It didn’t take long for John Michael Rouchell to get the impressive crowd at the 2013 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on his side.
While many amongst the sea of collapsable chairs, blankets and flags reaching to the outer limits of the race track’s grounds were there to stake claim to prime viewing territory hours ahead of Billy Joel’s headlining set, Rouchell converted the masses with his bluesy pop and boundless energy.
The New Orleans native is no stranger to Jazz Fest, but it was Rouchell’s first time on the massive Acura Stage. This was also his first time at the show representing his own solo project — he was backed by an excellent band called the Separation, featuring Joe Shirley on keys, Max Moran on bass and Joe Dyson Jr. on drums.
Donning a porkpie hat, glasses and a polka-dot shirt buttoned up to his neck, Rouchell got every inch of sound out of his beautiful Fender Starcaster, going from funky riff to rock-star screeches at will.
Two songs in, Rouchell played “Holler,” a track off his latest solo EP, which came out Saturday at the Jazz Fest on-site record store.
Rouchell, who has said that he plans on releasing three EPs in the coming year, asked the audience for a little help with the call-and-response refrain, and even though it didn’t catch on immediately, it was like his enthusiasm eventually willed it so.
Other highlights included the MyNameIsJohnMichael track “Althea and the Company Store” and a new track off Separations that seemed to deal with heavy issues with the lyrics “Don’t you want to be something more than you have been?” and “Who am I, what do I want? What am I going to leave behind?”
With his stellar performance Saturday afternoon, Rouchell showed that he is growing into his next project with aplomb.