Round 2 of OBX Got Talent narrows contestants to three

Published 3:07 pm Monday, March 11, 2024

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Talent exploded on the stage of The Pioneer Theater for round two of Outer Banks Got Talent, showcasing the top five finalists in the local spinoff of America’s Got Talent.

At the end of the evening, the top three acts advancing to the final stage of the competition were announced.

Radio host Ray Turner from Dixie 105.7 emceed the event, keeping the evening moving and interviewing contestants and between acts.

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Up first was brother-sister duo Josh and Molly Simpson, singing “All My Love” by Noah Kahan. The high schoolers were confident and energetic, with Molly, 17, on guitar and Josh, 16, on the mandolin. The judges noticed a difference from round one in January, with Bluegrass Island Music Festival founder Cory Hemilright saying “this was definitely my favorite performance so far that you’ve done.”

Country music singer and nominee for the SPGMA 2024 Female Vocalist of the Year Caroline Owens offered the most technical comments as a judge, noting the perfect pitch and harmony of Josh and Molly’s indie folk/pop song choice, yet commenting on the need to carefully tune the mandolin.

Josh is self-taught on the strings, saying he had nothing better to do during the pandemic (“It’s not like I was going to do schoolwork or anything”) so he watched YouTube guitar tutorials.

He admitted it took him a while to catch on, saying “It’s not like anyone [in a tutorial] is going to tell me I’m butchering a chord” but he eventually got the hang of it. He spontaneously demoed “Blackbird,” the first song he ever learned, garnering cheers from the crowd.

For their second performance, the siblings chose a unique rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” with Molly only on vocals and Josh on guitar. Applause poured in from the audience when they concluded, and judges concurred, with VUSIC (“Music with a View”) co-founder Rebecca Meyers saying it gave her chills. Her husband and VUSIC co-founder Brad Meyers said he wasn’t sure about the song at first: “I really liked it when you guys were rocking it out, but that was worth it.”

Caroline Owens called it a gutsy song but applauded Molly’s vocal performance.

Grace Waters, 23, from Currituck was next in the lineup in an outfit as full of personality as her original songs. She wore a blazer over a midriff tank top with ripped jeans and black combat boots and performed a song she’d written called “Storm of the Kin.” The song was slow and moody, fitting Grace’s smooth, smoky voice.

“I loved it,” said judge Rebecca Meyers. “I love your emotion and grit when you really get into it,” agreed Brad.

Grace said she wrote the song in 45 minutes. “I like to journal, and sometimes I like my journal entries to rhyme … Sometimes those journal entries turn into songs,” she explained.

She played the guitar, though Caroline Owens cautioned her not to let the vocals get away from the music.

She performed Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” for her second song, struggling a bit with timing, but nonetheless showcasing her impressive vocals and stage presence.

“I loved that performance,” said Brad Meyers simply. He added that he could see Grace singing lead vocals for a band.

Up next was Hope Dehart, 18, of Manteo, singing “Prodigal” by Josiah Queen and killing it on the guitar. The song is high energy Christian worship song, highlighting Hope’s pretty voice and on-point sense of timing.

Rebecca described the song selection as “super fun” and said that Hope’s style has a classic feel beyond her years. The other three judges were similarly impressed with Hope’s performance, noting her guitar skill and energy.

“Try to stay in the higher range,” commented Caroline Owens. “That’s your sweet spot.”

Hope said she learned guitar a few years ago when she helped her local pastor lead worship, but it’s only been in the last few months that she’s really fallen in love with music.

Her second selection was “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks. She received positive remarks from the judges, but didn’t have the same energy and grit that was almost tangible in her other selections.

“It was a good song choice, but it’s not your song,” Caroline Owens said. After deliberating at the end of the evening, the judges called Hope to the stage for a third performance. She performed “He’s Already There” by Darren & Brooke Aldridge.

Heidi Velazquez from Kill Devil Hills was the fourth performer of the evening, playing guitar and singing “Meet Your Maker” by John Mark Pantana. Her casual, unassuming attitude changed the moment she started to sing, with fierce emotion emanating from her vocal chords.

“I definitely felt that,” said Rebecca Meyers.

Judges remarked on a slightly nervous sway and breathy falsetto, but commented positively on her powerful performance.

Heidi comes from a musical family, learning the guitar from her brother when she was growing up. She said she plays the piano, tried the violin, and tinkers on a few other instruments. She performed “House” from her favorite artist, Trevor Hall, for her second song.

“Very, very unique voice,” said Brad Meyers. “Great performance.”

At the end of Heidi’s second song Cory Hemilright stated, “I just want to hear more.”

The last performer of the evening was Kathy Postlewait, originally from Black Hills, North Carolina, performing a song she wrote entitled “Let’s Clear the Air.” The oldest of the performers on stage, she sparkled with both wisdom and energy.

She was dressed to entertain with black pants with side buttons and enviable glittery boots adorned with pink roses. Without her guitar for her first song, Kathy interacted with the audience and danced as she sang.

Her second number was an original song she wrote about her mother. It was a sweet song with a sentimental feel that draped over the room like well-loved quilt. Her songs have a story and come from real life experiences.

Caroline Owens said Kathy has “the whole package” and Brad Meyers said, “I can see myself sitting around just hearing your stories.”

The judges deliberated, finally selecting three competitors to move on to the final round: Josh and Molly Simpson, Hope Dehart, and Grace Waters.

The format for the finale will be different. Contestants will perform a song alone, and then they will be given an opportunity to play with a band, tentatively set for the Johnny Waters Band. After the winner of the inaugural 2024 OBX Got Talent is announced, Caroline Owens will wrap up the evening with an encore performance.

When asked what the judges are looking for in the final rounds, Caroline Owens told The Coastland Times that she, as a singer, naturally notices the vocals first. “I am sensitive to most every note, pitch change, and anything else that might grab my attention. But, with that being said, I also pay attention to many other key components of the performance – very crucial things like stage presence, crowd response, and the ability to perform under pressure.”

Theater owner Michael Basnight said the winner will have the opportunity to perform before a crowd at either Bluegrass Island Festival or one of the VUSIC concerts later this year.

The finale will take place at The Pioneer Theater on Saturday, March 30 during what Basnight called “local music weekend.” Friday night will kick off with the Ty Fleming Band, followed by a parlor session at the Manteo House with Caroline Owens Saturday at 1 p.m.

OBX Got Talent (tickets $10, available at the door and at starts at 7 p.m., but visitors are encouraged to start the evening early at the Pioneer Garden starting at 5 p.m. and enjoy dinner from the Fork’et Me Not food truck.