The Coach House
April 12, 2012
For a guy that's been to hell and back, Mike Doughty has a funny way of showing the gravity of what he's been through. The man who used to front the New York-based Soul Coughing brought his Book Of Drugs tour to The Coach House last night, as he promised in the piece we ran on him last week, the show was going to be unlike anything he'd ever done, and likely anything that anyone's ever done.
Throughout the 90-minute set, Doughty mixed music with storytelling
along with reading excerpts from his recently released autobiography.
Despite not having a formal set list, something the singer noted about
three songs in; the sparse crowd was very involved in the performance
and was captivated by his banter and wit. Self-deprecating and funny,
the singer treated the show as if it were Madison Square Garden; he gave
his all despite there being maybe 100 people in total at the venue. But
he seemed comfortable, even content, where many of his contemporaries
wouldn't have been.
Some of the stories that he read were cringe worthy and could have
been awkward, but he handled himself made them less uncomfortable and
more in the tone of a buddy telling a story of something they did that
was fucked up in the past. Doughty let the crowd in on several nuggets
that weren't mentioned in the book as well. For example, he explained to
the audience that the drummer (Yuval Gabay), said “Yo G,” so often that
his friends thought that the singer downplayed the use of the term,
whereas he shared that he thought it wouldn't be believable that an
Israeli would try to sound like a rapper.
Other highlights include Doughty calling his old A&R at Warner Bros “a gay, indie Jabba The Hutt,” which elicited laughs and cheers and his explanation why he has distanced himself from the Soul Coughing records. This was the most interesting moment of the night and had the audience's undivided attention (which at certain points, it wasn't well behaved causing Doughty to stop mid-song and scold the noisemakers) because he said that had it been up to him, the band's sound would have been comparable to A Tribe Called Quest rather than the unclassifiable genre, had he had his way. He also shared how shady his bandmates were, like the time the bassist (Sebastian Steinberg) ran up a phone bill in France for 700 Francs and how he was gypped out of a dinner due to astute math on their part, and sadly, how he was bilked out of the copyrights for the songs he wrote.
When he wasn't letting the crowd in on the inner workings of Soul Coughing, his stories about his drug years were raw, uncensored and moving. Explaining that his problem ran so deep that his drug dealer cut him off, the audience didn't know whether to laugh or cry, sort of like that cousin who tells you stories from his past that you can't believe are true, yet are very much so.
Storytelling aside, Doughty's voice sounds exactly the same as when he was with Soul Coughing. Despite the drugs, the wear and tear and the in-fight that would have left a weaker man defeated or possibly dead, Mike Doughty still knows how to write great songs and to connect with an audience, which after what he's been through, says a lot about how far he's come and how he was able to salvage his career, which was unfathomable 12 years ago.