songs. It was a little sad to see Paul and Storm leave the stage, but they would eventually return to back up JoCo during his set, for many of his songs.

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One Response to “Jonathan Coulton Feels Fantastic”

  1. Paul and Storm » Ig Nobels; Toronto Understands; Also, Dick Van Dyke:
    August 8th, 2008 at 10:44 am

    […] a very nice review on Popshifter of our show a few weeks back in Toronto with Jonathan Coulton, which has some sweet […]

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