By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
It’s probably safe to say there’ll be no shortage of guitar players on Saturday nights in Red Bank this summer.
Crowding the narrow hallway of the Count Basie Theatre‘s rehearsal space last Wednesday night was a long line of axe-strapped singers and songwriters, all vying for a summer-long gig entertaining the public as part of the borough’s StreetLife series.
It was an eclectic group of strummers, ranging from older, experienced folks down to high school kids with high aspirations. A couple guitar-less people showed up, too, to break up the monotony for the judges.
But since the auditions were closed to media, redbankgreen had to slip into Ryan Seacrest mode and hang out in the hallway to get the dish on what was happening behind closed doors. No crying or temper were tantrums involved.
It wasn’t hard getting an idea of what the Rusty Chain sounded like. The vocal trio, with the help of pre-recorded background music, turned up the volume so the entire hallway full of hopefuls could hear them sing “Lonely Days,” by the Bee Gees. One of the singers, Doug Alt, said the group came to the audition after seeing the StreetLife performers in town last year.
“I said, ‘Oh, this is a cool thing,'” he said. “It’s a lot of fun being out there. It’s a nice thing being out there in Red Bank.”
Andy Toomey, though had another objective in mind.
“Money,” he said.
A jack-of-all trades by day, Toomey, of Brick, knows he won’t make a killing if selected, but it would help him further his music career, which he’s been honing for 20 years, he said.
“This would be a great gig. Red Bank is a cool town and a cool place to play,” he said.
On the other end of the spectrum were budding performers like Jordan Boothe, 16, who recently returned from singing at some clubs in Hollywood. He’s traveled the country and beyond as part of a talent program run by Jane Harley, a talent scout for the Apollo Theater. He said he hopes to make a career as an R&B singer, and sees StreetLife as a springboard to accomplishing that.
Same goes for singer and guitarist Whitney Kelly, a Tinton Falls high school student, who, with a website full of music and information and more than 20,000 YouTube hits for a video she’s featured in, has more than just a summer job in mind when it comes to StreetLife.
“It started out as a big hobby. Now I hope to make something big out of it,” she said. “That’s the plan.”
And then there was The Dork of Deception.
His birth name is Robert Francis. And when he was a StreetLife performer about seven years ago, he went by Robert Francis.
But the Toms River-based magician returned with a deck of cards and a nom de guerre, which he proudly couples with another moniker, “The Master of Illusion and Confusion.”
Francis, you see, is what many refer to as your classic street performer.
“Street performing is not like what you see David Blaine do. That’s a magician in the street,” he said. “Street performing is you put on a show and you stick out your hat and try to get some money. It’s busking, pretty much.”
For the record, StreetLife performers are paid, so they’re not allowed to take money from their audience, said Nancy Adams, executive director of RiverCenter, the entity that facilitates the series.
RiverCenter’s director of operations Harriet Cook said the judges will convene and choose who earned spots on the roster, and those people can expect a call in about three weeks.