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Courtesy of Segerstrom Center
Courtesy of Meredith Moran

Place yourself in the 1950s. A time period when rock ‘n’ roll meant grooving to toe-tapping rhythm and blues; when men donned thick-rimmed glasses and girls in circle skirts flirtatiously danced around boys; when swanky bass lines and soulful swing numbers made everyone in a dance hall go crazy.

Nick Waterhouse, a Los Angeles native known for his unique sound rooted in jazz and soul, headed the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa’s first Party on the Plaza (POP) event last Saturday night. Donning his neatly-ironed menswear, full with thick-rimmed glasses and properly moussed hair, Waterhouse knew that he “can only give you everything,” as one of his tunes proclaimed.

Complete with a six-piece act of backing vocals, drums, an accompanying bassist, pianist and saxophonist, Waterhouse continued the center’s fourth annual 11-day Off Center Festival. The free event, held in the middle of the Segerstrom’s beautifully lit Art Plaza, welcomed guests from all over Orange County.

The night featured a variety of local food truck favorites — from the gourmet waffle sandwiches of WaffNRoll, refreshing Italian ice custard treats of Mustache Mike’s, smoothly-blended roasts of Frijolitos Coffee and tasty Indian street foods from India Jones Chow Truck. There also was a beer garden open to all guests 21 and over to get attendees in the groove-worthy mood to properly sway to Waterhouse’s soulful tunes.

Lying somewhere between rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, post-surf and neo-soul, Waterhouse has created a sound of his own.

One attendee Christina Ferraro from Los Angeles noted, “I’ve seen Nick a couple of times around LA and OC and his shows are honestly the best. There’s nothing like them.”

Waterhouse, a singer, songwriter, recording artist and Gibson hollow-body strummer, is all about the details. He sings with the slight rasp of an old vinyl record; he gently lets his hair muss as he licks on a guitar solo; and he isn’t afraid to lend in a scream or two in one of his songs.

His performance was a powerful combination of tension-filled rhythms, driving melodies and soothing harmonies performed alongside a female vocalist and percussionist. His start-and-stop style of playing is reminiscent of old-timey records, as his upbeat tunes and danceable rhythms made everyone on the perimeter of the seated crowd want to get up and dance.

As an artist, Waterhouse is a man of his own thread. With a notable corduroy, loafer and oxford button down wardrobe, Waterhouse owns his vintage tastes with an air of sincerity. The grit of his voice, soul-heavy tunes and funky ensemble performances are not something to miss. And, with Off Center celebrating all that is live, local and contemporary, they did not go wrong with featuring Waterhouse as the jukebox of the night.

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