SAN FRANCISCO —  This isn’t the primary time Jonathan Coulton, Paul and Storm and their “pals” have performed Sketchfest. It’s not even the primary time RIFF has reviewed their Sketchfest present.

Due to this the quick temptation was to only copy the earlier evaluate, change the “pals” with Molly Lewis and Jean Grae and hope no one observed. The previous reveals had been even on the identical venue and there’s already a joke concerning the quotes round pals to save lots of us the difficulty of developing with a brand new one.

Sadly for our collective bedtime, however happily for the present itself, this sensible scheme wouldn’t work. Relatively than a standard live performance scheme the place the varied artists come out one after the other, carry out a couple of songs after which make approach for the following act, the 2020 version was extra freeform. By which we imply it had extra folks sitting behind the stage in chairs.

Paul and Storm had been the primary act in that the primary few songs had been ones they wrote, however Coulton spent the entire time on stage both offering backup vocals, as he did for “Nugget Man,” or sitting behind them, as he did for the tragically outdated “Write Just like the Wind,” encouraging George R. R. Martin to jot down new Sport of Thrones books so he doesn’t maintain up manufacturing of the present.

It was awkward for all concerned. Together with, presumably, George R. R. Martin, regardless of the very fact he wasn’t really in attendance.

After some time Storm handed his guitar—or presumably Coulton’s guitar, its possession was by no means firmly established—to Coulton and, regardless of the personnel or variety of devices on stage not really altering, the songs shifted to Coulton’s. After a quick cease at They May Be Giants materials; they carried out their cowl of “Birdhouse in Your Soul” with a field of Nerds sweet as percussion.

Paul and Storm finally sat right down to let Coulton carry out a snippet of one among his solo reveals, although as is their approach they continued to offer commentary. For instance, when Coulton checked the setlist on his cellphone and exclaimed, “Oh, good!” Paul chimed in with, “Oh, is it one of many good ones?” Coulton replied, “It’s. Not one of many rubbish ones, I took most of these out of this set.”

Molly Lewis was the primary good friend to affix them on stage, offering ukulele accompaniment for “At all times the Moon,” a sluggish, unhappy and considerate track. It was at this level Lewis realized that they hadn’t taken tonal shifts under consideration when designing the set, focusing totally on logistics and personnel to ensure everybody wanted was already there.

It got here up as a result of Lewis’ first track was “Johnny Dick Legs,” which is about an Outdated West sheriff with penises for legs.

It’s an amazingly humorous track, particularly following an emotional breakup tune. She prefaced it by saying the viewers had permission to be very disenchanted in her—however the track received such a protracted, sustained spherical of applause she really appeared to get awkward ready for it to be over.

Of all the present Lewis in all probability received essentially the most laughs along with her between-song jokes, and deservedly so as a result of her supply was good. This was very true when she stated, “It’s January so you realize what which means: It’s nearly pumpkin spice season.” That was by means of an introduction to “The Pumpkin Spice Lament,” from her musical concerning the warfare between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Should you’re not acquainted with Molly Lewis it is best to treatment that scenario.

Lewis introduced Jean Grae, the night’s closing visitor, to accompany her on her final track earlier than handing the mic again to Coulton, who carried out a few of his songs from The Good Battle, a TV collection that employed him to jot down explanatory interludes. It’s a protracted story.

Regardless of being an acclaimed musician in her personal proper, Grae used the time to inform a narrative a few lesson she discovered from a fan at one among her reveals in Australia. Nevertheless it wasn’t fairly that easy: She gave characters to the opposite 4 folks on stage, they usually ad-libbed commentary.

Paul was Ritchie Valens, Storm was Bobby McFerrin, Lewis was “Macavity exiting” and Coulton was “Low Vitality Lil Jon.” It took them a bit to get warmed up, however in time Paul and Storm’s singing punctuated by Coulton’s bored “What.” or “OK.” turned totally hilarious.

The ethical of Grae’s story: “Typically being particular person means you’ve gotta punch a motherfucker within the face.” That’s one thing that we will all get behind.

Lastly, all 5 took the stage for Coulton’s least safe-for-work track, “First of Might,” and referred to as up Rhett Miller of the Outdated 97s who had the venue for the following present to affix them on the Beatles’ “Right here Comes the Solar,” with every performer taking a verse.

Now if solely they’ll hold this format for subsequent yr, it should save us all lots of writing and enhancing.

Comply with editor Daniel J. Willis at

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