Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Nick Waterhouse at Club Soda | Review


Nick Waterhouse  |  Club Soda

                                              PHOTO  |  MARY NIVEN

Waterhouse’s back up band really made the show exceptional, not that Waterhouse wasn’t the star, but I would be surprised how bright that star would be able to shine without them. Thus, the first research I undertook for this piece was to try and find the name of the band with which Waterhouse performed − needle in a haystack − and I know they have a name because he said it at the show, I just couldn’t understand what he said.

This annoyingly frustrating phenomenon of not being able to find the other performing musicians’ information happens a lot (in my experience) with musicians that keep only their name as the global semantic representation of their respective musical group. And I stress ‘group’ (any collection or assemblage of persons) because unless you perform solo, there is no longer one person performing, like when Hollywood superstars’ agents wheel and deal to make their client’s name the first one you see on all promotional production and beginning and ending credits − I think the industry calls it ‘top billing’. 

When more than one person perform music, the outcome of that artistic expression can at least logically no longer be reduced to the work of one sole individual. Like the name Sam Robert’s Band, it implies that Mr. Roberts does indeed have help from other musicians. The need for collaboration is one of the most fundamental keys to the lock of life and to the making of art, as expressed in the oh-so-eloquent words of Kurt Vonnegut, “You realize of course that everything I say is horseshit.”     

What I did find out about Nick Waterhouse’s back up band was that: in 2010 and 2011 he toured with the Tarots (what a cool name), who are from Memphis and made up of top-notch musicians (1 back up vocal, bass, drums, keyboards/guitar). However, the drummer played disappointingly and in a surprisingly simplistic manner, given the professionally adept musical context — it was puzzling.

Waterhouse displayed super strong studied vocals and guitar playing, coupled with really great song writing; the songs seemed not to have much difference from one another, but why spoil a good thing? Chairs and tables were put out for all. The average age was from 40 and over (guestimate). He said that the crowd at his recent Toronto show was crowd surfing — he obviously attracts a wide range of age groups! Waterhouse makes 60’s style ‘rockabillyesque’ music, but with a 2014 flair that, on that night, filled the room with nostalgic feelings ricocheting like excited microscopic particles. Fun and movement were on the menu, filling my mind’s eye with wonder and intrigue, especially because Waterhouse is from Los Angeles. I grew up in the South, just a 5-hour-drive away from Memphis, and for me Los Angeles was and will always be another planet, especially musically. Like how can Ry Cooder come from Los Angeles?

Musical comparisons, and really comparisons in general, make up a huge part of the human experience and psyche. Buddhism uses them to relativize and lessen the load of one’s perceived life struggle and strife — as there is always someone who has it worse than you do. And, for some, this can be a comfort during times of suffering and sadness. When I started writing for the Soupe Kitchen we were told to try and stay away from comparing bands to other musicians as much as possible because artists want to be known for themselves and emphasize their musical endeavors. Logically I agree. However, innately, I don’t live it like that artistically. For me, life is one big comparison, collaboration, reference, research… I prey on anything that can be dug up, turned over, shared, unconsciously and soulfully persistent, heisted (respectfully, with proper MLA formatting), etc. I would be curious to see what Waterhouse feels like with all these Memphis-like musical comparisons because trust me, it is tantamount in just about ALL of the reviews of him that I read online, to the point where I feel generic, to say the least, writing about it so blatantly, even though it is true. 

What would life and the building blocks of life or music look or feel like without constant mental references? Musical creation is necessarily based on previous musical references, so in that sense, you are only as creative as the references that influence you. The ego hates all that is not self. I love to share with others anything that I am passionate about, and even more so when it comes to music. I also love to experience memories by way of excellent musicianship and musical performances rubbing shoulders with American musical giants including the sounds of Mo-Town, Memphis, New Orleans, film soundtracks lovingly and painstakingly pieced together by amazing directors such as John Waters:

“When I turn in a script, I almost always turn in a complete soundtrack with it. The studio executives are always surprised when that happens, but the music is another character in the movies. I use the songs like a punch line or a costume.” 

and Quentin Tarantino:

“Music is very important in my movies. In some ways the most important stage, whether it ends up being in the movie or not, is when I come up with the idea itself, before I've actually sat down and started writing. I go into my record room - I have a big vinyl collection and I have a room set up like a used record store - and I just dive into my music…”

Talk about memories, it’s a rare bird when at a show your mind is almost empty of reference points, comparisons, and other such non-stop processing. Nick Waterhouse forged ahead with his style of music that will most likely conger up all sorts of musically amazing and important references by those who played collectively to create rock-n-roll. And yes, sadly some were able to take credit for way more of the pie than they deserved because their skin was not a dark color; absurdity and injustice ‘hélas’ knows no bounds. I personally think Waterhouse’s performance deserves pride and admiration, and it is in this vein that I say: Mr. Waterhouse, you rock, literally!
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