Noticed in a nightclub

Prizes for singer and songwriter competition include cash and recording time.
Saturday, March 17, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:33 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Guitarist Alex Reumann, of the Makeshift Gentleman, casts a shadow on the wall as he warms up before the singer and songerwriter's competion at The Blue Fugue.

“Sweet Home Columbia” is one song title that could put $150 in your pocket.

The city’s name is the “byword” for the next singer/songwriter competition at The Blue Fugue, set for April 23. The competition is based around a word that must somehow be incorporated into a song or poem.


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About six years ago, Blue Fugue host Sam D’Agostino started an open mic night at the venue. For years this event has encouraged the city’s local talent. Last fall, though, D’Agostino decided to add a challenge and came up with an idea for a singer/songwriter competition.

“Young aspiring musicians need a place to try out their own music,” D’Agostino said.

Judging is based on six categories: content, poetic composition, performance, audience appreciation, marketability and coolness. The three judges for the first two competitions were D’Agostino, his brother, John D’Agostino, and Jeff Wheeler of KOPN/89.5 FM.

At the second competition, held Jan. 29, the judges positioned themselves in front of the stage at a few bar tables pushed together. Throughout the night, they remained attentive yet relaxed, often with a beer in hand.

The overall first prize is $150 cash; second prize is two hours of recording time at Pete Szkolka Music Productions Studio; and third prize is one hour of recording time in the studio.

The first contest featured 12 musicians and poets, and the second brought in 15 musicians.

“We want to bring in a wider participation” with the next competition, D’Agostino said. He welcomes poets, singers, instrumentalists, rappers, hip-hop artists and other musicians.

Lucas Klotzbach entered the contest to practice being on stage and to work out new songs. “I’m not going to put anyone down,” Klotzbach said of potential rivalry, “and I don’t think anyone else would who plays here.”

The atmosphere at the event was welcoming. Each participant received applause after their two-song set. “The crowd was great, and the crowd was listening,” D’Agostino said at the end of the night.

The byword that night was circus. Joey Harrison took home first prize with his song, “The Circus in My Head.” Harrison, whose day job is in the parks department of Sydenstricker Implement Co., is a regular at the Blue Fugue’s open mic nights.

“I was surprised I won — $150 I can do something with,” Harrison said.

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