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Curiocity: ‘American Idol’ Rejects To Perform In Minneapolis

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(credit: Caleb Hawley)

(credit: Caleb Hawley)

Sara Boyd Sara Pelissero
Sara Pelissero joined the WCCO web team in August of 2009. You can...
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By Sara Boyd, WCCO

All it takes is the approval of three celebrity judges and the power to win over the hearts of American voters. Your life suddenly goes from a “nobody” to a “somebody.” People know your name. Even the paparazzi are making up rumors about you. You are an “American Idol.” Life is sweet.

But then one cold, harsh night, Ryan Seacrest pulls you in close (close enough to be blinded by his over-whitened teeth and get a slight stinging in your eyes from his freshly bleached blond highlights). And with that, he tells you it’s all over. Pack your things, you are the weakest link, snuff out your torch, it’s back to the real world.

And really, then what? Besides making a cameo in a terrible pop flick or going down the “viral sex tape” route, when do we really get to hear from these “rejected” idols? Well, my “AI” fan friends, that time is 8 p.m. Thursday at Bunkers in Minneapolis.

For one night, a few of the “Idol Rejects” will perform — and not just for a celebrity panel but for the real fans that got a sneak peek and, albeit, brief look into their lives.

One of the performers is Hudson High School grad Caleb Hawley, whose audition really wowed the judges — especially one Steven Tyler. During Hawley’s performance of “Hallelujah, I Love Her So,” by Ray Charles, Mr. Aerosmith couldn’t help but join in on the rocking — and the knocking.

“That was the most confident moment,” he said. “I mean, you go in and you’re like, ‘I’ve never seen these people before, except for on TV.’ It was definitely awesome. At that moment I was just kind of like, ‘Well if he’s into it, at least I have one yes.'”

Hawley will be joined by Chris Lawrence, of St. Paul (who already has a track record of performing at Bunkers) and Mounds View High School grad Nels Leafblad (who didn’t get a ton of face time but definitely wowed the Hollywood crowd).

Leafblad said he had a 100 percent positive experience with “Idol,” and that even though he was cut in Hollywood, he’ll never forget his experience.

“I felt very affirmed by being able to join such a great group out in Hollywood,” he said. “As disappointing as it was to get rejected, I could still fall back on all the positives.”

Also joining the “rejects” is surfer Carson Higgins of Malibu and one of the most well known “AI” rejects, Chris Medina, whose audition immediately grabbed fans with his emotional back story as well as his vocals.

When judge Jennifer Lopez asked Medina about his fiancé, he told a tear-jerking story of how the love of his life suffered traumatic brain injury in an accident in 2009 — just two months before the couple was supposed to wed.

Hawley became good friends with Medina — and the other “rejects” — in Hollywood and Vegas and said that’s when the idea of a show came to fruition. They thought on one hand, it would be funny to coin themselves as the rejects and play for intimate crowds in bars and on the other hand, it could be a way to show their fans that though they didn’t make it big time, they’ve still got the goods.

“I expect an incredible show,” said Leafblad. “The other ‘rejects’ are very talented, great performers so, no doubt, it’s going to be a fun show.”

The group will open their first rejects show Wednesday in Chicago — Medina’s hometown, which means they’re expecting a big turnout. Hawley said fans have definitely embraced Medina and that response has been huge for him.

“For me, I had a big audition but the whole story on Chris, I think the amount of what I felt was probably multiplied by at least 10 for Chris. The whole story moved a lot of people. Whereas I’ll be recognized here and there, for him it was like he’d walk into bars and get applause,” Hawley said.

Hawley described the entire “American Idol” experience as a whirlwind — one he’d be glad to do all over again, adding that he’s already given thought to auditioning for another season.

“Absolutely, I mean to be honest, it takes up a lot of time and there’s months of waiting and you never know what is going to happen. You’re kind of planning your life in two ways … But I’d definitely do it. It’s been great, not even making the show has been great,” he said, “might as well give it a shot.”

Leafblad agrees, saying he’d definitely consider auditioning again. The first time, he admits, he auditioned on a whim, but the next time around, he’ll give it a tad more thought, he said.

Hawley said the reaction from fans about their rejects show has been great. They’ve even received requests to stop by more cities, which got Hawley thinking.

“Actually what I think would be kind of great is if we did a tour when ‘Idol’ is doing their Top 10 Tour. We would play the same town as them, just a generic version,” he said. “We’d be like, ‘Hey, you can get them at a stadium, where you’re far away from them for $50 bucks or you can get us at a bar for $10 bucks where you’re right up close.”

So far, the “tour” is only two cities but who knows what the future holds. For now, these rejects are having fun seeing the fans and doing what they love.

“American Idol Rejects In Concert” starts at 8 p.m. Thursday (April 14) at Bunker’s Music Bar & Grill, 761 N. Washington Ave. in Minneapolis. Tickets are $7. For more information, click here.

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