Jonathon Coulton: or Dragon-Con Consolation Concert

Friday evening my wife and I took the kids down to the Jonathan Coulton concert at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA.
As contributing troubadour to Popular Science magazine, you might expect Coulton to have a somewhat geeky audience. Yeah, you’re right. If you weren’t going to be at Dragon Con, this is really where you should have spent your Friday night.
Opening for Jonathan Coulton was Paul and Storm, a more local act which, to my shame, I had never really heard of before. These guys were a heck of a lot of fun and a great complement to Coulton. In fact they both took part in each other’s sets, which worked out really well. Their repertoire is very humorous and they have a ton of talent to carry it off. I think the thing I found most amusing was Paul’s insistence on holding a guitar when he wasn’t at the keyboards. He took it very seriously, even adjusting the capo between songs, yet he NEVER PLAYED A NOTE. Crazy. 🙂

Jonathan Coulton was marvelous. His song writing is so good he really needs nothing but his guitar and his engaging voice, yet the addition of Paul & Storm for about half the set added depth and a little extra “fun”. The audience was primed for this unassuming troubadour and treated him like a beloved rock star, in return Coulton appeared to be genuinely flattered by the attention. The thrown stuffed animals and gummi brains seemed to amuse him as much as the audience.

There is just something great about live music in a venue as intimate as the Birchmere, an opportunity to “connect” that doesn’t exist elsewhere. The spontaneous audience-driven rendition of “Sweet Caroline” rarely occurs in a larger house.

While some of the music played had rather grown up themes, I can’t feel anything but pleased about bringing my kids along. Beyond having the opportunity to see such talented and genuine performers live, the kind of audience these people draw is a treat to be around. Our table had a couple celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary and, at the other end of the spectrum, a young couple getting married in a few weeks. All of them were engaging, interesting and treated my teens as people.