LOCK HAVEN - Avenue 209 Coffee House in Lock Haven will host its fourth annual musical talent show, Rock the Haven, starting Oct. 10, to continue each subsequent Thursday until the final round on Oct. 31.
The first three nights serve as preliminary rounds during which one or two winners are chosen each night to compete in the fourth and final round.
Avenue 209 owner Josh Grimes compared the event to "American Idol" - sans any career-ending, Simon Cowell-like criticisms from the judges, Grimes' wife, Sarah, was quick to add. Instead, the judges here are much more tactful, always offering positive suggestions for the contestants after a performance.
JOSHUA GARNER and LENA YEAGLE
"You can't get buzzed off the stage," Grimes assured me in an interview at the coffee house, whose charm stems from its do-it-yourself vibe of spool tables and exposed ventilation, a style that now seems to be ubiquitous among local coffee shops.
But what makes Avenue 209 unique is that it allows the local talents to compete against each other in a manner that promotes each contestant regardless of who takes home first prize, which will most likely consist of gift cards from Avenue and nearby businesses-not to mention the "record deal" and "signing bonus" that Grimes jokingly promised before going on to emphasize that the grand prize is normally not the main reason to compete, citing exposure as a much stronger motivator.
Any contestant - however well they fare during the talent show itself - who manages to impress Grimes and his wife, is liable to be asked back to perform sometime, considering that Avenue frequently features live music apart from the contest.
"And anyone who doesn't win this time around is always welcome to try again next year," said Grimes.
The winners, on the other hand, can't come back to compete, but some years have seen them return as guest judges or performers.
Anyone can apply as long as their music is family friendly, though Grimes expressed reluctance to allow full bands.
"You have to understand the limitations of a coffee shop," he said before referencing the 15-minute time slot each contestant is allotted to set up and perform. "When you've got a whole band, it's hard to pull that off."
In past years, the show has featured a wide variety of acts, including a cappela groups, a cello player and even a performer who covered the songs of Patsy Cline, though the majority of contestants either sing along to a soundtrack or play an acoustic guitar.
"The best ones really engage the crowd," said Grimes. "People who get them singing along - they always do well."
This year's show will maintain the spirit of diversity as is evidenced by the contestants who've already signed up. The first night will feature alternative rock as well one performer whose application speaks of an "electronic synthesizer with drums and vocals, like the Beach Boys, but psychedelic," Grimes added.
Applications can be picked up at Avenue 209 or contestants can apply via email by contacting Grimes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for applications is Sunday.