May 23, 2012

American Idol Season 11 Finale

Yesterday, I was able to attend the American Idol performance night of the finale in LA. The entire day was beyond incredible, that I'm not exactly sure how to put everything into words. It's such a surreal event. For as long as I can remember, Idol has been one of my favorite shows. It pushed me even more towards going for that dream of being a singer. So many of my favorite artists and inspirations have come from this show: Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Danny Gokey, Brooke White, David Cook, Lee Dewyze, Kris Allen, Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery, and more recently, Colton Dixon and Hollie Cavanagh, etc. It really has brought so much joy and pleasure to my life. It has brought so many people closer together and as shallow as it may sound, it has really changed a lot of lives. 

My alarm went off at 5:45, playing "The Last Goodbye" by David Cook and that's probably the quickest I've ever gotten up. I was so excited to get a move on with the days festivities taking place. My mom and I got ready and waited for my aunt and cousin to get to our house. When they arrived, we were all set to go! We stopped at Jack in the Box to get breakfast when Carissa realized she forgot her wallet in her car. She said her car was unlocked and my dad hadn't left our house for work yet, so we thought maybe he could meet up with us, because it's on his way. Well, we called him and he checked-only to find that the door was locked. So, we had wasted a few miniutes at Jack in the Box waiting, only to have to go back to our house anyway. I was really nervous that this was the way the trip was starting, just because last year was such a close call with tickets, we didn't want to end up missing them this time (which is why we had planned on leaving an hour early). But, my aunt reminded me of the fact that if we're meant to get in we will, no need to worry about it now. She was right! So, I tried not to freak out too much. We got Carissa's wallet and off we went. I was the DJ, as always for the trip, playing my favorite Idol contestant's music. There were some minor setbacks with traffic and detours, but eventually we made it down there about ten o'clock.

We parked and walked over to L.A Live, where the Nokia Theater is and took a look around at all the hubbub that was going on. I believe they were interviewing Haley Reinhart when we got there, but if it wasn't her, it definitely could've been her twin! My friend, Yolanda sent me a tweet saying the line had already wrapped around the building, so we knew we had to hurry. We got in line and it was nowhere near what it was last year. Although, that was Wednesday, we didn't want to take any chances this time around. They were already checking people in when we found our place in line and the line started moving to give people tickets just minutes after. The process went so quick and before we knew it, we had our tickets in hand...We were OFFICIALLY going to the finale. So, even after all that we still got in with no problem. After that, we had plenty of time to kill before they opened the doors, so we decided to check out LA Live a little more. Off and on all day, Idol contestants would be doing interviews in front, so we thought we'd check that out. We were waiting a few minutes for ESPN Zone to open their patio area so we could have lunch, when I decided to check Twitter to see if any of the Idols were out and about. I had seen a tweet that Lauren Alaina's mom said she couldn't wait to see Scotty and his mom at the finale. A few minutes later, I see this guy in a baseball cap walking with a group. It's Scotty McCreery! I tried to wait a few seconds, then excitedly told my mom, "That's Scotty!" She looked up and we sort of waved to his dad, who was probably thinking crap...we got noticed. I wasn't sure if I should ask for a picture or not, but we decided to walk inside the restaurant, because they were just waiting in the lobby area. I quietly asked for a picture and he said sure, but I'm sure he wasn't too thrilled about being noticed. I don't blame him, but he's in the middle of Idol town where everyone is going to know who he is. That's what he's there for. I told him I loved his CD, and then we headed out. His family followed. Apparently we drove them out, because others ended up asking for a picture with him and he turned them down. I'm glad I asked when I did!
We ended up eating outside a few minutes later and I couldn't believe how good the day had started off already. The service took forever at ESPN Zone, but it gave us more time to talk about the Idols and everything going on. Our friend, "Yoyo" met up with us and we dished about the finale. When she left, we stayed for a few more minutes and Elise Testone walked by! Our little section outside cheered for her and she waved. I also saw Tim Urban from season 9 walk by; his hair is longer, so I didn't recognize him. My cousin and I tried to catch up to her, but by the time I saw her she was too far ahead. We walked over to the interview area where Big Mike and Casey Abrams were talking and messing around. We met Casey, who basically signed for everyone and stuck around for quite awhile to see who else showed up throughout the afternoon. We saw/met Ace Young, Diana Degarmo, and Didi Benami. They were all super nice! It really does turn into this huge festival down there and it's so much fun. You get to meet contestants from all different seasons and hardcore fans that are just as into it as you are, which is the best.
After awhile, it was getting so HOT outside, so we decided to take a break and get some gelato. I tried the green tea; it was interesting, but I'm glad I had it. A little later, we got something to drink and sat outside for a few minutes, then Carissa and I ran the phones and cameras to the car, since we weren't supposed to have them. By that time, it was getting closer to show time, so we headed over to the theater, where people were crowded around the doors waiting to go inside. We even ran into Noah Munck and Schyler Dixon who were standing outside greeting with fans and taking pictures. They were really nice! We got in line, where there was a family dressed really nice and sharp all in black. My cousin kept glancing over at them and mentioning that she thought it was Joshua's family. I thought the guy looked like it could be his dad, but I wasn't really sure. We made our way inside not too long after; Carissa and I stopped at the merch booth and my aunt and mom kept walking inside when they moved them closer to the doors. We met up with them a little later and it turns out they were talking to Joshua's family. We talked to them for a little bit while we waited. They couldn't have been any sweeter! They were so down to earth and humble, willing to talk to us and share with us what this experience has been like for them. They said Joshua was so excited that he got his hometown parade, that that had been his goal. They were so touched by all the people that made it out and how you couldn't really tell just how many people were at the hometown visit, but it was PACKED, especially for living in the small town that they do. I asked his mom if he had plans to move out to LA, and she said "Ya know, he's talked about it now that he's got some projects going on and things that are keeping him busy." We're thinking maybe he already has a record deal, but she couldn't say anything just yet, of course. We couldn't believe that they were waiting in line with the rest of us...I mean, their son was TOP 3 out of thousands of people across the country; that deserves some recognition. They had gone to pick up their tickets at will call and I guess they weren't on the list, so they just gave them tickets like everyone else. Skylar Laine's family had apparently had the same problem. Someone at Idol had to have messed up somewhere. When the theater doors opened, we ended up separating to find our seats.

The stage was brightly lit with blue, music was playing and people were entering from several different doors. I teared up and felt like screaming at the top of my lungs, but didn't think that would be appropriate, so I refrained. HAHA. We weren't extremely close to the stage, but it didn't matter. They're all really good seats for the most part. Carissa and I tried to walk to the front, but they wouldn't let us. Last year, I wandered all over the theater, trying to meet past contestants and other celebrities I spotted. But, that might be because I maneuvered through the audience like a ninja...Hmm. We went back to our seats and watched the video clips of Las Vegas and Hollywood week that they were playing on the big screens. It was crazy to see how the season started and where everyone ended up! It was fun critiquing the performances all over again. I was scanning the crowd, looking for celebrities and other contestants in the audience but didn't see too many before the show. Baylie Brown sat a few rows in front of us and Colton's family sat not too far away either. Scott Macintyre also sat behind us...Ya never know what's going to happen at an Idol taping.  Right before the show started, the top 12 walked in and sat in the first few rows, a couple sections over. I spotted Colton's hair from quite a distance ;) LOL. That's when it really sank in that we were there.
Finally, the moment we'd all been waiting for...the sing-off between Jessica and Phillip. This was really the most crucial performance of the season, so it was exciting to see what that's like. Nerves are definitely a lot higher and it's more intense. Wednesday night is the kickback time because everything is done. It was great getting to hear them sing live and it's amazing how different it really does sound. Jessica NAILED the first song. I actually found myself having "goosies" as she sang and I never thought I'd say that. Her voice was so crisp and clear. Even her second was good, but the last one (as we all saw) was not so good. The song choice was way too old for her and to me, and it was pitchy in a lot of places. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't her best. Phillip's first song was really good and he got better as he went along. The last song was definitely the best performance of the night! I couldn't believe I found myself agreeing with the judges for the most part. Usually I'm shaking my head and arguing with the TV at everything they say, but I found that they were really on the dot with it last night. Obviously, everyone saw the show and it was great! The part that always gets me really excited is everything that goes on behind the scenes. You know it's a TV show, but you forget about that until you're in the audience; people are running around trying to meet their marks, messing around with lighting, setting up the stage and cameras are rolling across the stage. They have it all down to a science now. I wonder how much it differs to have seen the first season live to now, because the production has come a long way, that's for sure. When Ryan started announcing the numbers to call again, we headed out to get a good spot to see all the idols get interviewed. We ended up running into the Ledet family again! We talked a few more minutes about the show and said we hoped to meet Joshua outside. I told his mom it was really nice meeting her and she said the same! Such sweet people. :)
Carissa and I got a spot in front by the barricade, while my mom and aunt ran to the car to get the cameras. Apparently, they had told everyone to stick around a few more minutes because Scotty came out to perform, but we didn't hear any of that and missed it. It was totally worth it, though. It all worked out perfectly, and I ended up running into my friend, Meagan. We waited about 20-30 minutes and then the idols came out. First it was Jeremy and DeAndre...When I saw Colton, my heart skipped a few beats, though, not gonna lie. Watching the interviews take place reminded me of why I got into Journalism and why I love that whole field in general. I love finding out more about people and why they are the way they are or what made them the way they are. I love hearing stories and I love telling them. I can't wait to someday interview some of the greatest musicians and actors. It's such an exciting feeling! Watching the Idol contestants handle being bombarded by the fans and just thinking about the pressure they must feel under right about now was a little overwhelming. They handled it like such pro's, especially Colton. You would've thought he was used to the press and greeting fans. He did his best to make it to everyone and really made eye contact with each person to let him know he acknowledged them and that he would be back if they whisked him away to another interview. I was able to catch him! My friend had given him a letter and he thanked her; he looked like he was about to head in the other direction when I asked if I could get a picture. He looked right at me and sweetly said, "of course!" He put his arm around me and got super close to take the picture. I told him what an inspiration he had been to me and he said, "Aw, thank you so much!" He was so gracious and sweet. I couldn't have imagined it going any better. We also got to meet Jeremy, DeAndre and Baylie. Baylie was super sweet! She knew me from Twitter, because we had talked a few times and we talked about CMA Fest. She has friends that play back there, so she said she'll be wandering around, checking things out. I told her I was planning on going to Carrie Underwood's party and the nightly concerts, and maybe we'd run into each other. Heejun was about to come over after I asked for a picture, when they started wanting feedback from our section about the finale, so he ducked out of the shot and didn't come back after. About an hour or so later, the idols got called to last minute rehearsals! We watched them leave and that was it. Hollie, Elise, Skylar and Erika never came out, so I think they must have had to practice a group number or run through something right after the show. Luckily, there's always the tour!! After last night, I seriously can't wait to see all of them perform live.

After the show, we headed home! I filled my dad in on everything that happened and continued voting for Phillip for awhile as well. Finally, I started crashing and it was time to sleep. It was one of the best days of my life and I will never forget it. I also really enjoyed spending time with friends and family, and being able to meet a few new people. Now, we wait to see how it all plays out tonight! AHHHHH...the anticipation kills me every time. Seeing all the tweets and pictures about everything tonight really makes me wish I could've been there again. One of these years, I'd like to stay at LA Live for the two days and go to both days, if possible. It turns into a big festival event now and would definitely be a blast, that's for sure.
Stay tuned for the finale tonight!

That's all for now,
Shelby :)

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