Thursday, 13 October 2005

For those paying attention it might seem like Mike Doughty was here just yesterday. It’s actually been a couple months, but you’re pretty close. In July he did an outdoor show as part of the Aquatennial Block Party.

For that show, the crowd was packed in like sardines. Most of them were there to see Howie Day. The weather that day was the epitome of the dog-days of summer, or “balls hot” as Mike put it. Having other tickets that night, I didn’t stick around for Day, but Doughty got a 45 minute set and spent at least another couple hours signing autographs.

This time around was different. Doughty was the headliner, so that meant a full show instead of just a short set. Also it was inside First Avenue instead of outside. The weather wasn’t ungodly hot. Although crowded, there was at least a little room to breathe. Indoors on a rainy Wednesday night, there was actually room to breathe.

There were two opening acts. First came Oneida Fink, a singer/songwriter type with a keyboard player. In terms of stage presence and demeanor, it looked like an odd match, but not quite as weird as Excel vs. Isabella Antenna, but it was close. Even thought they weren’t bad, something about Fink’s music fell completely flat with the audience. It struck me as fairly depressing, almost a mopey/weepy quality to it. It just didn’t mesh with the rest of the evening.

The second opener was a woman named Erin McEowen. Armed with just a guitar, this spunky, cutie patootie put on a great set. She had trouble getting the audience engaged, but I think that was holdover from the first act. McEown was an accomplished guitar player with a fantastic voice. Very good stuff, indeed! I had never heard of her before, but based on the crowd size she was fairly well known.

Catching her at the merch table as she was packing up, I told her how impressed I was and that her set was a real treat. We talked for a minute or two and as I bought her CD. As I handed her a twenty, she said she didn’t have change. I told her she could keep the extra $5 if I could get her autograph and a picture. She not only obliged, but when she found change several minutes later, she tracked me down to return the $5. I listened to the CD on the way home and definitely want to hear more.

Minnesota has always been good to Doughty. Every time Soul Coughing played the Twin Cities, it was always packed. Now that he’s gone solo, it’s no different.

Soul Coughing was always very popular in the Twin Cities, typically selling out shows each time they played. By the looks of things, Minnesota is still good to Doughty. By the time he took the stage, the club was pretty packed. It wasn’t the worst I experienced at First Avenue, but I wouldn’t have wanted any more people to jam in there either.

I think his popularity stems from not just his witty lyrics and musical craftsmanship, but how he treats the fans. He always makes it a point to come out and sign stuff after the show. He takes the time to shake hands and talk with people as well as pose for pictures. It’s that extra something that really makes him stand out.

Doughty did most of the songs from Haughty Melodic interspersed with some old Soul Coughing tunes in his 90+ minute set. I was too busy getting pictures and enjoying the show to take notes, so there’s no way I remember the set list. “Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well” and “Busting Up A Starbucks” were in there, as was “Kansas City” from Ruby Vroom.

Near the end of the show he did a couple cover tunes that just killed me. Although it may help to be familiar with Doughty’s style, but imagine a bluesy, scat-rock version of Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. I kid you not. It was hysterical and the audience even sang along with “Gambler.”

I can’t wait for the next time Doughty comes through town. Heck, I could see doing a road trip to see him again.

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