‘American Idol’ audition bus tour draws 1,000 to Piedmont Park

Bria Anai of Decatur (left) is among several would-be “Idol” contestants awaiting their spot in the sun at Piedmont Park Tuesday, August 22, 2017. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

This was posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

In the final seasons of Fox’s version of “American Idol,” they began doing separate bus tours to seek out talent in smaller cities. That included a stop in Athens season 15. This makes lines more manageable and technically reaches more people.

ABC – taking over “Idol” in 2018 – is continuing this practice, hitting more than 20 cities all over the country, from Fargo, N.D. to Portland, Ore. to Orlando to Provo, Utah. Atlanta was one of the stops on Tuesday. While “Idol” in the past has used AmericasMart, the Georgia Dome and Gwinnett Arena (now Infinite Energy Center), ABC chose a more scenic spot with plenty of greenery: Piedmont Park.

About 1,000 people tried out, according to a publicist.

That’s far smaller than the “big” stops in the past, where anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000-plus showed up. The bus stops do not feature any of the celebrity judges (only Katy Perry has been identified so far). And Ryan Seacrest was nowhere to be found. It didn’t appear as if ABC was even filming the auditions at this juncture.

The entire process appeared to run smoothly and though the temperatures reached into the high 80s by mid-afternoon, singers spent most of their time in shade thanks to the trees. People would break out into song. Some folks shielded themselves from any sunlight at all with umbrellas. ABC had five tents with a single producer in each. They would listen to people in groups of four. Each contestant would step forward and sing 15 to 30 seconds, then step back. After the four were done, the producer would bring them forward and point out which ones were finished and which ones would move on.

Auditions started on time at 9 a.m., including several “front-of-the-line” contestants who had finished in the top six during the WSB-TV’s “Atlanta Idol” competition: Larq Wumble, Carlton Kell, Sharnae Leland and Andrew Weaver. Surprisingly, none made the first cut. The publicist told me auditions ended on time at about 5 p.m.

Jake Michael posed in front of the “Idol” sign after he got rejected in the first round. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

At about 10:30 p.m., Jake Michael (who said he almost made it on “America’s Got Talent” this year after seven rounds of auditions) arrived after harrowing traffic from Acworth. He was able to get to the front of the line but said his voice was only at about 60 percent. During his audition, he cracked a high note. His wife Bri could hear him from about 100 feet away and knew that was not a good sign. Indeed, the producer liked his low and middle range but said that high note hurt him. He left in good spirits, though, kissing his baby daughter and his wife and gabbing with the morning show at B98.5.

And he shouldn’t feel bad. A vast majority of the singers were cut immediately. By 11:15 a.m., I had only seen a handful of folks make the early cut. A producer interviewed them and another videotaped them and even had them sing some more if need be.

There was a time during the peak years when “Idol” was such a phenomenon, rival TV stations would cover the event but that was a long time ago. Besides the local WSB-TV ABC affiliate, and ABC affiliates in Chattanooga and Columbus, I didn’t see a lot of media.

Brennen Dixon of Gainesville was one of the few who made it into the next round. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Andrew Weaver, who finished in the top six during an Atlanta Idol competition for WSB-TV Saturday, awaited his turn Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, he was rejected. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Carlton Kell practices his Billy Joel “New York State of Mind” before his try out. He didn’t make it. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

A disappointed Carlton Kell with his parents after his audition. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Larq Wumble and Sharnae Leland, who finished in the top six during WSB-TV’s Atlanta Idol, nervously wait for their turn. Neither got through. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Christian Donayre, 15, of Buford, decided to stand out by using a ukelele for his audition. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Kayla Leigh of Lakeland dressed up for the occasion. She said she has tried out several times for this show and others but no luck. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Jovaris Taylor didn’t make the cut but after the 18 year old tried out, he took a photo in front of a big “Idol’ sign for posterity. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Obed Sinaloa of Dalton dressed uniquely and planned to sing country though he wasn’t sure exactly what at that point. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

 

Producers used these evaluation forms for each contestant. I shot this before auditions began so they were still in the box. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

The early wave of contestants, some who got there as early as 1 a.m.

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