Real Love and Cheetos Dust: A Night with Mike Doughty

1. Mississippi Street is my favorite place to scare passengers while parallel parking. 2. Dan and the ghost bartender of Mississippi Studio, who recommends very good beers for friends who aren’t specific and have given you beer money. 3. Eddie and Melissa held down the left side of front row with my friend and me.

On Friday night, Mike Doughty brought stage banter, memoir, and music to Mississippi Studio. No one took a cool seat towards the back. Everyone filled the main floor rows closest to the stage like a game of Tetris.

I got a seat in the front row and joked about losing my Ruby Vroom tape with a woman holding a copy of Doughty’s memoir, The Book of Drugs. I sat in the front row to get a good stage shot of Doughty for this write-up without getting up, but I was also more than a little excited to be at his feet. The man’s got great pipes and music capable of consuming the duller details of the moments around us. The woman with his book said he writes like he talks. She loves the way he talks.

1. Erin, Karen, and Ian had never seen the solo Mike. They are Soul Coughing fans in this photo. 2. Mark and Diane traveled from Spokane, WA to see Mike. Kyra and Connor mentioned seeing him in Santa Cruz.

I usually ask people why they came out to an event before or after I take their picture. People at this show gave me a detailed history of past shows they’ve attended, plus how far they travelled for this show or how much memorabilia they’ve collected over the years. They were here because they couldn’t imagine not being here.

At 9pm, annoyed crowd comments made excuses and jabs. I’m not sure what time the show was supposed to start, but Doughty was running late, according to the people behind me. He took the stage at 9:06pm with “I Hear the Bells” and was instantly forgiven.

1. The crowd was ready for Mike at about 8:45pm. 2 & 3. Doughty took the stage with a few songs before reading some marked and unmarked selections from his book.

The event posters promoted his fourth studio album, Yes and Also Yes, but he also read selections from his memoir, The Book of Drugs. After a few songs, he’d read some marked or unmarked passages in the book. He told us the story behind the Question Jar Show while he fixed a guitar string. I’m not sure if he was matching songs to passages from his book throughout the show. After reading to us about his heroin addiction, it did made complete sense for him to sing, “I am looking at the world through the bottom of a well.” Any other musical pairing was lost on me. I’m hoping he played whatever he felt like playing after reading whatever he read.

1. Doughty and his Book of Drugs. 2. Mike Doughty poster, seconds before it was snatched.

At some point, the venue turned into a Thanksgiving Dinner table. Maybe it was the memoir. I will admit to being personally incapable of judging a musician’s drug use or adequately responding to the news that Soul Coughing wasn’t a nurturing band. My response was simply, yes Mike, I appreciate your recollection of the situation and hope you continue to make awesome music and love your life. Other audience members were inspired to react with more animation than myself. Doughty quieted them with a touch of NYC banter, insisting he had a plan for how this one-sided conversation would unfold. And he did.

The gift of desperation (not OKCupid) had saved him. He ended the show with a few more songs, including “Real Love.” Regardless of what happened in his musical past, he is doing what he loves, and it sounds pretty fucking good.


— Judith Ossello currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Find her at

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