Mike Doughty + Zee Avi
(25 Aug 2011: J&R Store New York)
Both Zee Avi and Mike Doughty dealt with the alarm beeping in the J&R store by making jokes at the customer leaving inadvertently with active merchandise security tags. Each artist was doing a free in-store solo performance to promote their respective new albums, ghostbird and Yes and Also Yes. Each took some time to shake hands with fans and sign autographs as well.
Avi is a young singer-songwriter originally from Malaysia and has one previous released album, Zee Avi, under her belt. Doughty became famous in the ‘90s with his band Soul Coughing but he’s put out at least six solo albums since then—the last of which was Sad Man Happy Man.
Catching just the end of Avi’s set, it was a treat to listen to her delicate voice flutter alongside her ukulele. She asked the audience if they noticed how many songs in commercials feature ukuleles, handclaps and whistles before commenting it takes away the art. Avi wrapped up with two songs, “Anchor” and “The Book of Morris Johnson”. There came a moment of brief vocal trouble during “Book”, she just laughed it off, tuned down an octave or so and restarted it all while the audience stood by. (It’s almost impossible to complain about a free show after all.)
A little while later, as Doughty set up on stage, he experienced some minor technical difficulties which prompted him to go without amplification (the audience and space was small after all, CD shoppers had the right of way). He explained that first song, “Day By Day By”, is the phrase he repeats in the chorus (the same applied to “Na Na Nothing”). Strumming at his guitar, Doughty’s new tunes were as immediately catchy as anything prior. And he still mixes in odd lyrics, like singing about the lingering on the artificial sweetener aspartame in “Russell”. After the final new song “Strike the Motion”, Doughty thanked the host J&R and went into a couple of his “big numbers”. The recognizable strum of the curiosity “27 Jennifers” and “Looking at the World…” both earned a strong and warm applause. All said and done, his brief set ran under twenty minutes but it was a good demonstration of Doughty’s quirky, somewhat absurdist, musical personality.
Mike Doughty setlist:
Day By Day By
Na Na Nothing
Strike the Motion
Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well