This was a fun weekend for music. I think that Ben Folds and Jonathan Coulton are my two favorite musicians and I got to see both perform live this past weekend. Neat.
On Saturday night we went to see Jonathan Coulton perform at the Triple Door. We’d never seen him perform but we expected it to be good. It was better than we imagined. Not only is he a relaxed and confident performer (or makes it seem that way), but his singing is way better than we realized. It’s not that he doesn’t sing well on his recorded music, my impression is that his recordings (while excellent) don’t show off just how good his voice is. It was quite beautiful. I was worried about the show because I usually don’t like seeing performers play alone when their recorded music has a suite of instruments. Coulton had a couple of folks singing backup and adding percussion (and ukelele played by an adorable teenage budding YouTube star — I think she travelled to the show with her Dad) but it was still primarily a solo affair. And again I was surprised. He clearly thinks a lot about his performances and had tuned his songs appropriately. His slow and sweet version of Code Monkey was really beautiful. He also had a couple of fun toys to perform with. One was a Zen Drum which let him play samples (some looping, some not) and improvise some live DJing of Mr. Fancy Pants (note: in Seattle he was even better on the device than he was in SF). Very cool. He also had a small white rectangular device “with lights” that appeared to be some sort of sequencer or MIDI controller (
please let me know in the comments if you know what the hell that thing was thanks GOOG – it’s a Yamaha TENORI-ON). But I’m not entirely sure. If I ever end up performing, clearly I will need to get one of these things (I think I want the TENORI more than the Zendrum, but it’s $1300 – damn sam). I can’t defend the decision, I can only tell you it’s already been made.
On Sunday night we went to the Ben Folds concert. (Thanks for driving Chris.) I’d seen him perform maybe 7 or 8 times over the past decade. And while Ben Folds puts on a great performance solo, it’s my preference for him playing with other musicians that made me nervous about Coulton performing essentially alone. Luckily, Folds had a bassist and drummer with him who matched his energy and attitude. (There was also a weird dude who would show up periodically and dramatically play a tambourine as well as an odd synth solo from Moby — yes Moby.) Odd moments aside, Folds was fantastic. He puts so much incredible energy into his shows — they border on violent. It’s like punk showtunes. He also debuted several new songs from his upcoming September release. They sounded great. I’m excited. There was also one moment where he spent five minutes explaining music theory to the audience. I imagine that most of the college kids understood very little of it. I did ok given my paltry understanding of music theory, but he was a pretty good teacher and I was able to follow most. It didn’t matter though. The crowd cheered no matter what. They just love him. It didn’t matter what the hell he was talking about. They would have cheered if he’d read out the obituaries. It was especially fun/amusing when he demonstrated his music theory lesson during the first several measures of his cover of Bitches Ain’t Shit modulating the chords to be more “bad lounge jazz” (as he said).
All in all, a very fun weekend.