Mike Doughty didn't have the best Thursday, although you wouldn't have known to hear him tell it.
Prior to his set at the Kessler Theater, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter was involved in a car accident on Interstate 30 after swerving to avoid some mattresses in the road, and being rear-ended by a woman in a minivan. "If you spent a s--- ton of time on Interstate 30 west, that was me," Doughty said early in his 100-minute set. "I thought it would take a lot less time for the cops and ambulances to show up."
That the reaction to his recounting of the mishap elicited healthy laughter should tell you a lot about how Doughty approaches his life and music -- the good, the bad and the strange is viewed with a sort of sardonic bemusement. More than once Thursday, he stopped, excoriated himself for forgetting a chord change or the next line to a song, and picked back up again where he left off. It gave the whole evening an even more intimate air, although given the sparse turnout (the Kessler might have been half full), it was already a close encounter with the former Soul Coughing frontman.
Touring in support of his latest LP, The Flip Is Another Honey, Doughty rambled freely through his back catalog, airing out his own compositions (like the darkly funny Busting Up a Starbucks) and making others' material, like John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads, sparkle anew. Doughty, armed with only an acoustic guitar and a delightfully spastic, syncopated strumming style, repeatedly demonstrated his facility for approaching pop music from right angles. A published author, Doughty also punctuated the night with dryly amusing anecdotes (sadly unprintable highlights include his bizarre encounter with a truckful of Hispanic men cursing out a clown, as well as his thoughts on what songwriter Dan Wilson should do with his Grammy).
Much like his previous band, Soul Coughing, Doughty has flirted with wider recognition, but never fully broken through into mainstream appreciation. It's a shame, as his idiosyncratic songs, beautifully considered and whip-smart, are the kind of pop music that should be savored and celebrated. But if that means the faithful would have to forsake cozy concerts like the kind experienced at the Kessler Thursday, then perhaps he can stay hidden a little longer.