Drinks on Doughty: Live at the Lizard Lounge
By Victoria Welch for Bostonist.com, November 18, 2007

Mike Doughty proved Saturday night that the Hannah Montana scalping uproar could be easily solved if Miley Cyrus and her target audience were old enough to drink.

While welcoming his audience of about 75 people to the intimatebasement space of the Lizard Lounge, the singer-songwriter and former Soul Coughing front man explained that tickets to the evening’s showhad sold out in one minute. There had been postings on Craigslist charging $100 a ticket. Doughty, an active blogger and MySpace user,had received pleas from would-be attendees for a chance to take in the Cambridge stop of Doughty’s Question Jar Tour.

Those in attendance were lucky - and if anyone squandered this good fortune and spoke during a song, Doughty was going to offer a reminder.

“I will grab you by the ear,” Doughty said, eliciting laughter from the crowd. “I will lead you outside. I will go onto my MySpace. I will replace you.”

It was shortly after this Doughty advisory that a woman announced to the crowd that she had sold a pair of tickets to the evening's show for $250.

Whether it was a misguided attempt to flatter the musician or a chance to establish an artist-fan connection was unclear, but Doughty’s reaction was definitely not what she had expected: he ordered her to go to the bar, open a $200 tab for her fellow patrons, and add $50 to tip the staff.

The laughter swelled again, but the musician was serious. After being badgered by Doughty during the first half of the show, the fan compromised at $100; he added $150 of his own. “And we’re all drinking," he said as the crowd cheered.

The evening demonstrated the quandary that is Mike Doughty: a man who will buy drinks for the crowd, but look an audience member in the eye and tell her to shut up. A guy who will tip the bar staff well, but sternly requests that they conduct their business in whispers while he performs; a man who will chastise not only the person who scalped tickets to his show, but the person who bought those tickets as well.

Doughty, joined by accompanying cellist Andrew “Scrap” Livingston, clearly wanted his audience to enjoy the best possible listening environment, but he had to be gruff to that group in order to make it happen. Abrasive as he was while calling for full attention, Doughty rewarded those assembled with two and a half hours of career-spanning music and banter worthy of the mandated focus and respect.

Saturday night’s stop allowed Doughty to interact with his audience while at the same point maintaining a sense of control over those proceedings. Audience members had filled a large jar with slips of paper, each containing a question that Doughty eventually answered over the course of the night. Anonymous interviewers inquired about his favorite literary works (“The Catcher In the Rye” and “The Grapes of Wrath,” among others), what Doughty missed about being a member of Soul Coughing (“Being in a band with people who hate me”), and the question he wished someone would ask him (“May I love you?”). While Doughty opened himself by making no question taboo, he was able to create that sense of intimacy with an audience still required to follow his rules.

The questions peppered the breaks in a meandering, 28-song journey through Doughty’s musical career. Soul Coughing songs, such as “Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago” and “Circles,” appeared alongside selections from the upcoming release “Golden Delicious,” while requests for “Frankenstein,” “Janine,” and “27 Jennifers” were heeded with gumption and drive. Doughty and Livingston’s intense performance style and goofy banter allowed the audience the chance to essentially pick the setlist it desired, save several requests that were met with resolute refusals from the lead microphone (a call for Doughty’s cover of Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love,” a crowd favorite, was sharply denied with, “No. Ask me again. No. Ask me again. No.”).

The rules of the evening only weakened at the final song of Doughty’s regular set, a rollicking cover of “The Gambler” that left audience members singing backup and providing tabletop percussion. Doughty smiled and leaned back on his stool as he and his audience worked through the Don Schlitz song - finally a fusion between performer and patron, fueled both by the opportunity to vocalize the experience of the night and perhaps by that free drink from the bar.

The Only Answer
Busting Up a Starbucks
Soft Serve
Thank You Lord, for Sending Me the F Train
Put It Down
White Lexus
27 Jennifers
Madeline and Nine
Navigating By the Stars at Night
40 Grand In the Hole
Grey Ghost
Your Misfortune
Unsingable Name
Tremendous Brunettes
Where Have You Gone
The Pink Life
Fort Hood
Sunken-Eyed Girl
I Just Want the Girl In the Blue Dress To Keep On Dancing
True Dreams of Wichita
The Gambler
Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago
Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well