Sunday, September 16, 2007

Hampden Idol 2007

Return of the Idol
Sing your life
Any fool can think of words that rhyme
Many others do, why dont you ?

- Morrissey, "Sing Your Life"

And so they found he’d nothing left to say
Just another idol turned to clay

- Procol Harum, "The Idol"

Sept. 15, 2007
After being humiliated in my Saturday morning tennis match, I figured it was time to relax and unwind and hopefully forget that morning's shame by watching others make fools of themselves in public. In other words, I went to watch the grand finale musical performance at this year's (Atomic Books-hosted) Hampden Fest, "Hampden Idol III: Return of the Idol," emceed by the kharismatic Keyboard Man.

Keyboard Man emcees Hampden Idol III

Knowing my friend Scott Wallace Brown (a profile in courage, below) was on the bill to croon an unnamed song that he kept well shrouded in mystery (what could it be?), I stayed for all the performances at the center stage in the heart of Hampden's Avenue on 36th Street.

It was a hit or miss affair, but the audience was enthusiastic when warranted and supportive even when the performers faltered. Scott Wallace Brown didn't win - surely a Crime Against Humanity and a slap to the tender cheeks of My Fair Muses Euterpe and Terspichore - but then George W. Bush was elected twice (OK, the first time was a technicality), so what do the American Masses know?

Before seeing the karoake stars take the stage, the highlights of the day for me were:

A) Spotting this well-trampled rat on The Avenue:

The rat actually provided a good GPS marker (e.g., "You going to catch the Hampden Idol show? OK, let's meet up later by the dead rat near the sidewalk.")

B) Spotting this prime example of exposed female Muffin Top:

(I tried in vain to get a full frontal belly shot, but her boyfriend's peripheral vision made me nervous, as I had already been soundly beaten that morning. You do what you can.)


C) Watching this adorable tyke shake her booty to the rock bands performing onstage (I have a feeling she's a future Hampden Idol star in the making). This little exhibitionist (at times she undid her top, which her Mommy quickly reattached) was clearly the most confident and self-assured performer of the day:

I guess it's a sign of the times that I took pix of dead rodents, flabby waistlines and toddlers wherein in the past the Old Almosthipguy would have been documenting the day's best in butts and boobs. Either the thrill is gone or I must be getting old.

Anyway, Big Dave Cawley (King of Men) was there to watch The Oranges Band, The Jennifers and Impossible Hair ("I was really impressed - three good bands in a row!" he raved), the latter featuring personal fave Jim Glass (ex-Buttsteak) on guitar, though Dave thought their coiffs were more "Probable" than "Impossible." Dave was there without his girlfriend, meaning he was in free-range "hanging out with the boys" lad mode. In other words, Mr. Moderation was in his (Resurrection Ale) cups!

Here's Big Dave hoisting another with Big Benn of Atomic Books:

"Wow, this Resurrection Ale's not bad, Benn!" Big Dave says as he snatches Atomic Books impresario Benn Ray's brew away.

"Your shirt's minimalist aesthetic overwhelms me," a sour-faced Dave (right) seems to mutter as he is clearly peeved that his beloved "Godzilla, King of Monsters" t-shirt has been trumped in coolness by the black-and-white simplicity of the DEVO Dude.

"Don't touch this cup unless you fill it up" Big Dave says as he downs some more suds with his new BBBFF (Best Bearded Beer Friend Forever).

Linking arms with his drinking "partner," Big Dave gaily announces their civil marriage plans to the world whilst the couple sings along to the Pet Shop Boys "It's a Sin."

Time To Face the Music

At 5 o'clock the Hampden Idol competition began, with emcee Keyboard Man introducing the celebrity judges - including Kevin "The Pope of Baltimore" Perkins of Allied Pictures (pictured below)...

...and last year's winner Tony (below) belting out the first song, Billy Idol's "White Wedding."

Last year's winner, Tony, who is obviously too sexy for his (custom-fitted) shirt, opened the ceremonies before dashing off the the judges' box.

The day's contestants ranged from the good to the the bad to the ugly, but the crowd was consistently good-spirited. What I liked about this year's competition was that it felt really inclusive. That is, for every slumming musician and ironic hipster onstage, there were also a lot of working-class Hampden locals giving it a shot, from a Joe Schmoe guy in a basic James Dean ensemble of bluejeans and white undershirt belting out Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell" to two shy Tweenagers nervously singing "Summer Nights" from Grease (it could have been worse - they could have sung something from High School Musical!). Following are some pix of Hampden's Great Unheard:

Some normal looking guy (pictured below) came on to bust some moves leading the fist-pumping crowd through a fun rendition of Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters." I heard a rumor that this might have been the notorious Neil Tobias - he of The Mobtown Shank's "Study Body" column fame - but then again he might just have been a normal looking guy singing "Ghostbusters."

Here Come the Regulars

Then I started to notice familiar faces. Erstwhile Vestal Vermin singer (and Baltimore Magazine scribe) Hannah Feldman, who is leaving Charm City, sang an appropriate swan song, Scandal's "Goodbye To You." Or was she singing "Goodbye To Yu" to her Asian-American fellow Idol contestant, as many in Hampden's non-existent Asian community believed:

Maggie of Atomic Books (below) belted out Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" to frenzied acclaim from the crowd. Some pipes on that girl (who knew?)!.

The zaftig wife of the Twin Six singer (below) got up onstage to play the Sex Card, moaning orgasmically to Led Zep's "Immigrant's Song" (or was it "Whole Lotta Love"? Another gal - Wendy Siegel? - who was clad in PETA-alert fur also sang a Led Zep tune rife with pelvic thrust implications that day, as well. Amidst all the riffing and that moaning, I admit I get a tad confused.)

While I'm no stranger to the sound of faked climaxes, I still found Mrs. Twin Sex's emoting to be predictably dumb and unimaginative, but her knee-high leather boots and curvy meat-and-potatoes semiotics went over well with the inebriated crowd.

The only thing dumber was later seeing her hubby (billed as "Jethro") strut about stage in his knee-high Doc Martens while screeching Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever." So bad it's good? Oh, the irony. (And such a stretch, given Twin Six's huge metrosexual fan base.)

Then there was this textbook hipster (replete with chrome dome, Van Dykian beard, ear piercings and designer nouveau nerd glasses) in the Bay City Roller slacks who sang some Journey power ballad. Much as he displeased me sartorially, orally he had some chops - I'll give him that - hitting Steve Perry's eardrum-piercing high octaves.

The Day the Music Died: Scott Wallace Brown Robbed!
The tension mounted as we waited for Scott Wallace Brown to come on. Finally, well over an hour into the competition, Scott Wallace Brown ascended the stage in a spiffy man-of-the-cloth kit (as pictured below) to commence communion with the audience and perform his mystery song...which turned out to be none other than Boudleaux & Felice Bryant's "Love Hurts"!

How perfect (and how funny)! Though originally recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1961, many have sung this tearjerker ballad, including Roy Orbison (it was the B-side to his 1961 #1 hit "Running Scared") and Nazareth (who took it to #8 on the pop charts in 1975), the band most people (unfortunately) associate the song with. Of course, I always associate it with the late great Gram Parsons, who made the song his when he sang it as a duet with Emmylou Harris on his 1974 farewell solo album, Grievous Angel.

Regardless, Scott Wallace Brown was a picture of concentration as he emoted the pain and catharsis of the kind of love whose course never does run smooth. Singing in a high-pitched octave that many thought was a woman's voice (high praise indeed, the kind Klaus Nomi or Wayne Newton wouldn't turn down!), SWB moved Big Dave Cawley enough not to elicit outright tears, but enough to put down his cup - yea, verily, without filling it up (as pictured below)!

But the Hampden Idol III crown fittingly went to the performer most full of hot air - quite literally as it turned out. That would be Lisa of Secret Crush Society (pictured below) who performed Nena's "99 Luftballoons" while showing up with a bunch of red balloons that she released one by one into the crowd. (Though I never took accounting in college, my rough visual count of her balloon stock came to 12, still 77 short of what would have been a truly spectacular stage prop.)

I would have preferred the German language original (as did Herr Cawley, who sang along to Nena's ditty in Deutsch), but this is America, after all (reminds me of that joke, Q: What do you call someone who speaks many languages? A: Polylingual. Q: What do you call a person who speaks two languages? A: Bilingual. Q: OK, so what do you call a person who speaks only one language? A: An American!)

Anyway, it was an inspired choice and a good song. As Big Dave Cawley pointed out, there were a lot of good '80s songs. "Why sing all these crappy '80s songs to laugh at when you could sing a great song like '99 Red Balloons'?" he queried rhetorically. Why indeed. The Cawley Eighties Rock Doctrine holds water in my book.

Encore! All Together Now!

"We are the world, we are the Idols!" the contestants seem to chant as they join arms for a mass vocal outro.

And there you have it. I came, I saw, I shuttered (digitally).

By the end of the day, the dead rat in the middle of the road had disappeared, as had my GF, Amy.

"Hmmm, that rat tastes good with fried rice!" beams GF Amy, happily satisyfing her hunger pangs.


Blogger Unknown said...

For the record, I sang "Don't Stop Believe'n" by Journey.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Professor Pan said...

Damn. I couldn't make it, but thanks to your detailed play-by-play, I felt like I was there (minus my usual drinking-too-much-during-the-day wooziness and headache). Nice job.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Twasn't Jethro's gal who sang "Immigrant Song"; that was the gal in the fur hat.

The winner was no random chica; that was Lisa, the powerhouse voxxer of Secret Crush Society.

Also, those were no choirboy togs I donned; that was full-on man-of-the-cloth gear, courtesy of Adele.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since I didn't make it beyond the Atomic Stage all day, thanks for the review!

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and reactions to the party! I just wanted to share that the scoring was VERY close; it was the first time we had any kind of tie , and a four way tie at that, which indicates that the judges were all suitably overwhelmed with talent. The difference between third and first place was four points (out of 100), and the difference between second and third was 1 point. Regardless, I think everyone really enjoyed Scott's performance, and if/when this happens again, I know he'll be THE contestant to watch.

8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Technically what Scott is wearing was called a Chasuble, which is a type of vestment worn by priests, etc. If memory serves, Chasubles are color coded. Certain color combinations are worn on particular occasions. But the color combo SWB sported (green, black "alb" underneath, white trim) technically doesn't exist. I bought a graduation gown at the GBMC Nearly New sale to go under the Chasuble-- the getup almost looks legit! The Chasuble I got at the bargain bin at The Zone for $5 many years ago (I can't believe no one snapped it up before me), and the graduation gown was like a buck. That Nearly New sale is a goldmine for Halloween costumes.
Also: I think Chasubles aren't just a Catholic thing (see wikipedia entry).

5:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one mentioned Spidey, and that is a crime. He was the only reason why I showed up, and he was amazing. I kinda shed a tear as his velvety voice made me shiver with his rendition of What's Goin On. What is going on? Spidey rules!!!!!

7:19 PM  

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