Karaoke nights on Tuesdays had been good to Sean Oates’ Dublin Steakhouse. Locals had shown up in droves to the Selbyville spot in the Mason Dixon Shopping Center to belt out throaty versions of 80’s hair-band songs and soulful country-western melodies.
Then, one night, the crowd didn’t show. Regulars had abandoned the Tuesday-night favorite just as the next season of “American Idol” had planted viewers, especially karaokiers, on their couches away from restaurant booths and lyrical screens.
“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” Oates said proudly this Tuesday.
And that’s how “Delmarva Idol” was born. Nearly 20 residents, from Seaford to Pittsville, Md., to Selbyville, who had qualified to pursue the title of “Delmarva Idol” entertained a healthy crowd at the steakhouse Tuesday night, in the first of several weeks counting down to the Sept. 4 finals.
The contestants, who belted out versions of songs from artists as disparate as Faith Hill and Otis Redding, will compete for the first prize, a seven-day Caribbean cruise with airfare, and the second prize, a 32-inch LCD flat screen television.
John Miller, a disc jockey from Shining Star Karaoke, and Karen, of the “Karen and Jeff Morning Show” on Bee 101.7, 95.3, served as the judges Tuesday.
Blake Haley kicked off the night with a version of Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be,” to a supportive crowd.
“I think it’s cool,” Haley, who has won karaoke competitions in Ocean City, said of the competition Tuesday night. “I think it’s real cool.”
Competitors ranged from a server at the restaurant to 57-year-old Georgetown resident Marshall Mitchell, who — despite nerve problems and a head tremor — entertained the crowd with a purely country-western version of Vern Gosdin’s “If You’re Going to Do Me Wrong (Do It Right).”
“I was nervous,” said Mitchell who, wearing a patriotic shirt and hat designed using the American flag, was received warmly by the crowd. “Last week, I couldn’t hold the mic.” Mitchell said, though, that his nerves don’t ruin the fun. “It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I like it. This is the first (singing competition) I’ve been in.”
After finishing Faith Hill’s “Go to Vegas,” Track Emerick, a Pittsville, Md. resident, said she was also not nervous about singing in front of the crowd that cramped Dublin’s dining room.
“I’ve been singing karaoke for a few years,” she said. “It’s no big deal. I like to sing.” As the contestants sang, friends and family members offered support and fans, drinking popular pints in the Irish-themed restaurant and pub, pumped fists in the air and cheered. By the end of the night, the Selbyville spot looked more like a southern honky-tonk than an Irish pub.
“It’s really nice seeing we have people coming together doing what we all like,” said Selbyville resident Tom Rogers, one of the most animated fans. His wife had sung “I Love Rock and Roll” earlier in the night. “There’s going to be a winner and a loser, but we’re all having a good time.”
In the weeks leading up to the Sept. 4 finals, the contestant pool will dwindle by two weekly until only the best are competing for the prizes on that first Tuesday in September. Karen, the radio personality who ran the show on Tuesday, said the judging process will be difficult.
“It’s turned out really well,” Karen said. “There are some people here that really should be on ‘American Idol.’”
Meghan Holland, a Seaford resident who visited Selbyville to watch a friend compete, agreed.
“There have been some good singers,” she said. “I’m definitely having a good time. It’s the World Series of Karaoke.”