Mike Doughty's Band at the Beaumont Club, 26 March 08

Jill and I walked into the Beaumont to the strains of lumberjacks playing free jazz.

(No joke.)

The exercise was probably another case of Mike Doughty’s band opening for itself (his drummer and bassist are also in official tour openers The Panderers). We hung out in the back and read The Bridge’s interview with The Elders from the pamphlet handed to us at the door.

The Panderers are the first act signed to Doughty’s micro-label Snack Bar, which makes a lot of sense. Like Mike they play repetitive harmonic progressions with quirky vocal rhythms. Unlike Mike, they are more bluesy / rock and roll, and they are not entirely awesome.

Jill commented that the crowd was pretty diverse, and not at all dominated by hipsters. Mike’s post-Soul Coughing music doesn’t seem to be that cool; too AAA for the tastemakers. I don’t imagine that liking MD adds an ounce of indie cred in the Pfork circles.

After snagging the next-to-last Boulevard Wheats in the house (they didn’t have any Lunar), we moved to a perfect spot on the floor and skittishly prepared for haughty melodies and golden deliciousness.

We would be satisfied.

From the opening beat and hits of “I Just Want The Girl In The Blue Dress To Keep On Dancing,” Mike and the band shuffled old and new songs together with banter, broken sustain pedals, songs written by four-year-olds, fake last songs, and listening to people yell requests until someone called for the next song on the setlist. The sound was clear and warm, and had good grip. “Apparently, transcendence looks a little like going to a rock concert,” Jill said.

Mike played the cool, confident professional to his band’s looser, more DIY vibe; there was a halo of giddy guilt glowing over Pete, John, and Scrap, like they’d snuck into a higher-profile gig than they thought they deserved and were getting away with it. The subtle partition had the effect of turning Mike into a sort of subversive crooner, infiltrating a world of NPR-approved indie pop with deconstructed tunes, freely associative poems, and a band that seemed almost punk in this context.

I loved it. Thanks for a great night of music, Mike & band.

This morning (Thursday, as I write) I woke up with “Long Black American Car” in my head. Those are the best shows; the ones that are still echoing through you the morning after.

“Aimless sister, you’re surrounded
Angel-faced and I’m astounded

“Easy, cowboy, what’s the rush now?
She may cleave me like a snowplow
How sweet you are, how sweet you are

“In your long, black American car
And you know just where to find me
If I don’t know who you are
You will remind me

“You will remind me”

Mike’s lyrical fractured-ness is perfect. It’s pretty impossible to hear straight-up love, or story, or issue, or party songs in this day and age of ironic distance and history-worship/vandalization; rather than succumbing to skepticism as an end in itself, he comes at his subjects sideways, in zigs and zags, and takes me somewhere I need to go by a route that I can fully dig with integrity.

The KC Star’s review here | Mike Doughty’s band live from this tour (March 18) here