John Michael is a trained opera singer, a spot-on vocal impressionist, and a longtime rock ’n’ roller. The one thing he’s not is a radio DJ. That’s a totally different John Michael.
“A lot of times I get mistaken. People ask me if I’m John Michael from 104.3, the Hippo. And I go, ‘no, but I have played with him.’ He’s a heck of a nice guy, but John and I are different people,” Michael says. “I’m John Michael the vocalist. He plays drums.”
Michael the vocalist puts his impressionist talents to use with his latest group, the John Michael Band. He and his rotating cast of players started playing in 2010, doing sets of mostly covers, and he sounds just like whichever singer he’s covering.
“I cover anything from Zeppelin to Sublime to AC/DC to Stevie Wonder, Alice in Chains, and various ’90s rock,” Michael says. “When people come see me play, it’s more about forgetting their problems for a few hours. I try to just give them a really good time, a party atmosphere. I don’t want to come off as some ‘look at me’ guy. I want them to have fun. I want them to keep coming back.”
In an effort to keep the covers interesting, Michael turns a lot of the tunes into medleys. For instance, he mashes up Sublime’s “What I Got” with the Temptations’ “My Girl.” He also puts the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” together with Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.”
After 30 years of playing music, the most important element to Michael is that the people who play with him are up to his standards. The players he picks are so sharp, for instance, that the first gig he played as John Michael Band was thrown together the day of the show. He put the band together with no rehearsal, just a set list, and they did just fine.
“I really make sure I play with really good musicians” Michael says. “I’ve played with guys who are not up to par. At this point in my life, I make sure the guys I play with are really good.”
INFO: 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 2. Crow’s Nest, 2218 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. $6. 476-4560.