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Mike Doughty Celebrates Wallace Shawn, Patreon & 25 Years of Soul Coughing in Toronto

Pop Break Live: Mike Doughty with Ghost of Mr. Oberon at Horeshore Tavern in Toronto, Canada

Words & Photos by Matt Di Paola

The last time I saw Mike Doughty was in 2012, performing his solo material at the Drake Underground in Toronto.  It was shortly after the release of his memoir, The Book of Drugs, which was less of a memoir and more of a bitter and cathartic release of what Soul Coughing might have been if the band had not imploded.

This was not that.

Seven years later, Doughty was back touring, performing and actually celebrating the 25th anniversary of Soul Coughing’s most acclaimed album, Ruby Vroom at Toronto’s Legendary Horseshoe Tavern.

Kicking off the night was an unknown, mysterious opening act called the Ghost of Mr. Oberon.  Look them up online and see what you can find.  Not much (other than a fun Instagram account). So, I had to check them out.  The clock struck 8pm and cutting through the general admission audience was a woman (hint: Rachel Murdy), with a mustache, dressed like an old man, wearing sunglasses and addressing the crowd with a voice that sounded like Joey’s agent from Friends.  She was joined onstage by a keyboardist Matthew Milligan, a panda, a hula hoop acrobat and Ruby Vroom touring dog, Bibi.  They performed their own versions of popular and deep cut Soul Coughing songs for the fans, while entertaining the crowd with bad jokes and a general mocking of Soul Coughing’s lyrical stylings.

The ridiculousness of the Ghost of Mr. Oberon set the tone for the lightheartedness of the rest of the show. Mike Doughty, guitarist Ori Aravena, “cellocellobassbasscellocellocellobass” player Andrew Livingston, drummer Madden Klass (AKA Lil’ Pepper) and Matthew Milligan hit the stage and kicked off the set with a few “lesser known b-sides”: ‘Super Bon Bon’ and ‘Circles’ before running through Ruby Vroom, front to back.

In between songs, Doughty introduced the band several times, entertained the audience with nonsensical tour banter with Andrew Livingston, and revealed to the audience the magical ability to reset any conversation by repeating “Wallace Shawn” until you were ready to move on. He also talked about his love of Patreon, the service he uses to support himself as an artist, how the tour was completely self-funded and how for a small subscription, he will send you a new song a week, something he hopes to do for many years to come.

Beyond the sheer joy of hearing songs like ‘Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago’ and ‘Screenwriter’s Blues’ live, the real magic was watching Doughty conduct the band, cueing their instruments on and off, remixing each song live on stage, giving it a feel of improvisation and connectedness as the band moved through the album as a tight unit.

True to the lighthearted form, they introduced their “fake last song”, Mr Bitterness, and then came back after a brief break, with their real last song, and the official last song of Ruby Vroom, “Janine.” Also back for the last song was Rachel Murdy, who we learned, was the voice of original recording of Janine, 25 years earlier.


Super Bon Bon
Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago
Sugar Free Jazz
Casiotone Nation
Blue Eyed Devil
Bus to Beelzebub
True Dreams of Wichita
Screenwriter’s Blues
Moon Sammy
Supra Genius
City of Motors
Uh, Zoom Zip
Down to This
Mr. Bitterness

Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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