Tuesday, April 6, 2010

POP CULTURE: Paul and Storm and Jonathan Coulton are your friends.

One day last year, I had a handful of friends over to play Rock Band at my new apartment, and at some point, we were flipping through the DLC store looking for interesting songs. It was then that my friend Awesome Kevin (@kezdawg) introduced me to Jonathan Coulton (@jonathancoulton). While going through the store, we landed on a little song called Skullcrusher Mountain, and Kevin took a dollar out of his wallet and handed it to me, and was like, "Trust me." So I bought it, and a whole new era began.

For those of you unfamiliar, @jonathancoulton's music is mostly concerned with the universal melancholy of robots, mad scientists, primates, and cephalopods. The important thing is that beyond being hilarious, the music really works. This is something he shares in common with frequent cohorts Paul and Storm (@paulandstorm), and also @garfunkeloates who I previously reviewed.

From his secret laboratory, @jonathancoulton will share tales of sorrow, loneliness and pain and somehow you will walk away happier for it. As sad as it may seem to hear of the romantic failures of squids, programmers and scientists, you will smile until it hurts. You will also sing along with more than one song, be it as a chorus of zombies backing a zombified MBA as he negotiates with some survivors, or as an evil AI forgiving a research subject for destroying her. You will journey to the bottom of the sea, a space lab in space, furniture stores, suburbs and all manner of other miraculous places.

@paulandstorm cover a lot of similar nerd territory while managing to be completely unique and equally hilarious. From their first song, "Opening Band", they honestly explain that they understand your relationship with them and do not hold it against you. ("We are the opening band... We're probably not the band you came to see tonight...) From there, they tackle video games, nun fighting, pirates, and tons of comedy. Especially brilliant is a running bit they do where X is the name of their Y cover band. And somehow, even after I've seen them live three times, the cover band jokes are always super fresh and ultra-nerdy. I consider myself to be a fairly well-rounded renaissance nerd, but often their cover band jokes go over my head. @paulandstorm will open the show, play for a while, and then @jonathancoulton will come out and play his set, and then @paulandstorm will come back out and help with a few more songs. They are a great team, with a lot of the same musical influences, and super clever senses of humor. And in case I haven't made a strong enough argument in favor of you giving them some of your money to see them play live, get a load of this:

Last year, they had a show scheduled in Chicago, and after they were already booked and had sold tickets, They Might Be Giants announced a show in Chicago the same night. One of their famous "Flood" shows, were they just play the 1990 record Flood from start to finish. Knowing their fan base is almost entirely a subset of They Might Be Giants fans, they devised a plan to make it up to TMBG fans who already bought tickets for their show. They learned to play Flood in a matter of a few weeks, and simultaneously performed a Flood show of their own. Despite the imaginary nature of Chicago, I super wished I lived within range of going to that show. I have since heard them play "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)", and it was pure magic.

Here's something else super cool: @jonathancoulton releases all of his music himself under Creative Commons. So I recorded my favorite songs from the April 4th show, and uploaded them to http://youtube.com/nerdsherpa along with what is probably my favorite Xmas song ever written, recorded last December. There's also a ton of other material on YouTube for you to find and enjoy. And at the end of your internet adventure, if you liked what you heard, maybe swing on by http://jonathancoulton.com or http://paulandstorm.com and vote with your wallet.

Through @h_e_e_l_s, and being an Enforcer at PAX East, I recently got to meet them backstage at their April 2 show. Paul and Storm forgot their melodica at PAX, and @h_e_e_l_s brought me along on the mission to deliver it in time for the cover of Istanbul (Not Constantinople). I greeted them, "Fellow nerds!" and as you might suspect, they all pretty much agreed, "Yeah, that's us." Alas, I was a little too star struck to ask for a picture, but the same thing happened with @garfunkeloates the first time I met them after a show. Next time, I'll try to make it happen.

Like I keep saying, these guys are nerds. So it's our job as nerds to support their efforts. Buy a record, order a shirt, see them live. You will not be sorry.


(I forgot to mention. @paulandstorm's latest record is called "Do You Like Star Wars?"... It sells itself, people.)


  1. A link to the audio of the great Flood Show is here

  2. Sweet mother of science. I finally downloaded the Flood show, and it's lose-your-damn-mind good.