Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sorry B.B., but Mike Doughty is my new "Best Show Ever"!

There is nothing like eating bacon and grooving to "True Dreams of Wichita". Okay, maybe there are millions of things like that, but what can I say, it took some bacon and a little Smofe + Smang to give an angle for this post; it's been lingering in the draft's folder since the day after the show.

Mike Doughty reads from The Book of Drugs
Mike Doughty reads from his The Book of Drugs
I hated that I was unable to write about something so great, in part because I have a serious music-crush on Mike Doughty. Not a man-crush, a music-crush. They are tons of artists that I really love, but few that I'd actually want to be. Mike Doughty just happens to be one of them.

Maybe it's his rhythm or catchy lyrical hooks, but there is just something that draws me to him. He's witty and cynical with a twisted sense of humor - all things I revere - and he's able to capture those things in his songs. From the avant-garde rock of Soul Coughing to the stripped down and raw Skittish; the genius that is Haughty Melotic and the small rock pop of Yes and Also Yes, I wish I had a tenth the skill of Mike Doughty.

After listening to days worth of live Mike Doughty recordings, including the aforementioned "True Dreams" from Smofe + Smang, one of my biggest regrets is never having seen him live. I never had a chance to Soul Coughing, but I'd sadly - and, in hind sight, quite stupidly - passed on several changes to see Mike solo. Weeknight shows and general lethargy kept me from buying tickets.

Until now. Morgan was kind enough to suffer the $9 digital purchase surcharge to obtain tickets. Seems getting your name typed onto a sheet of paper at the door is more expensive that you'd expect.

I'm not sure if it's reassuring or disturbing that the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern hasn't changed much in the last ten years. Sadly the biggest change was the Sold Out sign on the Tavern door; it was printed on clean, white paper from some word processor. Ten years ago it would have been hand written on the back of a Scene Magazine.

PBR and Bud Light seem to be the drinks of choice; I had a Green Flash. The wife and I stood around waiting for the show to start, checking the Internet on our phones while surveying the other miscreants that came out on a Thursday night. Face it, one of the best parts of seeing a live show is the crowd watching.

I'm not sure what I expected, but I got the completely random; everything from hipsters to the non-descript to forty-something yuppies trying to figure out how to use their iPhone. I was unable to determine if the girl in the miniskirt and thigh-high boots was a hooker with a John or just that out of place. It was all too easy to pick the Joe Cocker looking dude as "that guy".

Mike Doughty plays guitar
One man, one mic, one guitar: Mike Doughty on stage.
And then Mike Doughty took the stage and everyone else ceased to exist. Seriously, I don't think I've ever zoned into someone that much. Maybe it was the intimacy of the Tavern or the mere seven feet between us, but the rest of the room faded to black and it was Mike and I.

About three songs in I realized that I totally was ignoring my wife. Despite feeling bad, all I could manage was a quick glance to make sure she wasn't being accosted or worse, plotting our murder, suicide. Evening looked fine and my eyes flipped back to Mike Doughty.

Despite knowing this in the back of my mind, I was struck by how great of a musician he is; he's seriously a genius with keys and alternate tunings. The first several songs were tuned to open C - I think. It was a bit hard to read his fingers and then flip them around, remember the chord pattern and then do the translation in my head - while still trying to enjoy the show. I may have texted a musician friend about that - yeah, I geeked out.

The atmosphere was pretty casual and people were shouting out songs, mostly songs from the recent album, occasionally stuff from Haughty and a few rare items from Skittish. I silently hoped for "$300" or "Unmarked Helicopters" knowing they were nearly impossible long shots. Mike acknowledged some songs with "maybe"'s, "definite maybe"'s and "no"'s.

Then Mike Doughty starts talking about how painful the Soul Coughing songs are for him. How he only owns a quarter of his songs. How they are painful for them to play. My hopes are dashed; at least I understand his reasoning. Someday, Mike, someday - I hope.

Right on cue Joe Cocker becomes "that guy", shouting "Super Bon Bon" over and over. Seriously. Mike held his own, calling Joe out for being "that guy".

There was the girl tripping on something that started dancing and shouting "I Love You, Mike" and a few more outbursts from Joe, but the worst moment of the night was when Mike had to stop the show because a couple was talking rather loud. He totally called them out, pointing them out and talking directly to them. They feigned "who? what? me?", but it didn't work - at least not on Mike. Can you say awkward?

Despite a bit of stupidity, Mike Doughty put on a great show, told some funny - and some sad - stories and really dished about how tragic the Soul Coughing days were. Many thanks to my wife for taking me to the absolute best show I've ever seen - even better than B.B. King on Easter Day 1998.

The best show ever, you say? Hell Yeah! You know that moment when you're at a show and the band plays that song that you don't really care for? Yeah, that moment never happened. What songs did Mike Doughty play, well, I'm not entirely sure but I know that every was like, "Yes, this fucking song!".

Clearly I need to eat bacon when I want to write.

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