Semifinals for this year’s The Woodlands Idol competition were held this past Friday. Of the thirty semifinalist who had been selected to compete, 29 of them showed; making for a full night of fantastic entertainment.
Even before the deluge of rain swept in midway into the evening, Papa’s Ice House was just packed. I haven’t heard an official headcount, but there were easily 200 or more people there. And that big of a crowd makes for great audience participation and feedback when the contestants are on the stage.
Everyone seemed to be having a great time, and the energy in the air was electric; you could see the mix of anticipation and nervousness on the faces of those who were going to take the stage, as well as their friends and family who had come out to support them. After some small hiccups, the night went off without a hitch. Ticket sales seemed to go smoothly, despite a few minutes’ delay with one of the credit card machines. Craig Gentry of Tunes of Texas had the sound system all prepped and ready to go then inexplicably for the first 20 seconds or so of the opening announcements, the mic seemed to have gone dead. All-in-all, minuscule issues.
As I sat watching and listening to the performances, I was once again in awe of not only these neighbors of mine having such great talent – but the enormity of the task of choosing amongst them that the judges were facing. Ask anyone who was there, almost every performance was absolutely fantastic! And if you weren’t there, good-ness! You don’t know what you’re missing!!
Speaking of the judges; have I introduced them to y’all yet? The entire panel are professionals in the music industry, with “day jobs” in a variety of music-related businesses. Kyle Hutton, is a local singer/songwriter, and founder of Real Life Real Music. Theresa Yow is a contemporary Christian artist and vocal instructor serving The Woodlands, Spring, Conroe and surrounding areas. Dana Tyson is a host on the Morning Show at Houston’s own Sunny 99.1 Radio, and Marc Reczek is the General Manager/Music Director for School of Rock The Woodlands, as well as a veteran guitarist, bassist, drummer, percussionist, vocalist, recording engineer, producer, and composer. All of the judges bring something to the table (aside from winning smiles) for the competitors, and are clearly far more qualified than the average person (*cough*me*cough*) to take in this competition and help these budding performers move on to the next level in their singing careers.
So who did they choose from among the 29 to send on to Finals next week?
Well, first up was #4 Shanna Roark, who belted out “I Surrender” by Celine Dion. She had an impressive sound, with a strong voice; I would dare say she could give Celine a run for her money.
Next to make it past the judges was #7 Zachary Jones, with yet another flawless performance of “Dirt Road Anthem” a song he does great with, covering both Jason Aldean and Ludacris’ parts. It’s one of his best songs, and he nailed it (of course).
A little bit later was #10 Aaron Del Bosque. He seems to really love doing Jason Mraz songs, so when he sang “I Won’t Give Up” he did extremely well with it. He doesn’t copy Jason so much as covers him; and it was smooth. Nice!
Number 11, Chelsea Rollins, was up next and made it in, singing “Mamma Knows Best” by Jessie J. It’s a fast-paced song, and she seemed very comfortable with it, though not very clear. Maybe it was the sound? I think the rain had started up just about that time.
Encouraging everyone to get out their phones (instead of lighters), #13 Jordan Burmeister filled the cool night air with Journey’s “Faithfully”. She did so great with it. I swear she gets better every time I hear her; she’s got a great vocal and style range.
As someone who seemingly has no qualms with being on stage in front of a lot of people, #18 Kathryn Rodriguez, easily got the judges attention once more, when she sang Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart”. Personally, I think she sings it better than Janis does. Or maybe not so much “better” as “smoother,” which is to say, more singing, less barking.
Mary Goldknopf (#21), beautifully covered The Beatles’ “Oh Darling”. She started a bit early, as the vocals do actually begin before the music, but she recovered well. She has a great voice for for the tune, similar to Dana Fuchs from the “Across The Universe” soundtrack.
It took a little while, but we eventually came to the next judges’ pick, #29 Simply Dion, who sang a song he had only decided on upon arriving at registration at the top of the evening – “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again” by Peabo Bryson. He did really well with it, and I’ve gotta says he’s got a great set of pipes! And last, but certainly not least, was #30 Louie Cruze, who belted out ol’ blue eyes’ “My Way” (Frank Sinatra), complete with drink in one hand and mic in the other. He sings so well, you never see it coming, and then he blows you away.
What’s that, you ask? Why is #3 Jim Tillmans pictured? Well, I’ll tell you. You might recall that last year, I pointed out that he’s one of those ‘guys that sound just like Michael Bublé,’ when he sang “Fever.” He was also a preliminary winner last year, and the 5th Annual The Woodlands Idol 3rd Place Winner. So when he sang “Me and Mrs. Jones” he once again gave me goose bumps (or at least, that’s the reaction I’ll post here if you know what I mean). Personally, I just can’t get over how smoothly, much like Michael Bublé, Jim sings. His is a crooning style; smooth, silky. He and Bryan Kennedy, as I pointed out both last week and last year, share that talent. I was sad to learn that neither of them move on to Finals next week, but I think they both have bright singing careers ahead of them. Or at the very least, a whole lot of swooning ladies.
This week’s People’s Choice winner #1 Matthew Moore, who sang “Maria, Maria” by Santana. To my untrained ear, it sounded as though he wasn’t really on key, and seemed to have missed some cues – maybe even ad libbed a little. But of course, I am one of many, many people in the audience, and the tribe has spoken, as they say.
So next week is the Finals! Each contestant will sing two songs, which cannot be songs they have already performed in either their preliminary rounds or at semifinals. This helps the judges (as well as the audience) to get a little more insight into each competitors’ range of abilities – because hey, how can anyone hope to take it to the next level if they can only really sing one or two songs? I can’t wait to hear what happens next week! See you there?
Finals will be held on Friday, November 1 at Mama J’s BBQ & Grill, and remember, it’s a ticketed event. Tickets are only $10, and can be purchased at all of the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce free business networking events (see our Event Calendar for dates and locations), at the Chamber offices of course, online, and finally, at the door. The sooner you get your tickets, though, the better, as space will be limited.
For pictures from semifinals, check out our Facebook Album. Remember to come out and be a part of this amazing competition. Trust me, being there is a blast – even when the music is slow! ;-D