Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Local band spreads message through music

Shh. Do you hear that sound? It's the sound of silence. A sound that follows the end of the seventh season of "American Idol." No more "Idol" theme music, no more rants from Simon, Paula and Randy and no more cheesy jokes from Ryan Seacrest — at least until next January.

Somewhere, maybe everywhere, there's a collective sigh of relief at that thought.

But before I leave my "Idol" platform, I must say I'm truly glad David Cook won the talent competition. Though I wish both Davids the best.

Still, on my first "American Idol"-free night in months, I couldn't part with the thought of not hearing a musical performance. So I spent an evening hanging out at FYE music store in the DeSoto Square mall to hear a local band play at its CD release party.

The group, called Since October, is a Christian Rock band who — for folks that are familiar with the genre — sound a little like the hard rock band P.O.D., and that's a good sound to have. The band was celebrating its first national CD release under their new label Tooth & Nail Records.

I brought the self-recorded CD about a year ago off itunes. It's music with a message that I really enjoyed, especially "Disaster" and "Beautiful."

At FYE, I met bass player Josh Johnson and drummer Audie Grantham from the four-member group. Audie gave me a quick run down of the band's history. They started as a praise and worship band around 1999 and slowly grew into their own from there, later touring at Christian music festivals across the nation and overseas. A few months ago, the band landed a deal with Tooth & Nail records.

Both Josh and Audie were very pleasant to speak with, and it was interesting watching them and the other band members politely interact with fans young (about age three or four) and old.

I wasn't sure what to expect last night since I had not heard the group live before. I figured this would be a chance for me to see their performing prowess. Since October didn't disappoint, performing "Disaster" and a couple other songs from their new and old albums.

Since their new album includes several tracks from their debut CD, I didn't buy it. But I made sure to download the four new tracks off iTunes. Just goes to show, Bradenton has all kinds of hidden talent.

You can check out more about Since October at
— January Holmes

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The battle of the Davids ends tonight

The David vs. David showdown on "American Idol" last night was probably one of the most overdone, tedious episodes of the seventh season.

For one, producers used the hourlong show to over-saturate its audience with a "boxing" motif, which was interesting for all of eight seconds. Really, why can't they just let these guys sing without all the extra commentary? No one really cares what the big-wigs of music think; it's America that will vote for the next Idol — hence the term "American Idol."

The only two songs that really caught my attention during the whole drawn-out thing was David Cook's first song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," by U2 — the performance was pretty good — and David Archuleta's last song, John Lennon's "Imagine," which I found phenomenal.

It's a toss-up on who will win tonight, though. I'm rooting for David C. because he's edgier, the better performer of the two (though his performances of late don't compare to some of his stuff midway through the competition) and probably more marketable. Plus, he doesn't have an overbearing stage dad and he's a raw talent (i.e. hasn't been on other talent shows before, whereas "Archie" has with "Star Search").

Archie's cute. He has those puppy-dog eyes that probably make pre-teens across American swoon, along with a great voice. Though he can sing, he's not much of a "performer" yet. It seems if it were up to Simon Cowell, who kept praising the teen last night, the 17-year-old would already be wearing the Idol crown. But I think he's too young for all that fanfare right now. He needs to find out who he is first, without his father pulling some of his strings.

January Holmes

Thursday, May 15, 2008

'Idol' Syesha has a bright future

I'm a little sad our hometown "American Idol," Syesha Mercado, was sent packing last night.

I'm convinced that whoever would have been in Mercado's top three spot, had it not been her, would have been voted off the show anyway. It seems no one can beat the two David's who are in the final two. Their pre-teen and teenage fans would make sure of that.

Yet Syesha came so close. But she's also come so far.

Who would of thought someone from our own backyard would become one of the top three contestants on one of the hottest shows around. She's inspired a crop of future Florida "Idol" contenders, that's for sure.

I'm sure Syesha will be scooped up by Broadway, though. I can't imagine her not being on a New York stage, following the path of other "Idol" contestants such as Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken and Fantasia. Mercado's sister, Xtavia Bailey, believes she'll will go far — whether it's on Broadway or with a record label, she said last night during a brief phone call I had with her after the results show. Bailey's hopeful we'll be hearing more on Syesha's budding and promising career in the future.

On another note, were you just as disappointed that "Idol" producers didn't show any of our scenic shores during the hometown visit segments? Just crowd scenes. They didn't even show her singing the national anthem at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg later on that day. But I did love the part where a woman practically threw her baby in Syesha's arms while trying to get a picture as the singer was being whisked away by her handlers. That's TV at its best.

So now it's down to a David and David showdown. I'm rooting for David Cook, the rocker, to win. He's got more of an edge to him than the "gee-golly" David Archuleta. But whoever wins, both will have a great career (let's hope David A.'s dad doesn't ruin the boy's career with his stage dad high jinks). From last night's hometown segments, both guys already have a good size teenage fan base. And that's what you need to sell hits these days. — January Holmes

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Idol results show

56 million votes will decide if Syesha stays or goes tonight. Looks like members of Idol's top ten is in the crowd.

The trio has choreographed dance moves as they sing. Hmm ... They look and sound pretty good tonight.

I love the Idol Ford commercials. Don't you? Very fun and creative.

Fantasia performs with a lot of energy, spunk and ... red hair! The song's not my favorite, but it's great watching the Broadway star perform.

"Can we start the drama now?" Ryan says. We all know he will keep us hanging until the very last minute of the show.

Hometown visits are shown. David A. is attacked by cheerleaders ... looks like he has A LOT of young girls for fans. He's brought to tears.

Very, very close race, Ryan says. They are showing David A.'s "journey on Idol" now. Don't know if it will be his last night on Idol.

Now, Syesha's turn. "It was amazing," she said of her visit home. Bradenton's on TV. Syesha's holding a baby. She's also brought to tears. She stops by her house to see mom and dad and the family. Great family portrait. She was really excited about the helicopter it seems. She's overwhelmed by all the support and fanfare.

After watching the hometown visit, Simon says Paula was too hard on Syesha last night.

David C. is next. He looks nervous walking on stage. We learn he never planned to audition for Idol. He was just with his brother for support and wound up getting sucked into the Idol machine. The fans flocked to David C. during his hometown visit too.

David A. and David C. are in the top two. Predictable.

Syesha had a good run though. She's made the Bradenton/Sarasota area proud. — January Holmes

Will Syesha survive? Catch our live blog at 9 p.m.

Was Syesha too sexy last night or right on target? Many folks around here believe she was "in the zone," as Randy Jackson would say. In all, though, the top three "American Idol" performers were kind of hit and miss last night.

It may boil down to a David vs. David finale. But some of the judges less-than-stellar comments to Syesha could have bolstered an overwhelming sympathy vote for her. Could it be enough to keep her in the finals? Watch "American Idol" with me tonight at 9 p.m. as I blog live from the Herald's Buzzworthy blog.

— January Holmes

Monday, May 12, 2008

The calm before the Syesha storm

All is quiet on the western front (the west coast of Florida that is) after Syesha Mercado's whirlwind return home last Friday with "American Idol" at her side, filming the hometown visit.

No matter where she went Friday, the "Idol" contender managed to create a buzz, bringing area residents out of the woodwork to see her perform — some who have never watched a lick of "American Idol."

I wonder if those new to the "Idol" phenomenon will watch the show Tuesday night and vote after seeing Syesha perform live here? The "Idol" contestant did manage to seize moments of her visit to encourage the crowd to vote, as if she was on the campaign trail.

Too bad we couldn't vote by phone as many times as we wanted for the presidential election like with "Idol." It would be interesting to see who would win that vote.

Syesha may need a lot more votes this week to beat rocker David Cook or boy wonder David Archuleta. The two David's seem destined for a showdown with each other in the final two.

On a side note, Jason Castro, who was booted off the show last week, seemed all too eager to leave the competition for the trio to duke it out.

Whether Syesha wins or not, though, she seems to just be relishing in the fun of it all, trying not to take everything too seriously. After all, it's not everyday a person finds him or herself in the top three on "American Idol."

Syesha won't let anything dampen her spirits at this point in the competition. Not even bad criticisms from the judges.

While at Booker High School, an administrator asked her questions about being on the show. One question was how she handles the judges' comments and criticisms.

"I listen to it, let it go and move on to the next song," Syesha said.

We wish her the best this week. — January Holmes

Friday, May 9, 2008

Syesha has "Proud Mary" down

She sang it loud and sang it proud.

Syesha performed "Proud Mary" during a mini-concert this afternoon at the Ringling Museum of Art to more than 2,000 fans gathered along the shores of Sarasota Bay.
The hometown girl belted out the Creedence Clearwater Revivial classic, which she performed on this week's episode of the televised talent contest. She also sang "Groove Is In The Heart," by Deee Light.

And she gave her fans the scoop to next week's performance. "Idol" judge Randy Jackson faxed her during the performance -- it's "If I Ain't Got You," by Alicia Keys.

Dreams really do come true

We're in Sarasota now, behind the scenes in Syesha's alma mater, Booker High. Students and teachers alike fawned over one of their most famous alumni - at least for the current 15 minutes.

Teachers spoke of their favorite memories of Mercado, and students presented her with awards and gifts. One student gave her a painting.

Mercardo repaid her fans crowded into the school's auditorium with a singing of "Summertime," by Ella Fitzgerald.

"First off, it's crazy. I remember sitting in this theater and there was speaker and thinking, I'm going to go to Hollywood and do singing and movies and stuff. Now I'm singing," Mercado said. "Dreams really do come true."

Next stop, and this one's open to the public: a concert at the Ringling Museum of Art. But the parking lot is already filled -- try New College of Florida next door.

Competitor David Cook stomping KC

Turns out that Syesha's competitor David Cook is from Blue Springs near Kansas City, and our sister McClatchy newspaper Kansas City Star is following his shenanegans today. If you want to measure up the competition, here’s a link.

Syesha wins their hearts -- again

Syesha Mercado wowed more than 1,000 of her fans in downtown Bradenton this morning.

She sang part of a song --- "Listen," originally recorded by Beyonce --- and invited students from Daughtrey Elementary School, her alma mater, to join her on the stage set up along the downtown riverfront.

"You guys are beautiful," Mercado said. "Thank you for being here."

And the crowd went wild.

She's touring in a black stretch limousine, accompanied by Manatee County Sheriff's deputies.

Mayor Wayne Poston gave her a key to the city, who gushed, "It doesn't open the vault, but it opens our hearts to you."

Just before 11:30 a.m., Mercado got back into her limo for a ride to the AT&T store -- that's what you get when you're a sponsor -- on Cortez Road, esorted again by sheriff's deputies.


Syesha Mercado, American Idol finalist, is mobbed by fans as she leaves after an appearance in downtown Bradenton.--photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie/

Syesha Mercado fans get excited as they wait for the American Idol finalist in downtown Bradenton.--photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie/

Where to see Syesha this afternoon

Syesha's breezing through Bradenton at this writing, having paraded through downtown Bradenton, then on to AT&T on Cortez -- stirring up a lot of fans and even calls that all that commotion was a bank robbery, what with law enforcement and unusual sitings!

Here's the plans for this afternoon:
• 12:30 p.m.: Short parade and visit with students at Booker High School. School visit will be closed to the public. The parade will be on the Orange Avenue side of the school.
• 3:30 p.m.: Concert at the Ca d'Zan Terrace at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bay Shore Road. Parking will be available north of the Ringling Museum at New College of Florida. Mercado will be given a proclamation and perform.
• Between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.: Will be heading to St. Petersburg to sing the national anthem at the Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field.

Syesha is on the Bradenton stage

She's here!

"American Idol" finalist Syesha Mercado has arrived in Bradenton for a mini-party along the downtown waterfront, kicking off a flurry of appearances in the Manatee-Sarasota area for the hometown girl.

Mercado arrived about 11 a.m. in a black stretch limousine, accompanied by Manatee County Sheriff's deputies.

Government officials will be reading proclamations honoring Mercado, who is one of three surviving contestants in the televised talent competition, and Mayor Wayne Poston is set to give her a key to the city. Fans gathered along Barrcarotta Boulevard are hopeful Mercado will also sing them a song.

After the downtown performance, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office will escort her to the AT&T store in the 4700 block of Cortez Road for an appearance. AT&T is a sponsor of the "American Idol" show.

Later today, Mercado will make apperances at Booker High School in Sarasota, her high school alma mater, and at the Ringling Museum of Art, where she is scheduled to perform.
And tonight, she is scheduled to sing the national anthem at the Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field.

Your Bradenton Herald crew will keep you posted.