Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review: Mike Doughty at City Winery (7/31/13)

I wasn't ready for the live music buzz of the Newport Folk Festival to be over, so I decided to head into NYC last night to catch Mike Doughty's first show at City Winery. Although I have seen Doughty almost a dozen times, I was excited to hear him playing Soul Coughing songs for the first time in quite a while and I was dying to check out the venue.

Before I get to describing City Winery itself, I must say that this may be the most poorly located music venue in all of the city. I used to think that the Wetlands was bad (right at the exit of the Holland tunnel) but turns out being at the entrance to the Holland tunnel is far worse. After cruising through the first 60 miles of the trip from CT, the last 5 miles took me well over an hour. Ultimately, I ended up parked 10 blocks away and I definitely learned to avoid trying to get close to the venue next time.

As for City Winery itself, I would say that I really liked it, but not quite loved it. For starters, it is significantly bigger than I was expecting. Several of the tables in the back would be further away than the farthest points in most venues of this size (Joes Pub, BB Kings).Because of that, it wasn't nearly as intimate as I was expecting (unless you were seated with strangers as my friend and I were, and in that case it felt very intimate). That being said, the tickets were affordable, the food was solid, and the sound was terrific.

At this point in Mike Doughty's solo career, I'm not exactly sure why he would dip into the well of Soul Coughing songs. He has made his feelings abundantly clear that he wanted to separate himself from the band and their songs, but maybe this was a way to sell some extra tickets. Or perhaps he is tired of people screaming out requests for "Circles" and he just caved. Either way, it worked because the room was filled with people eager to hear both solo and Soul Coughing material.

This was a solo acoustic show which, although definitely missing something without Andrew Scrap Livingston, is always an enjoyable and raw experience. Before engaging with the audience, he launched into Ruby Vroom's "Janine," which was a great start and by no means an accident as it references the nearby Holland tunnel. He also later played other fantastic SC songs including "True Dreams of Wichita," "Sleepless," "St.Louise is Listening," "Unmarked Helicopters" and "Circles."

But the real treat of the show was how heavily he relied on Haughty Melodic. It was one of the 3 solo albums he chose for the first show, and he played "I Hear the Bells," "You're Misfortune," "Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well," "Sunken-Eyed Girl," "Bustin Up a Starbucks" and "American Car." Sprinkle in "27 Jennifers," "Take me Home (Country Roads)," "Mistress" and a few others and it was a set that I would have handpicked myself.

The biggest complaint I have is that it was way too short of a show. Although he can cram 20+ songs in 80 minutes, it definitely left me wanting to hear more. In fact if the lag time in between the early show and the late show wasn't as long as the actual concert (it was also 80 minutes) I might have considered staying for both. All in all, a fun night but next time I'll get tickets for both shows and take the subway.

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