For nearly 20 years, creating and sharing positive and lively musical vibes have been top priorities for Southern California musician/singer Mike Doughty of eclectic groove-rock band Slightly Stoopid. As the cheerful and skillful guitarist/bassist and co-bandleader of the San Diego-based ensemble, he believes it’s his duty to perform, connect and entertain at every show.
“We’ve been having a good time playing music and traveling around the land with our best friends for years,” Doughty says of the annual summer excursions. “Touring consistently for years has allowed us to build a grassroots following of fans. And we have an age group from between, like, 16 and 60 at the shows.”
This year marks the ninth consecutive coast-to-coast summer tour for Slightly Stoopid, performing at various amphitheaters, clubs and outdoor pavilions throughout North America, and another major show in the Lowcountry.
On Sunday, the band will guide its “Return of the Red Eye Summer Tour” to town and blast through a set of new and classic material at the Performance Pavilion at North Charleston’s Riverfront Park.
Last summer, Slightly Stoopid brought its “Everything is Awesome” tour to the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island as part of the long-running “First Flush Festival” series. They headlined with support from fellow Southern Cali acts Dirty Heads and the Expendables. Thousands of fans attended the event.
This time around, the band is eager to host a similar bash at a new space in the Lowcountry. Situated near the former Charleston Naval Base along a scenic side of the Cooper River and Noisette Creek, Riverfront Park has recently emerged as one of the busier outdoor concert venues in the local scene. The spacious park has hosted a variety of musical performance and holiday-related shows, including annual North Charleston Arts Festival and Independence Day events.
“I love the vibe in that coastal area of the Carolinas, and we all especially love Charleston,” Doughty says. “It’s really beautiful. You get hotter in the summer than we do in the San Diego area, and you maintain pretty mild winters. I love the culture and the architecture and the people. We’ve been gigging in Charleston for more than 15 years. And, we’ve played the Music Farm so many times. We really look forward to this show in North Charleston.”
Based in Columbia and Charleston, festival production company Music Farm Productions (an offshoot of the popular downtown music venue) worked with Ear for Music to book and produce this weekend’s Slightly Stoopid concert. The two already co-presented the band Rebelution at the Riverfront Park in June, and have two more big summer concert events scheduled at the venue later this summer and fall — O.A.R. on Aug. 20 and Umphrey’s McGee on Sept. 23-24.
“It’s not easy to perform with the same high level of energy night after night,” Trae Judy, one several partners with Music Farm Productions, says of Slightly Stoopid. “It takes true love of performing for your fans and giving them what they came for. These boys leave no doubt.”
In April, the band visited singer/guitarist Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead’s TRI (Tamalpais Research Institute ) Studios. Slightly Stoopid and Weir performed with several colleagues such as saxophonist Karl Denson (Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Rolling Stones), singer/saxophonist Angelo Moore (of Fishbone), Marlon Asher (Ganja Farmer), and Roger Rivas (Aggrolites), and others to honor the recent passing of Prince with a surprise tribute and online broadcast.
The session at TRI Studios reinforced what initially impressed Doughty about some of his musical idols. “The Dead really set the staple of what touring is all about,” he says. “They’re one of the biggest touring acts to tour like that without being a multi-platinum artist. They just sold thousands and thousands of tickets to shows over the years. As a musician, I’m inspired by how the guys in the Dead became more seasoned and confident as they toured, recorded and performed.”
The first leg of Slightly Stoopid’s “Return of the Red Eye Summer Tour” kicked off in Seattle on June 15 and hit 33 cities in the Midwest and along the West Coast. The second leg continues to wind through the Southeast and East Coast all the way to its conclusion in Detroit’s Fillmore music hall in late August.
“Smaller gigs are so much more intimate, up-close, and right there in front of you,” says Doughty. “They’re fun and laid-back for us. With the really big shows, it’s not so hands-on. It’s a different scene, and we tend to have a bit more fun backstage with our band friends and crew. I think the ideal crowd size for an outdoor show is, like, three- to five-thousand, because it’s still intimate and immediate, and the vibe is really cool.”
That will likely be the size of this weekend’s show in North Charleston. Attendees can expect a diverse set of groove-heavy tunes from Slightly Stoopid, ranging from heavy rock, reggae and blues to punk and hip-hop.
Doughty and his bandmates, guitarist/bassist Kyle McDonald, drummer Ryan “Rymo” Moran, percussionist/singer Oguer “OG” Ocon, horn player Andy Geib, sax player Daniel “Dela” Delacruz, and keyboardist Paul Wolstencroft, plan to touch on material from all 12 of their studio albums, including fan favorites from most recent album, “Meanwhile ... Back at the Lab.”
“I call it a melting pot of madness,” says Doughty. “I don’t think you can classify this band because we play just about every style of music. We play something for everyone. If you’re a punk rocker, you’re gonna get some punk rock. If you’re a reggae fan, you’re gonna get some reggae. If you’re into blues, you’re gonna get it. It’s all intertwined within the madness.”
“We’ve got a lot of our bro’s with us on this tour, including SOJA, Zion I, The Grouch & Eligh, and Fortunate Youth,” Doughty adds. “It’s been a fun run. Every summer, we pick the bands we want to play and travel with all summer. We have a handful of guys we pick from each year. We try to keep it fun for the bands, bring the best package to the towns, and make it worthwhile for everyone.”
These days, Doughty and his bandmates affectionately refer to their fans as Stoopidheads. “We can count on them every summer when we tour,” he says. “They bring a good vibe to the shows. After we played with Bob Weir, we started seeing a connection between the Stoopidheads and the Deadheads, and we started seeing a lot more Deadheads at the shows,” says Doughty. “It’s pretty rad, man.”
Looking ahead, Doughty and his bandmates are already preparing a new set of originals and jams for sessions at their own recording studio and rehearsal clubhouse (nicknamed “the Lab”). The title and album cover of their latest release references the band’s “collective escape from touring where they have been working on numerous creative and collaborative projects,” as they put it.
“The biggest challenge for the band is always just coming up with something fresh,” says Doughty. “If you listen to every Stoopid record, each one is completely different, but each one has our staple sound within it. We always try to do something different every time, something with a freshness to it.”
“The main goal is simply to keep doing what we’re doing,” Doughty says. “We love playing music, We’ve been so blessed to be able to do this for 20 years. We’ve toured the world. We have great fans and great people working with us. When you can do what you love — and our fans can tell that we love it and are passionate about it — it’s a great thing.”