Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

My chance to be Simon Cowell at Berkeley songwriter’s contest

By kbender
Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 at 4:04 pm in Uncategorized.

It’s rare, but every once in a while reporters get to do something fun.  I’ve had my share of fun flying around in the Goodyear Blimp, taking a ride with a professional skywriter, meeting Halle Berry at the Paramount Theatre and going to the Price Is Right game show, all in the name of a good story.

Now I can add being a judge for the Westcoast SongWriters competition at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage coffeehouse to my good-times list. The invitation from Grace Woods, the manager of the East Bay Chapter of the West Coast Songwriters (westcoastsongwriters.org)  Association,  popped into my email basket last week. “Given your experience, we would be honored if you would help out the local songwriting community and come be a judge,” it said.

A judge of musical talent and songwriting? Me? OK,  how could they want someone whose musical knowledge extends to playing the flute up to the 8th grade? 

It must be my knowledge of writing they were after. OK, that made sense. “Sure, I’ll do it,” I wrote back.  OK, so this is where I started dreaming about how I’d get to be justifiably mean and critical, like American Idol judge Simon Cowell in trying to determine the best song and the best performance.

But there was no room for mean and overly critical on Monday night. Every single one of the two dozen performers who took the stage at the Freight sang and strummed and played piano with passion and gusto. Their original songs ranged from folksy to soulful to downright foot stompin’ fun.

A singer songwriter named Tim Mooney emerged as the winner in the best song category with “A Great Generation,” a tune about the stories he’s heard from his dad, now 85 and suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Mooney won three hours of  studio time at a local recording studio. Chris Hanson got the top nod for his Bob Dylan-like performance” of “Diamond Ridge,” taking home some blank CD’s as a prize.

Next up is the East Bay Play-Offs on  July 21 at the Freight & Salvage.  The winner there will go on to the State Play-Offs.

Who knows what will happen to the state winner. But “Two at a Time,” a song in the new movie “Sex in the City” was written by  Westcoast SongWriters Association members Joel Evans and J. Elle. To catch another round of the West Coast Songwriters contest head over to Cafe Royale, 800 Post Street in San Francisco at 7:30 p.m. tonight. It’s free.


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