“It’s about that time,” Nick Waterhouse announced, ambling up to the microphone at 7 o’clock sharp on Saturday. Origami Vinyl in Echo Park played host to rock/neo-soul musician Nick Waterhouse in celebration of National Record Store Day. For the holiday, Waterhouse released his own special-edition 45, which was on display throughout the store. Voracious shoppers pulled their eyes off the bins of vinyl, knowing fans eagerly crept in, and everyone craned their necks up toward Origami’s loft space to enjoy the aural treat before them.
Waterhouse is of slight frame, and in his slacks, crisp white button-down, and black-framed glasses, he is a dead ringer for Buddy Holly. The Gibson in his hand didn’t do anything to quell the comparison either. His sound, though, finds its base in Holly’s contemporaries — equal parts Chuck Berry and Ray Charles. It is a gritty, oozing, soulful kind of rock that is typically bolstered by horns and backup vocals by the Naturelles.
The small loft space at Origami, however, lent itself to a stripped-down set from the rocker. His guitar, a small keyboard, and bongos rounded out the band. Waterhouse’s friend and usual drummer Kyle Stephens stood in on keys and brought about a great informal banter with Waterhouse that provided a levity and informality ideal for a Record Store Day performance. With a big smile on his face, Waterhouse asked his keyboardist if he knew how to play “Indian Love Call,” but before Stephens could compose an answer, Waterhouse launched into the first number.
Waterhouse played a reverb-laden guitar so mischievous that his songs could be the soundtrack to a Tarantino movie. His technique is so acutely dexterous that he creates a seamless running effect on the guitar, a fluency somewhat akin to the play of a stride piano. Waterhouse went on to feature “If You Want Trouble,” an up-tempo, down-and-dirty track that is also the B-Side to his Record Store Day release.
“How about ‘Teardrop’?” Waterhouse later offered to the audience. “Teardrop” is a song, he mentioned, that was co-written by legendary Rooky Ricardo’s record store owner Dick Vivian. Rooky Ricardo’s is in the Haight and a San Francisco must, Waterhouse urged. It was clear this song was something special in tonight’s catalog, and Waterhouse, indeed, did it justice. “Teardrops will follow you,” his grizzly cry moaned, the reverberation of which was palpable to all down on the the floor twenty feet below. With that, Waterhouse shrewdly catapulted into a guitar solo that echoed out onto Sunset Boulevard and drove shivers down my spine.
Clearly in a groove midway through his set, Waterhouse was dancing around the stage with a swagger. He rounded out the back third of the show with the Ty Segall track “It,” “I Can Only Give You Everything,” and “Raina.” It was on “Raina” that the band encountered some fits and starts. Stephens missed a note on the intro, and rather than trying to play past, Waterhouse surely recovered by hurling a “You’re fired” at his comrade. After some laughs and a quick regroup, they were tight and once again charged on. On the mournful yet romantic solo that brought “Raina” to its close, Waterhouse’s guitar rightfully wailed in epic fashion. A rare ballad in a repertoire of high-energy rock ‘n roll tunes, “Raina” brought catcalls from the audience as a house favorite.
The music of Nick Waterhouse is about as close as you can get today to the reckless and sultry rock of the 1950s. A missing link in time. A continuation of the musical anthology that Berry and Charles started writing. We have seen many artists elegantly put forth their modern takes on this classic genre. Lauryn Hill, Rapahel Saadiq, Amy Winehouse, John Legend, and the list goes on. But similar to the category I would put Sharon Jones in, Nick Waterhouse brings with him an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” quality. It’s less an update on an original than just his take on it. On Saturday, April 20th — National Record Store Day — I was transported to a another time and another place. Not by any substance, no. Just by the sounds of Nick Waterhouse.
Nick Waterhouse’s Record Store Day 45 is available at a record store near you.
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