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Doughty returns to Boulder on the tail of a freshly released album that is filled with delightful re-imaginings of songs from his former band, Soul Coughing. The crowd that filled the Boulder Theater was varied and fairly rabid. Young fans who certainly never heard Soul Coughing first hand had come out to groove away to some of the coolest songs they had certainly ever laid ears on. Older folks came out to see Doughty as they'd known him for decades now, or maybe just to see how he was going to turn these songs into his own. As for the recently released Circles Super Bon Bon etc. LP I will simply say that I always find it very fascinating what songs a musician might pick from their very own catalog to cover. I was looking forward to hearing Doughty play some songs that I was pretty sure were going to be some of my favorite Soul Coughing tunes.

Doughty, playing guitar, was joined on stage by Catherine Popper on upright bass and old buddy, former tourmate, Pete Wilhoit on drums. Time was not wasted, as the band came on stage and launched into a fantastic version of “Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago.” What a way to start a show! Tonight's version of this classic tune was filled with smooth grooves and a more laid back, less spastic, feeling than the previous version. Was this what the crowd was in for? A more mature, almost reserved, take on some classic tunes? “Sugar Free Jazz” was next and the band transported it from its jazzier, lower tempo setting into a bit quicker trip-hop style vibe. The first two songs of the set from Ruby Vroom! But then everything changed. Doughty abandoned the guitar for a sampler, making rhythmic noise and triggering a weird variety of samples as the band blasted through a rippingly weird version of “Bus To Beelzebub,” complete with an even more sped up and chopped version of the cartoon work theme. Now this is approaching more the Soul Coughing vibe, but even surpassing the artiness of that era for a more methodic and varied sound. “The Idiot Kings” was played with much more groove than the original, sounding much more like modern Doughty material, but with the spirit and experimentalism of Soul Coughing; a cool beat, laid back, but filled with mighty power!

On “Unmarked Helicopter,” Catherine moved to playing a Moog synth bass, creating a cool, throbbing underpinning for a song that was much more exciting now than it was two decades ago. On “Lazy Bones,” Doughty moves to a small pocket synth and sets up a cool throbbing, rhythmic arpeggiated line while Pete disappears from stage and Catherine bows her bass, creating a low, slow undercurrent to anchor the madness that Doughty creates. The song sounds more like an old Atari game being sung over than anything else; and it works perfectly. “Songwriter's Blues” finds Doughty alone on stage, when he puts on a record, starts a loop, and launches into a spirited reading of the brilliant, beautiful poetry that makes this song stand out above many of his other tunes. The mad poet spits out with venom, “Los Angeles is listening!” Then, a cool, sampled vocal part, that sounds like an old soul singer, starts and then glitches and sparks itself alive in weird ways and Doughty launches into a great reading of “Uh Zoom Zip” that ends up sounding much like a drum'n'bass version, but vocals carrying the bass part.

Doughty puts on another record, walks away from the technology, and grabs an acoustic guitar. He starts into the cool poetry of “Mr. Bitterness” pretty much exactly as it appears on the new record, slowly building from a throbbing kick drum and handclap to a mashup of drums and somewhat aggressive acoustic guitar. The band rejoins Doughty on stage and get right down to a very tasty version of “Soft Serve.” This version of the tune has a light, summery feel to it that transcends the SC version by leaps and bounds. On “How Many Cans?” Doughty is back to triggering all kinds of crazy samples while the rhythm section goes on and on and on, creating a sort of aural ping-pong game. Catherine moves back to the synth for a cool version of “Monster Man,” as Pete keeps the drums going solid and tight, moving things along seamlessly as everything else seems to fall apart and break down, before tying itself back up nicely. A nice, slow drum and bass groove kicks in next as the band gets into “True Dreams of Wichita.” Doughty stays on the sample player, moving back and forth from triggering samples to playing keys, creating a landscape that is slow, cool, and perfect. “St. Louise Is Listening” finds Doughty back on guitar as the band finds a faster groove that has what can only be described as a killer vibe.

Doughty gives his fairly normal speech about playing “the song before the fake last song” and how the next few songs will play out with the “encore” and such, then begins to play a striking and wonderful version of “So Far I Have Not Found The Science.” Never before have I heard this song sound so lush yet simple and sparse, but perfect. Mike then moves back to the sampler to start “Super Bon Bon” with a slew of hilarious samples before grabbing a guitar to play the song and then inducing the audience into some great participation by asking, simply, “Will you indulge me?”

The rhythm section abandons the stage, Doughty turns around for 15 seconds, and then returns on his own for a great, slow, mellow rendition of “Janine” that has the crowd truly rapt in attention. The rhythm section emerges once more for a very classic version of “Circles” that is pretty much how Doughty has been playing the song for the last 15 years.

Overall, the night was truly a wonderful treat, filled with songs that went far beyond the handful that made their way onto the newest album. All those years of Doughty telling us how he would never play these songs again is finally, thankfully, put to rest. Perhaps in writing his memoir, The Book Of Drugs, Doughty finally laid to rest many of the demons that have plagued this time in his life and somewhere, inexplicably, he has found the wherewithal to not only play these songs again, but to truly turn them around and make them all his own again. There will never more be any doubt at all, by anyone, ever, anywhere, that this was truly the man behind the genius of Soul Coughing. Ever. Doughty rules.

Set List:
1. Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago
2. Sugar Free Jazz
3. Bus To Beelzebub
4. The Idiot Kings
5. Unmarked Helicopter
6. Lazy Bones
7. Screenwriter's Blues
8. Uh, Zoom Zip
9. Mr. Bitterness
10. Soft Serve
11. How Many Cans?
12. Monster Man
13. True Dreams Of Wichita
14. St. Louise Is Listening
15. So Far I Have Not Found The Science
16. Super Bon Bon
17. Janine
18. Circles

-David DeVoe

Mike Doughty
October 29, 2013
Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO

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