Mike Doughty Returns to Rochester Leaving No Question Unanswered

Review by Tomas Flint

“Hey Mike!  White, wheat or rye?”

“I’m sorry good sir but you must abide by the format that we have established for this evenings happenings.  If you would like to ask a question you must etch it upon one of these neon colored sticky notes and place it gently in the Question Jar.  Hence, the Question Jar Tour.  Get it??”

Digging deep into the Jar, Doughty’s satirical sidekick and cello virtuoso, Andrew “Scrap” Livingston draws a tightly folded green post-it from the pile:

“If you had to be buried alive with any cartoon character, which would it be and why?”

Consideration is taken as anticipation fills the room.

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“That would depend upon whether you consider Grimace to be a cartoon character or not.  I have seen him in cartoon form but was that simply rendered from an actual blue animal who chums around with Ronald and the Hamburglar?  Is he a glossy painted oversized paper mache statue that was never really rendered into a cartoon but I want to think that he was?  I don’t wish to answer your question with a question so I will say Grimace.  How about some music?”

This type of banter – interlaced with a catalog of tunes that is 20+ years in the making – was the embodiment of a concert performance birthed in the madness that is Mike Doughty, embraced by the fans who came to participate in just that.

The format of Doughty’s Question Jar Tour is this: prior to performance, audience members populate an empty pickle jar with questions and song requests.  No instruction is provided, no limitations imposed.  Mike and Andrew pull from the jar and so the show begins.  What makes this work is that Doughty fans are of a certain intelligence and possess a bizarre sort of sophistication.  They are loyal to his musical journey and lack the convention to be satiated with having their preconceptions fulfilled.  They came for adventure, they came along for the journey and sold out the Club at Water Street in the process.

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Barring a fake encore of which Mike and Scrap gave ample warning, the set rolled on for nearly 3 hours and 26 songs.  The list was marked by an abundance of Mike’s solo work sprinkled with a few from his Soul Coughing days.  “Grey Ghost”, “Madeline and Nine” and “Navigating by the Stars at Night” opened the set.  Stage to audience banter was had.  Music resumed.  This continued for some time as the audience was immersed in performances of “Circles”, “Unsingable Name”, “27 Jennifers”,  and “Sunken-eyed Girl”.  “White Lexus” made the set after Mike had to admit to having never actually driven a white Lexus.  The duo finished with a cover of 90’s folk-pop duo Drink Me’s “Train to Chicago”, and two from 2005’s Haughty Melodic “Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well” and “Your Misfortune”.  A fitting closer considering the challenges that Mike has had to face over the years.  Yet a hopeful song that epitomizes the whole Mike Doughty thing.

Mike and Scrap delivered a genuine and genuinely strong performance to their fans in Rochester.  There is no question that they are welcome back whenever they need an audience to play along.

Set 1: Grey Ghost, Madeline and Nine, Navigating by the Stars at Night, Janine, These Are Your Friends, Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating in the Future, Ossining, Russell, Busting Up a Starbucks, Tremendous Brunettes, Super Bon Bon, Circles, Unsingable Name

Set 2:  (I Keep On) Rising Up, When the Night is Long, Lazybones, I Just Want the Girl in the Blue Dress to Keep on Dancing, 27 Jennifers, Sunken-Eyed Girl, Vegetable->Sleepless, I Hear the Bells, White Lexus, Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well, Put It Down

Encore: Train to Chicago (Drink Me cover), Your Misfortune