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Nick Waterhouse and his band, The Tarots, are becoming regulars at Pappy and Harriet’s, and this is a good thing—because Waterhouse is turning out one of the best modern versions of vintage rock in the music world today.

As I walked in for the Fourth of July show, Waterhouse was talking to Beth the Door Person about the positioning of the merchandise table. I later spied Waterhouse working on the set list at the edge of the storied bar.

All hands were on deck as the band moved a large organ through the side door. Meanwhile, the audience members started to work their way toward the front of the stage. It looked like a typical Pappy’s weekend crowd, including a blond cowgirl who revealed that she was on a dry run with her Campout 11 outfit. (The Campout is an annual event at Pappy’s headlined by Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven; it’ll take place Aug. 27-29.)

Hipsters from Silver Lake and Orange County shared amongst themselves their experience with traffic. I was happy that the lady wearing the “Boogie Till You Barf” shirt was at least 10 feet away—but in my opinion, she was way too close to that vintage organ.

Nick Waterhouse walked onto the stage and announced: “My name is Nick Waterhouse, and this is a new one, ‘Old Place.’” With that brand-new, unreleased song, the Fourth of July festivities started at Pappy and Harriet’s for the nearly sold-out show. There was just enough room for those who wanted to dance; some snapped their fingers. Drawing off the energy, Waterhouse played “Holly,” the title track of his 2014 release. Appreciating the response, Nick commented: “This is off my last album: ‘Dead Room,’ the opposite of this room.” After the song, he mentioned, “That song was for the girls, and this one is for the girls, too,” as he quickly kept the pace fast for “It’s Your Voodoo Working.”

Thanks to great guitar skills, Waterhouse is able to jump from jazz to blues to rock, creating a formidable live sound that outshines what you hear on a MP3. The Independence Day revelers could not help but continue to dance.

“This next song is about my friends that do cocaine,” said Waterhouse with a smirk as he began “Sleeping Pills,” a bluesy and mood-altering tune. A gleeful Nick shared, “I started in a meat locker in San Francisco,” killing time while a quick fix was made to the organ: “Moments like these, I come to appreciate technology in a Hammond.” After the repair, Nick Waterhouse said, “This is a Seeds song,” before executing a nice cover of “Pushin’ Too Hard.”

Waterhouse apparently felt comfortable at Pappy and Harriet’s, and proclaimed, “I try to surround myself with bad men, but sometimes I slip.” He shared his agreement with the Supreme Court decisions of the week. Three-quarters of the way through his 20-song set, he said of “High Tiding,” “This one is for Beth,” that being Beth the Door Person.

As Waterhouse and The Tarots left the stage, the crowd began to chant: “USA! USA! USA!” This brought the band back for a two-song encore ending with “Time’s All Gone.”

Published in Reviews

Nick Waterhouse is a rising star, and at the age of 27, he has found success playing rhythm and blues, jazz … and old-school soul?

Yes, that’s right, old-school soul. See for yourself when he stops by Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, March 15, for his third appearance at the Pioneertown venue.

The Southern California native first picked up the guitar at the age of 12. When he started to develop his interests in music, they were somewhat atypical for a teenager.

“It was one out of 100 songs on the radio,” Waterhouse said. “I remember hearing songs like ‘Gloria’ by Van Morrison or ‘Shop Around’ by The Miracles, and those all were more visceral than the stuff I had been exposed to. I just kept trying to chase that feeling.”

What were his peers listening to?

“Blink-182, Limp Bizkit and stuff like that,” Waterhouse said. “That all felt like fake anger. There was no relation or affirmation of life in that music.”

He honed his guitar skills by playing in a band while he was in high school. He moved to San Francisco to attend San Francisco State University; while there, he fronted another band. Unfortunately, San Francisco’s music scene didn’t seem to appreciate his musical ambitions. Nonetheless, he found inspiration while working at Rooky Ricardo’s Records in the Lower Haight.

“It’s great, because it also serves as a hub for other people to turn you on to things,” Waterhouse said about his time at the record store. “You get to meet other people and find out about other walks of life. Some of the most important people in my life, I’ve met in record stores, and not just over music. It’s a way to interact.”

Waterhouse also mentioned the pitfalls of becoming a music aficionado.

“Anybody who gets obsessed with collecting music … is never going to be fulfilled. You always want more,” Waterhouse said. “You just keep thinking, ‘If I just figure this out, I’ll be fine.’

“It’s a much better pursuit than gambling or drugs, I guess.”

In 2012, Waterhouse released his debut album, Time’s All Gone. After a successful North American tour, he moved his show to Europe. He also began recording his follow-up album, Holly, which is due out on March 4.

As Waterhouse’s career began taking off, he made time to collaborate with a childhood friend, Ty Segall, of Fuzz, the Ty Segall Band and other projects. While Segall is primarily known for playing rock—in fact, he’s said in interviews that Hawkwind is his favorite band—he and Waterhouse have found common ground. Waterhouse, for example, covered Segall’s “It #1.”

“We met when we were young,” Waterhouse said. “We were both playing in teenage rock ’n’ roll bands. To me, it’s really a testament to the fact that our music comes from the same place, but comes out differently. Ty expresses himself in a different way, but I felt like me covering his song put the differences aside.”

Holly features more of a jazz feel, an electric organ that Booker T. Jones would envy, and sleek guitar solos. It certainly shows Waterhouse’s progression in songwriting.

“I was really pleased,” Waterhouse said about the new album. “I’m just constantly working toward an ideal. If things are going right, it’s like I’m progressing any time I’m doing something. I see it as adding to a body of work or continuing to gain knowledge and experience. I was very fortunate to have a very talented crew of musicians on this record. I auditioned a lot of different people, and tried to record the record once before with different players, and this one I was really pleased with.”

While Holly is a great album, it did not take long to record.

“Most of the primary tracking, which was live, was done in about five days,” Waterhouse said. “The rest was sort of mixing and doing an overdub here and there. What’s funny is it’s kind of like launching a space explorer or something: You do a year of work, setting up and making sure everything is right, so you don’t blow yourself up.”

Waterhouse said his love of classic R&B and soul with a jazz influence comes naturally: There is no commercial influence, even though folk music, Americana and other older genres are again becoming popular with contemporary bands.

“I don’t get to control that stuff,” Waterhouse said. “My job is just to make the records. … It’s a filter people see music through. It’s kind of hard to make a case, and it’s like being guilty until proven innocent.”

He said people should look at music and its different eras and genres differently, perhaps.

“I think that people maybe need to use a different metric for interpreting art other than looking at other things and seeing it as a strictly corollary process,” he said. “I think that’s something fairly recent in Western culture, because in the past, it wasn’t that unusual for a 15th-century Italian painter to paint something that occurred in biblical times, or Shakespeare to write about something in Denmark that was already told. It’s not about the thing itself, but what’s being expressed through it.”

When it comes to Pappy and Harriet’s, Waterhouse said he feels a closeness to the Pioneertown venue.

“The place feels like my home,” Waterhouse said. “I grew up in Southern California. I used to race motorcycles in the desert until I was about 15, and my dad was a big desert guy. A desert roadhouse feels like where I was when I was a little kid—and that’s where I probably learned a lot about American music as well.”

Nick Waterhouse will perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, March 15, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $12. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit

Published in Previews