Hunter S. Thompson once said, "The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason. There is also a negative side."
OK, the good doctor didn't write that last line, but I'm sure he would have appreciated the joke. He may even have read it somewhere on the Internet before ending his life, and either praised or cursed the genius who tweaked his work into an even-more-memorable quote than he'd initially crafted. Like when Hendrix appropriated "All Along the Watchtower," the remake became more original than the original.
That is the aim of most artists in the end—to be remembered, if not entirely for their own artistry.
This is what drove me and a few hundred others to Casino del Sol's Amselmo Valencia Tori Amphitheater on a witheringly hot August day in hopes of winning a trip to Los Angeles for a VIP audition for The Voice, NBC's foray into the create-a-star format. I'd sat on the sidelines and rolled my eyes at the cavalcade of self-delusion and wretched spectacles on shows such as American Idol and America's Got Talent until this show came along. Instead of celebritards like Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell exuding high dudgeon and eye-rolls, you get actual, still-working musicians to hear you sing—or, in the local case, a couple of KVOA Channel 4 anchors and Casino del Sol execs.
Arriving at 6:05 a.m., I joined 30 or so diehards who'd made it there before sunrise. As the star vaulted ever-higher into a pitiless sky, neophytes lined up, umbrellas sprouting like psychedelic blisters on the parched concrete.
Inside, one old karaoke foe who'd been silently glaring daggers at me since I walked up that morning shot a festering "Watch this, asshole!" look my way, then proceeded to murder "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" over 60 seconds. Some poor fools vapor-locked and blew lyrics, while others tried reading them off printouts or hastily scrawled slips of paper. (Note to hopefuls: If you can't recall the words to "Ain't No Sunshine," it might be time to put down the pipe.) Such is the internal desire of the applause whore, to witness opponents imploding like rancid magnetars.
In the end, only four prostitutes survived the process:
• Danny Grijalva. A soul firecracker, he sang like a bird and owned the stage. He needs to be in a band if he's not already.
• Caledonia Blue: This girl's delivery was the equivalent of a summer's night spent in a lover's arms. She got my heart and my vote in one aching, velvety minute.
• Tyler Jarvis: The '90s called, and Urkel says he needs to grow a pair and stay on key.
• Brittany Mazur: This girl (who won the contest) was a decent singer, with just the right sassy attitude to offset the squeaks when she hit her high notes. Her hotness didn't hurt, either.
The one common denominator among the finalists was their youth and sex appeal ... which might lead one to suspect that these factors outweigh vocal ability. I can say with certainty that there were some older, far-less-pretty singers who wiped the floor with the finalists (author excluded). Witnessing this, I decided that I would not let my musical future be decided by the likes of a TV anchor who can't even pronounce the answer to a trivia question he asked.
In short, you won't be seeing me on The Voice this season. Like Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel's rejected boots on the telephone line, I await a producer of less-discerning tastes.
Does the cacophonic hoard which shambled into the shade of AVA truly represent Tucson's music scene? Yes, even without the presence of original artists from Tucson bands like Calexico or Ensphere; those guys know how good they are. I and the rest of my sun-seared brethren are the flip side of the coin—Tucson's dark musical id, seeking affirmation on whatever stages will have us, driven forever by the twin specters of infinite humiliation and infinitesimal fame.