Wednesday, July 30, 2008

American Idol 8 Auditions

As expected, here is the report of the madness and mayhem that was the events of yesterday. This is going to be long, but since many of you don't really know how AI auditions are run, the details might interest you. Here we go:

The events of these twenty-four hours in many ways mirror the similar events that took place October 2005 when Dad and I drove to "nearby" Las Vegas for American Idol auditions, but in many ways were also quite unique. On Monday evening Elise, Jeff, Lacie and I drove up to the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City to register (incidentally, am I the only person who thinks that is the most retarded rename of a public venue in recent history?), and found little to no line. Of course, the crowds on Sunday morning, when registration began, were historically insane, but we didn't want to deal with the crowds, plus, you know, previous engagements on Sunday morning. So we each had a wristband, ticket, and instructions for the following day.

I don't think any of us had enough sleep that night, not necessarily because we stayed up really late (although I did), but because were up around 4 to get ready and head right back up to SLC. We parked a nice, free distance away, and then, in the pre-dawn hours of the morning joined the thousands (in truth, reportedly 6000, which probably includes chaperones and guests) that were already queued outside of the arena. We were informed the day before that the venue wasn't allowing a line to begin forming until 5 am, and also that your place in line has nothing to do with your audition order, since our tickets detailed seat numbers based on order of registration which would indicate the order in which we would sing. We made ourselves comfortable in the line, having a light breakfast, playing a little Wackee 6 and listening to iPods. The local news and Fox camera crews were around, but looking for interesting (read: freakish) people to display on TV, and we also saw all-but-forgotten AI alum Justin Guarini. We weren't entirely surprised to find that we were in the second-to-last section, but we were glad that after only a couple of hours we were inside, away from the fast-approaching mid-day heat and sitting on the floor, although they wouldn't allow food of any kind or pillows and such into the venue (which Jeff and I ran them back to the car, sure the line would barely move in our absence, and it didn't). Unlike in Vegas, everyone was immediately ushered into the main arena and sat in their appropriate locations (in Vegas, there were several rooms of standing/waiting to get through, and I never really even had a good look of just how many people were auditioning).

Once inside, the crowd was directed in a series of promotional shots of cheering, welcoming viewers to American Idol, saying gaggy taglines ("Welcome to Happy Valley!" and "Archie did it, I can too!", the latter of which I refused to say), group singing, etc. (Honestly, if you want to be seen on TV, make a sign. It won't guarantee you get past round 1, but it will probably get you some momentary national exposure.) Then the auditions began. Although we were near the end of the group, from our unique perspective, we were able to actually see and watch (and for the most part, hear) the auditions down on the floor. For those who are unaware, there are reportedly two or three rounds before you actually audition before the three famous AI judges, in which hopefuls sing very briefly (no more than 30 seconds) for one of many "producers" sitting at nondescript tables, separated by black curtains. They line you up, four-deep in front of the tables, and four at a time you approach the table, sing one at a time, and then the producer will ask you all to approach, and then give you their decision. At the start, they set up five tables of producers, leaving space for the camera and crew, auditioned the first few people who had won local competitions/contests, etc. and then started the herding of the masses from the bleachers to the floor.

In a few minutes, a crew member introduced a very special guest, which I presumed would be a reappearance of Justin Guarini, but who turned out to be none other than the host of American Idol, that's right, Mr. Ryan Seacrest himself. I was genuinely surprised, since I don't remember seeing hide nor hair of him in Vegas. But there he was, and we were shamelessly and unapologetically acting like total fans, or at least I was. He seemed like a very nice person and interacted very casually and comfortably with the fans. Either he's a genuinely nice person or a very good actor, or some combination of both, but we were sufficiently impressed. We shot a few more group shots of show intros, this time with host in place, and when we were finished, Ryan did a little more in-front-of-camera work and eventually peaced out, and they set up an additional six tables for auditions, which moved the process along considerably, although we still knew there was a long wait ahead of us...

OMG!!! It's Ryan Seacrest!!

SEVEN HOURS LATER (which actually means 11 hours from the time we first lined up)...

Three of us made our way to the floor, at least in the final queue to audition. The preceeding hours were largely uneventful: Watching each and every auditioner; taking note of the surprising lack of weirdos (although there were a couple--the girl with the large and hideous hand puppet, the guy making an obvious show of being a crappy singer, the sequin-clad Tina Turner-wannabe); trying to guess who was in and who was out, being amazed at the number of Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood songs chosen to audition; trying to figure out what they're "looking for" this year; playing Phase 10 in the hallway while listening to painful rehearsal and warmups; calling into work places saying we were unable to make it to work; saying goodbye to Jeff who had to go for a job interview, for which we thought we would surely be done in time; etc. Elise, Lacie and I made our way to table 1, along with Charlie who was assigned also to our row. We took our turns singing (Charlie--no idea, me--Open Arms by Journey, Elise--I Know the Truth by Elton John, Lacie--You Were Loved by Whitney Houston), and then received a seemingly canned response from the producer ("This is season 8, and you all saw the show last year, so you know the bar is set very high, we had the Davids, Carly, Michael Johns, Brooke and everyone, we're looking for someone very poppy, someone with stage presence, high energy, great vocals, etc., and none of you quite fit all of those things, but you're all talented, and all really cute, so I'm sorry, but thank you for coming, if you weren't here, we wouldn't be, so thanks, etc." She kind of lost some credibility with me when she mentioned Brooke though...). She was actually really nice, and said almost exactly what I expected, so no way any of us could be disappointed. By that time, we were all so exhausted anyway, we didn't really have it in us to be nervous, and we realized halfway through the day that it doesn't really matter if you mess up your audition, since crappy people are obviously let past the first round anyway, so no reason to be nervous.

We were just glad to be done by this point. It seems like I just wasn't that exhausted at the end of the day in Vegas, but I think there were considerably less people auditioning there. Twelve hours after lining up outside, we once again saw the sun after going through the "non-winners exit" and weaving through the labyrinthine underbelly of the arena, at least reaching the fresh air of the outside. We were amazed to find that our food was where we had left it in a tree planter outside where we entered, and after eating only a measly, though inordinately expensive hotdog, I was glad for the warm peanut butter and jelly sandwich and fritos we had left behind.

A long drive home, a nice dinner, and then we all absolutely crashed. We were thinking of auditioning for the Scera production of Seussical, but I don't think I could take two rejections in one day, though our chances at the Scera are admittedly much better, and the wait would be considerably shorter.

Random statistics:
  • Hours on Tuesday from start to finish: 15.
  • Seconds allowed to audition: 37.
  • Average number of takes for each shot: 3.
  • Number of people in the venue: 6,000.
  • Number of auditioners allowed to the next round: 150 (give or take, boy:girl ratio about half and half).
  • People recognized in the crowd: A LOT (including three from the local singles ward, two from the recent Scera Celebrity event, one mission friend, several high school and college acquaintances, of course celebrities, and others).
  • Number of hours slept straight to recoup: Approximately 14.
So there you go! More than you probably wanted to know, but if you read all the way through, you win a gummi coke bottle, payable when you come to visit.

We always felt like the system wasn't entirely honest, and after seeing many talented people denied, and many questionable people allowed, our doubts are slightly more validated. We're not bitter, we really went just for fun, but now, having at least seen almost every single person to audition, if when we watch the SLC auditions episode we see some insane amount of freakish people, we will know SOMETHING is up...


  1. Awesome! Thanks for going through it so you could tell us all about it. PLUS, you saw the SEACREST!! Wow. Good job.

  2. Thanks for the details, I was curious as to how the whole audition process goes down. It sounds like it was fun for you all, regardless of the outcome! Good work for auditioning. And yes, you are all really cute.

  3. they're totally gonna play up utah as this freak show of religious nuts. and if not... then surprise surprise they'll play us as the sweet, naive group of talented misfits. what a joke... i hate that.

  4. That sounds kinda awful....

    I don't think I ever would want to be on that show (even if I wanted to be a pop star), because the minute the season is over, you are a has-been, especially anyone NOT in the top three, but then again, most of the top-three's are has-beens...

    Also, American Idol works you TO DEATH and doesn't pay you very much. They 100% take advantage of you because they know how much America has an obsession with being on TV. They barely pay you for going on tour, give you 10 comp tickets for the ENTIRE RUN OF THE TOUR and then basically say, "Let's sabotage their career by making a REALLY AWFUL first that the person we REALLY pick to win will be successful."

    Then you are known as "Oh, yeah, I think I remember you on American Idol, Season ?"

    It's kind of a recipe for disaster. You just become a tabloid headline instead of a real musician.

    Just my (long-winded) 2 cents...

    P.S.: Suessical auditions would have definitely been MORE worth your time! ;)

    P.S.S.: I can't believe they are doing that show again...actually I can.

  5. 14 hours of sleep?? That blew my mind more than anything else. I will definitely have to watch the UT audition episode.

    And I look forward to my gummi coke bottle.

  6. Can I trade in for some other kind of gummi? ;)

  7. Wow, good for you! If I'd known about it (and didn't work), I may have gone, but oh well. Thanks for sharing what happened! It sounds like a blast!

  8. I'm so glad you gave a detailed account. The first thing I asked when I got back from camp was if you guys got in. Man, sounds like a big rig-a-ma-roll to me!

  9. Auditioning for American Idol is better than auditioning for other things!

  10. Gummi cokes will be delivered upon requester's visit to my place of residence. I will try to keep them on hand, as much as Drewly possible.