BY SHARYN JACKSON
During a moment of technical difficulties during John Roderick’s opening set at last night’s Jonathan Coulton Band show at the Guthrie, Roderick admonished the audience for not lending a hand. “If there was one crowd in American where I could get tech support, you’d think it’d be this one.”
Indeed, Jonathan Coulton tends to draw a crowd of highly skilled computer nerds, programmers like himself. And it’s a badge they wear with pride, quite literally: the merch table always had a line, and it was mainly for a brown T-shirt with a graphic of a smiling chimp, and the words “CodeMonkey” underneath. The shirt refers to one of Coulton’s signature songs about a guy who programs computers for a living. Coulton opened his set with the tune.
Those who didn’t already have a Coulton tee referencing CodeMonkey or some of his other hits, like “RE: Your Brains” and “Skullcrusher Mountain,” skewed toward the ‘90s alt-nerd look: male ponytails (or just straight up mullets), wire-rim glasses, un-tucked button-down plaid shirts, and facial hair. Basically everyone looked like Coulton.
Coulton gave a fair sampling of his better known hits about things like minor “Star Trek” characters, an imaginary meeting with sports writer George Plimpton, and a scenario in which a morning news anchor burns his TV station to the ground. The playlist was rounded out with tunes from his latest album, “Artificial Heart.” Whatever the topic of the song, Coulton found a way to embrace the ‘90s-stalgia nerdiness. Leading into a new song he wrote as the theme to John Scalzi’s sci-fi novel of the same name, "Redshirts," Coulton proclaimed with pride (and more than a touch of irony), “It’s a thing that I do—music for books.”
Unlike Roderick, Coulton got plenty of audience advice during some tuning troubles. “The B string, the B string!” someone yelled out. Coulton thanked him dryly for pointing out that he was “20 microtones flat.”
As Roderick said during the opening act, “I know this entire audience falls somewhere on the Aspberger’s spectrum.” That line got the loudest applause of the night.