Guillermo Prieto/
Credit: Guillermo Prieto/

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.”

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Guillermo Prieto

Guillermo Prieto is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine. That also happens to be the location of his first concert—which cemented his love of live music. A desert dweller for a quarter-century,...