Voice of Pride: Lots of Singing and Lots of Skivvies

When Jonathan Palant asked me to be a judge in the final round of the Voice of Pride competition, I said yes without giving it a second thought. But the second after I hit send, I was a little concerned about what I had just gotten myself into. To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure if I knew what Voice of Pride was. And in case you're not entirely sure either, here's the lowdown.

Voice of Pride is an annual singing competition. Call it Dallas' LGBT answer to American Idol. Any member of LGBT community who is over 21 can enter. Qualifying rounds were held all spring long at a variety of area gay bars and clubs, leading up to the final, where 10 soloists and three duos battled it out.

This year's finals took place Sunday, August 14, 2011 at the Rose Room. Each contestant performed twice for the eight judges who scored each performance individually. Scores from both rounds were added together to provide the final scores used to establish the winners.

It was a very long night. But it was also a lot of fun. Things got underway just after 8 p.m. and wrapped up around midnight. In between it was a stream of pretty impressive performers, singing everything from Broadway to classic rock. Some were markedly better then others, but all were quite good. They were finalists after all.

My only complaint really was the wardrobe choices. I know. I know. It's a singing competition. But the scoring categories are voice (carrying the most weight, naturally), appearance and performance (stage presence, audience reaction, etc.). So wardrobe was not to be ignored.

The women were the primary offenders, I'm afraid. There were simply too many ill-fitting gowns, gold lame and sparkles. It was a shame. You don't realize how important the whole package is until you're asked to really examine the whole package piece by piece.

Judging is a harrowing experience. You know that the fate of the contestants lies in your hands. I took that very seriously, just as I would want them to do if the tables were turned. I'm guessing my scoring skewed a little on the high side because of that, though I never saw the other judges' score sheets.

Still, scoring them too high seemed better than scoring too low. I followed the rules I learned at BBQ School when I was trained to be a judge in the Jack Daniels International BBQ Competition: If you score 'em low, be ready to explain yourself. Otherwise, hit 'em high.

The solo winner was Dru Rivera, who sang Roy Orbison's "Crying" in the first round and Aerosmith's "Dream On" in the second round. Spare Parts (Angie Lander and Robert Olivas) were named group winner after performances of Jason Aldean and Kelli Clarkson's "Don't You Want to Stay" and Sugarland's "Stuck Like Glue" in first and second rounds, respectively.

Spare Parts took home $2,500 and Rivera took home $3,000. Not too shabby. Plus the solo winner also won airfare and accommodations at a Hilton luxury resort. He'll get two or three to choose from (those options have yet to be named).

Hilton Hotels was one of event's main sponsors, as were a number of liquor companies, including Coors Light, Pinnacle Vodka, and Jägermeister. The Coors Light boys were in their undies. Didn't ever get a look at the Pinnacle Vodka gang. And the folks from Jäger sent a near naked crew with fluffy boots and skis equipped to hold four shot glasses for group Jäger shots. Nothing wrong with a little scenery. That's what I always say...

Cautionary Tale of the Evening: I drank 5-hour Energy for the first time the night of the competition at 7 p.m., thinking I might need the pick me up before the event. Unfortunately, it kept me awake until 8:30 a.m. the next morning. More like 13-hour Energy -- and some of the aforementioned songs may or may not have stayed up with me, playing on repeat.

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