Lucy DiBlasio Named LBIdol in Surf City Hotel Competition

By MONIQUE M. DEMOPOULOS | Aug 14, 2019
Photo by: Lexi Schnell Lucy DiBlasio Named LBIdol

Surf City — Music lovers and party people gathered at the Surf City Hotel Friday, Aug. 9, to enjoy a diverse array of talent, as six finalists competed in the final round of the sixth Long Beach Idol competition, hosted by local musical artist and emcee Jason Booth. For 16 years, Booth has tended bar at the Surf City Hotel, in addition to performing as a full-time solo artist who can be heard all over LBI. He has hosted LBIdol for six years.

Booth explained the LBIdol competition provides an outlet and an opportunity for passionate vocalists to perform before an audience, many of them for the first time. It is a way for people to discover and celebrate local talent. Nevertheless, LBIdol is a competition, seeking to narrow down to the best of the best performers.

To help with the careful paring there was a panel of three qualified judges. Among them was chart-topping recording artist Robin Tricker of the popular duo Gypsy Moon. Tricker’s recently released debut album, Salt Water Happy, has been very well received on the Tropical Rock Charts. Another judge was DJ Dan Turi, who can be heard on the air nights and weekends at 100.1 WJRZ. He has over 25 years of on-air experience and formerly aired live on WOBM-FM. Completing the panel was Al Geary, CEO of Shore Bets, a music agency booking all over the region. He has managed such influential acts as Shorty Long and the Jersey Horns, The Nerds and the Amish Outlaws. Additionally, Geary is credited with bringing 15 rock and blues hall of famers to perform on LBI.

Booth explained the competition began July 11 with three weeks of preliminary rounds, whereby anyone could sign up and perform, either to a backing track or with a live instrument. An impressed Booth reported this year nearly half the contestants performed with a guitar rather than a karaoke track. He added several contestants even performed their own original music.

The semifinals took place Aug. 1 with nine contestants competing to secure one of the six final spots. On Aug. 9, those six finalists were met with the ultimate challenge: performing two songs live with a full band. “Tonight, we’re throwing them to the wolves,” said Booth. “Now they have to front a six-piece band and pull it off!”

Nicole Curtis, 2018 LBIdol winner, showed this year’s competitors how it’s done, opening the event with a performance of KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.”

The band to do the honors was Shore Bets’ own Element K, an upscale party band that plays events all along the East Coast and as far as such exotic destinations as Jamaica. Element K has an extensive repertoire of party hits for its own performances, as well as for the purpose of live band karaoke, the latest bar trend. The multifaceted band kept the audience engaged and dancing during the break and while the judges deliberated, performing punchy numbers such as Justin Timberlake’s “I Got This Feeling” and “Get Up” by Bruno Mars. Without skipping a beat, they elevated their dynamic through monumental tributes to iconic smash hits like Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and Tina Turner’s “Rollin’ On the River.”

Each of the six finalists brought their own style. Xander Marx kicked off the competition with “Treasure” by Bruno Mars. Tearing off his black, nondescript jacket to reveal a flashy orange vest, he poured charisma into the room. He followed up the saucy performance with a gentle rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.”

In a demeanor most casual and jocund, Paul McCavitt offered up a down-to-earth refresher, beginning with a nostalgic “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something, and finishing with Zac Brown Band’s down-home “Chicken Fried.”

Rich Cassenti brought back some ’80s crowd pleasers, performing The Police’s “Message in a Bottle” and “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. His interactive sense of humor kept all engaged with his impressive high-hitting notes.

A modest Zack Denike confessed to the audience, “I’m not much of a country singer, but I’ll give it a whirl,” before performing a poppy twist on the Old Crow Medicine Show bluegrass classic “Wagon Wheel.” He beguiled listeners with compassionate sensitivity, even calling out, “What’s up, Mama?” to his mother in the audience. During the Element K performance, he danced unabashedly with his mother. As if he hadn’t already earned his title as heartthrob of the evening, he returned to the stage with a guitar and serenaded the audience with his final performance of his own original love song “Beautiful Eyes.”

Booth reported, “This is the closest competition we’ve ever had.” An impressed Tricker praised contestants, saying, “Everybody really brought it,” to which Turi responded, “I was hoping they’d make it easy for us, but they didn’t.” However, Geary clued the audience in with a prophesy: “I think it’s a ladies night tonight.”

The LBIdol runner up was awarded to the captivating Debbie Carrol, who received a $500 prize voucher to the Surf City Hotel. The five-piece band became a mere accessory to her bellowing voice, which, reminiscent of the great blues vocalists of the 1950s, is in a class of its own. She debuted with a sassy take on Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away,” sending electricity into the audience. Carrol finished with a plangent “Some Kinda Wonderful,” by Grand Funk Railroad, and listeners were happy to give a witness to her “clean outta sight” performance.

Lucy DiBlasio took the title of LBIdol, winning a $1,000 voucher to Surf City Hotel. Moving the lyrics podium aside to be closer to the audience, she owned the stage as if she had been front woman of Element K for years. She gave a thundering performance of Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive,” and later sealed the deal with a head banging, in-your-face “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette. With the audience chanting her name, it came as no surprise when the judges announced the winner.

DiBlasio grew up just outside of Philadelphia, where she began her musical journey with her husband, Nick. Today, they are part-time residents of Manahawkin, part-time residents of Copper Mountain, Colo., but spend a lot of their year traveling with their band, Lefty Lucy. The duo have been traveling performers for over 20 years.

“We started as an original band, and switched over to cover music, because that’s how we were able to travel and play professionally,” she explained. “I love playing anything that gets the crowd going; that’s what makes me happy. The more fun everybody else has, the more fun it is for us.”

Lefty Lucy is a destination band, catering a vibe to resorts all over the world. “We get people up dancing and having a great time.” In addition to performing for the beachgoers of LBI and skiers in Colorado, Lefty Lucy also plays regularly in Bermuda, Key West and Las Vegas. As a matter of fact, it was the house band for Toby Keith’s bar, I Love This Bar and Grill, and has even performed with Keith himself. This fall they will head out to perform on a Carnival Cruise ship for eight weeks.

LBIdol was certainly not DiBlasio’s first rodeo. When asked how she handles performing for large audiences, she responded, “I never get nervous, just amped and excited.” She has performed with Lefty Lucy in numerous competitions nationwide. In 2008, Lefty Lucy was chosen as “next big star,” landing the group the opportunity to perform for 18,000 people as the opening act for Kenny Chesney at the MGM Grand, in Las Vegas. “Being in front of that many people was so exhilarating. It was a huge honor to be able to do that,” DiBlasio said.

While in Vegas, Lefty Lucy also performed for private events to raise money for the Keep Memory Alive Alzheimer’s Foundation. During that time, they wrote an original song called “Even When You Forget,” which, to their surprise, was picked up by award-winning artist Quincy Jones. He flew Nick and Lucy out to Capitol Records in Los Angeles, where they spent an interesting 12 hours talking and collaborating with Jones, who produced their song for the foundation. “It was really exciting to be walking down the hallways adorned with photos of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Dean Martin. Walking through all that history and into the control room with all these musicians playing our song … that was really a highlight.”

After receiving her title of LBIdol, DiBlasio was summoned back to the stage by the audience for an encore performance. She made a point to give thanks, but to also express kudos and congratulations to her fellow contestants. “It’s not easy getting up here, and everyone did an awesome job,” she praised. She finished out the night with Janis Joplin favorite “Me and Bobby McGee.”

“This is absolutely my lifelong passion,” said DiBlasio, “and nobody ever tells you that you can do something like this.” She hopes to inspire other artists to share their passion with the world, and was glad to give a tip or two. “It’s all about saying yes to opportunities, rather than making up excuses based in fear. Every opportunity we took led to a new one.”

In DiBlasio’s many years on stage, she has seen how incredible talent can be stifled by limiting thoughts and external pressures. “When I talk to kids just getting into music, I always tell them to trust in their talent and the love for what they do, and let that guide them. I see so many people lose out on so many opportunities for fear. There is so much amazing talent out there, and the world deserves to see it!”

If a reader might take any single piece of advice from DiBlasio’s experience, let it be this: “Allow yourself the freedom to say yes and the opportunities will unfold.”

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