iSPY Magazine 2 YEAR

The Magazine

June 19, 2012

Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick bring nerd rock to the Ark

Jonathan Coulton
Jonathan Coulton (pictured above)                                 Photo by Lauren Atkinson


by Jesse Atkinson

Normally if you told me that you’d been to a concert that involved a crowd sing-a-long to the lyrics “All we want to do is eat your brains!” I’d be a little weirded out, but in the case of Jonathan Coulton and the kind of crowd he attracts there is something kind of sweet about it. Friday evening Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick enchanted a sold out audience at The Ark in Ann Arbor. Both artists have a dedicated (read: rabid) fan base, and Friday night it showed.

The line stretched around the block well before the 7:30 p.m. door time in anticipation of the performances to come. The in-line conversations were full of reminiscings on how each person had discovered Jonathan Coulton’s music as well as many self-aware nerd jokes. “I knew this was the line for Coulton show by how many dudes wearing video game t-shirts were in it!” joked one fan (who, yes, was wearing a video game t-shirt).

For the uninitiated, Jonathan Coulton’s story has become something of a folk-legend. The short of it is that he left his job as a software developer to pursue music full time. He then began to grow an online fan base with his Thing A Week project where he released one new song every week. Many of these songs became popular viral hits (see: “Code Monkey” and his folk cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”).

You’d be forgiven if you mistook Friday’s show for stand-up comedy. At times it practically was. First John Roderick — known for his comedic talents on both Twitter (@johnroderick) as well as his podcast “Roderick On The Line” — took the stage. He was charming and hilarious throughout the entire set, which involved a lot of tuning. Many entertainers wouldn’t have been able to handle a crowd throughout several tuning sessions, but Roderick turned it into an opportunity to poke fun at Michigan’s recent  “vagina” kerfuffle (Rep. Lisa Brown was banned from speaking on the House floor after use of the word). This led to an entire evening filled with shouts of “Vagina!” throughout both sets from the crowd and performers.

Jonathan Coulton then took the stage and opened with his breakout hit “Code Monkey”. Coulton played an extensive crowd-pleasing set that covered the span of his career. The crowd banter was at a fever pitch, but all was in good fun. Coulton was always quick on his feet to reply and even politely indulged a rather eager fan that proclaimed that he had emailed him.

After the fake-end of the show — something Coulton completely recognized and mocked tongue-in-cheek — he brought Roderick back out on stage for the encore. Roderick came out carrying his iPhone and declared that he was sad because someone had tweeted that he tuned too much. Roderick sang “Nemeses,” a song from Coulton’s latest record, “Artificial Heart,” in which Roderick takes lead-vocal duties.

This was hands down one of the best concert going experiences I’ve ever had. From The Ark’s incredible staff to the awesome crowd to the performers playing their hearts out, there was nothing “artificial” about it. And yes, it’s really fun to sing along to “Re: Your Brains” at the top of your lungs with a few hundred fans.


Written by Jesse Atkinson

About the Author

Amanda Slater
Amanda Slater
Amanda is the Editor in Chief of iSPY Magazine.

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