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Jonathan Coulton loves the geek culture

Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis, Md., December 4, 2009

Reviewed by Greg Yost

A self-professed geek, Brooklyn's Jonathan Coulton found his musical niche when he combined his considerable talents as a songsmith with his background as a computer programmer and his love for geek culture. He gained national recognition thanks to the popularity of his "Thing A Week" project, a musical experiment that forced him to write and record a new song each week from September 2005 through September 2006, and his supremely kitschy and catchy acoustic rock cover of the 1992 Sir Mix-a-Lot hit Baby Got Back helped make him an internet superstar.

Coulton's musical world is filled with sad and lonely giant squids, introspective mad scientists, murderous baby dolls, robots and brain-starved zombies and the appreciative audience at the sold-outclub was eating up everything he served throughout his 18-song set.

Given the subject matter for his songs, it would be easy to dismiss Coulton as a mere novelty act, but that would be a huge mistake. Accompanied primarily by his own acoustic guitar, Coulton proved throughout the evening that not only is he skilled at writing songs that are both smart and funny, but he is also very capable of creating music that connects with his audience on an emotional level.

While some of Coulton's more popular songs like Code Monkey, Skullcrusher Mountain, Tom Cruise Crazy, First Of May and Still Alive were clearly big hits with the partisan crowd, some of the most memorable moments of the evening were the quieter ones.

A Talk With George, Coulton's imaginary conversation with the deceased writer George Plimpton about living life to the fullest, was stirring while Space Doggity, a song about Laika, the Russian dog that died while becoming the first animal to orbit the Earth in Sputnik 2, was surprisingly touching.

Of course, no Coulton show is complete without a rousing rendition of Re: Your Brains, the artist's zombie tour de force. The crowd joined in the merriment and expertly played the part of the ragged and cacophonous zombie chorus.

Arlington, Va.'s Paul and Storm proved to be the perfect appetizer for an evening of musical humor. The acoustic duo is cut from the same musical cloth as Coulton and easily connected with the audience - much more so than your average "opening band."

Nugget Man, a loving tribute to chicken nugget inventor Dr. Robert C. Baker, joined Frogger! The Frogger Musical and the lengthy The Captain's Wife's Lament as highlights of their brief set, while Nun Fight, a Gregorian chant introduction to a boxing match, reminded local music fans of the greatness of Paul and Storm's old a cappella group, Da Vinci's Notebook.

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