"The talent here was so strong, I couldn't decide on one (contestant) to pick," Andre Harrell said. "So I decided with the other judges to pick three."
According to the press release Rocks Off received concerning the "Superstar Soul Search" for the next great R&B singer, only one semifinalist was to be selected from Houston to move on to compete for a recording contract and $10,000. But after an excruciating minute and a half of silence onstage, Harrell chose three Houstonians: Alicia Miles, Nicola Polar and David Azzeo.
"Houston is killing it," tweeted Harrell, who founded New Jack Swing label Uptown (Guy, Mary J. Blige) in the mid-'80s, about an hour into the show, followed a few hours later by, "The Bible Belt is n (sic) the lead for most talented artist."
The Bayou City's R&B scene is a close second to Charlotte, N.C., Harrell said.
The weather wasn't great, and the parking at recently opened venue the Horn was inconvenient, but as a whole, both the talent and the feedback from the fans made the endeavor more than worthwhile. By far, Rocks Off's favorite part of the four-hour event was the energy of the crowd, which cheered performers when their voices soared, lauded and jeered song choices and "ooh-ed" and "ahh-ed" when the contestants were cut short by the panel of judges.
Located off Fountain View and Richmond, the Horn has been in business since October. According to the staff, this kind of event is a new and exciting direction for the venue.
"This is the first time we've ever done anything like this," one bartender said. "It's a lot of fun, and it's got to be good for business, too."
One of the winners, Nicola Polar, didn't even know she was signed up to perform until the day of the event.
"A friend of mine, she entered me, and I didn't even know about it until the last minute," Polar said. Before the show, she was hoping the contest would be done by 8 p.m. - which it was, but barely - because she had a gig at Hotel ZaZa. Rocks Off assumes she put on a hell of a show.
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More than 50 singers from all over Texas competed for a chance to win that recording contract and $10,000 and although there were a few duds, at least half of those who took the stage really shone. Harrell picked three winners for a reason, after all.
Rocks Off has never before been to an open-mike quite like this - we usually cover rock music - but we were pleasantly surprised at this R&B-specific version of American Idol... of sorts. At slightly more than four hours, it ran a little long for our taste, but otherwise it was a great show.
And Harrell seemed to be having a great time, too. We checked in him via Twitter a bit later to see what he was up to.
"Work's done," Harrell tweeted at 9 p.m. "I might have see how Houston puts it down on a Saturday nite (sic)."