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Friday, August 24, 2012

Na Na Nothing Groovier Than An Evening Concert With Mike Doughty
or an outdoor freebie with hipster coolness

Okay, so my two week vacation in August is always bittersweet. I look forward to being free of the Special K immensely, and pack a lot of activity into those fourteen days, but the cold hard fact is it signifies the beginning of the end of my favorite season, summer. I'm never ready to give up the long days, steamy temps and sleeveless, sockless attire. The outdoor concert is another reason I cherish summer, especially if it's free.

Here in Pittsburgh, we are blessed with multiple county parks, two of which have open stages. Local musician, Bill Deasey has the enviable position of booking both of these beautiful venues. This year he booked Mike Doughty, touring in support of his exemplary effort, Yes and Also Yes, for the penultimate concert under the stars in South Park.

the coolest cat in the room... or park

Doughty is one of Geo's and my favorite musicians to see live. Sadly, Geo's indentured servitude prevented him from joining me last Friday night. A bummer because A) Geo is alwaysALWAYS my first concert companion choice and B) He would have finally met my delightful friend, Annie who was driving up from West Virginia to see her musical love. (Mike Doughty is her Rhett)

The amusing constant in Annie and my relationship... is rain. We met in the teaming rain at an Old 97's outdoor concert, and every musically-related meet up since then includes some modicum of moisture, without fail. Friday was no exception except for the modest volume of droplets. By the time the show started, the stormy skies had cleared, giving way to a gorgeous, comfortable, sweatshirt evening reminiscent of the beach. Fear not Reader (singular), our streak is not broken. While we were pressed against the stage with the dancing masses, a light sprinkle ensued. Not enough to drench, but enough to turn my hair into unruly Medusa locks.

Me with crazy-ass hair? That's standard, too.

more fidget in those legs than a man can handle

Scrap, being scrappy
only a hipster doofus can pull off velcro sneakers

the elusive smile 
Anyway, Doughty took the stage with his usual cohort, Scrap on base and a new member, Pete on the drum kit. His voice is deep and rich and is a perfect match to his jazz-fused, pop sound whose irresistible base line makes it impossible to sit still. I have difficulty categorizing his sound, which is a good thing. He spans jazz, pop, hipster scat, rock, introspective ballad, all with sophisticated lyrics that challenge ones resolve to find meaning in their poetry. His songs always expand my meager vocabulary. Into the Un (one of my new favorites) contains the word "nepenthe". It's a magnificent word that trips off the tongue, but seriously, who uses nepenthe in a pop song?  Um, Mike Doughty does, Luddite.

white people dancing' all awkward 'n shit

And boy can he move an audience to dance about with white-guy abandon. By the third song, the very rhythmic Na Na Nothing drew enough people to fill half of the dance space (including us) and by the fifth tune, the entire designated area was filled with head bobbing, spinning fools singing along, including one skinny, shirtless, dude with a classic middle-of-the-back Mullet .

tres sexy, Mullet Man

One of the things we appreciate about Doughty is his tendency to call out talkers in the audience. When my Everlovin and I have seen him at more intimate venues, he has stopped mid song to gently embarrass chattering a-holes into quieting down. I don't know why people can't just be cool, but there is always THAT guy, the talking guy who insists on yelling some ridiculous non sequitur in the middle of a song as though he's inflicted with Tourettes. Well that asshat sat his fat butt on the stage right next to us. At one point Doughty heard his bellow and looked over our way. Both Annie and I slyly pointed the goofball out, mouthing "Get him", but Mike didn't cut loose on the dude. He chuckled at our ratting the ignoramus out and kept going, the look enough to quiet Mr. Tourettes.

(That Pete's a looker up there on those drums, no?)

He played so many great songs one right after the other, we never stopped moving even when he performed solo. Staying true with the every-act-plays-a-cover tradition, Mike shared a lovely little story about holding a cassette player on his little five-year-old lap in the back of the family car, listening to his favorite song over and over. When he launched into John Denver's, Country Roads (an uncharacteristic choice), the entire field sang along. (this is when Tourettes guy started yelling) Afterwards, Annie (who's from West Virginia) taught him the WV gangsta sign.

how cool is he, huh?
Holding true to HIS tradition of not caving into the charade of the Encore departure, all three band members simply turned their backs to the audience for an appropriate amount of time before turning around with mock surprise to start singing the encore songs. Hysterical. I love it when bands kick that encore exit BS in the ball sack. No one's fooling anyone. Except maybe Modest Mouse, and they were just being bung holes.

There was a lovely little moment at the end of the show, when a young girl of about six, ran up on the stage to give him a huge hug before he departed, much to his delight. Her little hug of thanks pretty much summed up the crowd's gratitude to this troubled man for an amazing evening.


in which he utilizes modern technology in the form of iPhone accompaniment

(There are a couple more videos on my YouTube channel here.)

Doughty has battled drug addiction and bipolar disorder which he talks about freely in his autobiography aptly named The Book of Drugs. It's a very interesting read which explains a lot about his hatred for his former bandmates, Soul Coughing. He has battled (and still battles) his demons day by day (by day). Fortunately for all of us, he's winning.

Partial Setlist in no particular order

Rational man
27 Jennifers
Na Na Nothing
Into the Un
Day By Day
(You Should Be) Doubly Satisfied
White Lexus
The Only Answer
Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well
Busting Up a Starbucks
Sunken-Eyed Girl
Grey Ghost
Tremendous Brunettes
I Just Want The Girl in the Blue Dress to Keep on Dancing
Strike the Motion
Rising Sign

Country Roads

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