Who Will Be the Next LB-Idol?

Jul 18, 2018
Photo by: Margot Miller

After about seven years of radio silence, LB-Idol is back in business, showcasing the talents of any people willing to spill their souls out onto the Surf City Hotel Beach Club stage. Last Thursday, moments before show time, the judges sat along the bar perpendicular to the stage, clipboards in hand, critical ears perked and pens at the ready, no doubt instilling fear into the singers awaiting judgment.

Jason Booth, the competition organizer and host (our Ryan Seacrest for the evening), bounced energetically from stage to floor with mic in hand, rallying the crowd and sending out the proverbial bat signal for last-minute participants. This was to be the second preliminary round of the competition, the final call for open auditions before the semifinal and final rounds that would occur over the next two weeks.

At the first preliminary round, the week before, there had been 16 sign-ups. “I have 10 tonight preregistered, so I should wind up with around the same tonight. Usually once people get a couple cocktails in them, they get a little liquid courage and next thing you know, they’re up there singing,” said Booth.

For each round of prelims, four singers will move to the semifinals. From those eight singers, just four will advance to the final round, where first- and second-place winners will be chosen.

One of the first performers was Erin Holdwright, a teacher from Warren. Holdwright had begun playing guitar six years ago and said that as soon as she’d learned, her stage fright and shyness had virtually disappeared. She performed an acoustic rendition of Maren Morris’ “My Church,” nailing the guitar parts and delivering soothing, soulful vocals, gaining power as the song progressed, a demonstration of her newfound boldness. Spoiler alert for those viewers at home: Holdwright made it through to the semifinals.

Teddy B, a finalist from the first round the week prior, was invited on stage to give the audience a peek at what the competition in the semis would be like. Looking suave in a dark button-down, he performed “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul, walking the room, shaking the judges’ hands, oozing the confidence of a sensual, bluesy singer. His vocals drew screams from the ladies when it was time to hit that high, sultry, drawn-out “Mrs. Jones.”

A little later in what appeared to be a dare, two brothers humorously took the stage, back to back, challenging each other for supremacy. More surprising than their song choices were the passion and skills they exhibited behind the mic. One belted Pearl Jam’s “Better Man,” while the other performed AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Spoiler alert number two: the Nichols brothers will be returning for the semifinals.

In lieu of commercial breaks, Booth and his co-host, Dawn LaFetra, musicians themselves, performed acoustic covers, charmed the audience with witty banter and prompted the judges for feedback.

LB-Idol’s recurring judges are Dan Turi, a DJ on WJRZ; Al Geary, CEO of Shore Bets Entertainment; and Robin Tricker, recording artist and member of Gypsy Moon, a band that plays every Thursday at Surf City Hotel. This week’s celebrity guest position was filled by Jason Jordan, a music industry giant with impressive A&R credentials. Racking up over 30 years of experience in the music business, Jordan is responsible for guiding the career of the Plain White T’s and other related artists. Since founding the punk rock label Watermark Records while finishing out his high school career, Jordan has become the senior vice president A&R at Republic Records of Universal Music Group.

“I think that last week we had some really good people, and this week we have good people, too, so I’m pretty excited,” said Tricker during one of the faux commercial breaks.

“Very diplomatic!” someone shouted from the bar.

“This week was a lot better than last week, no question,” said Geary, in his signature monotonous, matter-of-fact voice.

“When Al’s not doing funerals, he’s doing stand-up comedy,” Jordan joked, playing on the evident camaraderie among the judges. “This is actually fantastic. I’m having a wonderful time.”

But what would an American Idol imitation be without a Simon? Next week’s semifinals will welcome celebrity guest judge Simon Rosen to the panel. Rosen’s law practice spans the entirety of the entertainment industry, serving music, television, film and theater. To get an idea of Rosen’s position in the industry, a writer from Rosen’s ranks named Oogie Mane recently wrote “I’m Upset” for singer/songwriter Drake. A music maven and industry expert, maybe Rosen will bring with him some of that signature sass his Cowell counterpart was so infamous for. But perhaps he won’t need it, considering the current spectrum of talent.

Unfortunately for us, one or two gifted artists won’t be returning, due in part to their geographic inflexibility. Take Megan Dettrey. Dettrey, a New Yorker singer-songwriter, delivered a goose bump-inducing acoustic performance of Anna Nalick’s “Breathe (2 AM),” bringing the beach club bar to a quiet, mesmerized halt. However, she wasn’t positive she’d be back in Surf City the following week, so her candidacy was null.

Still, Dettrey was glad to have done it, despite the outcome. “My bus dropped me off right here, and I was like, ‘I need a drink after three hours.’ They said Idol was going on, and I said, ‘Can I join?’ It was a nice little release of energy after three hours on a bus.”

Though out-of-staters might find it hard to shell out beaucoup bucks for a return ticket to LBI should they make it through to the LB-Idol finals, the competition still holds wonderful opportunities for the locals and proximal tourists seeking exposure.

Turi, from WJRZ, said he could envision some of the performers playing poolside and edging into the local music scene. He believes LB-Idol could be an opportunity for singer-songwriters to get noticed. “It could be a stepping stone, you know, in terms of getting out there and playing more. Who knows what the future holds after that?”

Contestants moving into the semifinals are Teddy B, Nicole Albrecht, Nicole Curtis, Erin Holdwright, Stephen Nichols, Mike Nichols, Gerald Rothstein and Kerry Horleman. More information regarding LB-Idol can be found on Surf City Hotel’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SurfCityHotel/.

— Sarah Hodgson

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