Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 06th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Durb Watch: Special Edition

durbin_justbeginningHow did James Durbin rock Santa Cruz on Saturday? With a vengeance.
The 48-hour emotional whirlwind that plunged us all into despair when the American Idol voting results were announced Thursday night spun Cruzans into soaring delirium Saturday when James got his homecoming after all—the first contestant in Idol history to be granted a weekend home, even though he finished out of the Final Three. Some 30,000 of us thronged to the Boardwalk bandstand on Saturday to see him perform live (the biggest crowd in the 104-year history of the Boardwalk), all of us eager to be part of the first show of the rest of his life.

The James Show officially kicked off at 2:30 at Louden Nelson Center, where he met with his former mentors and current performers from Kids On Broadway and All About Theater, as well as parents and children diagnosed with Tourette's and Asperger's Syndromes. This would be followed by a motorcade down Center Street, past Depot Park, around the roundabout, and down Beach Street to the Boardwalk.

But while all this was going on, my friend Donna and I opted to go straight to the beach, and joined the crowds hiking in to the Boardwalk. (Along the way we all passed the Starz Bakery table, doing a brisk business with their James Durbin cupcakes—many of which I'm sure will be shellacked or otherwise preserved as a memento of the day.) By 3 p.m., the Boardwalk Esplanade as well as the upper deck overlooking the bandstand were already crammed with people, so we staked out a little patch of sand on the crowded beach to the right of the stage, just down from the Double Shot ride.
The White Album Ensemble was already onstage, and we had a pretty good view of the side of the stage. All ages were represented in the crowd: lots of teens and tweens, of course, but also entire families (a woman behind us proudly announced she was there with three generations of her family), parents hoisting up little kids on their shoulders, and a sizeable contingent of geezers and grannies. But the most fun to watch were the kids, from girls with all their various hand-made "We (Heart) James" signs to the little boy in the Vine Hill Elementary T-shirt with his long hair gelled up into a big Mohawk , to the young Goth teen with the black-and-white scarf "rat tail" dangling out of his back jeans pocket, James-style. And everybody was in a friendly, celebratory mood.

Toward the end of the WAE's hour-and-a-half set, the crowd started pressing in closer (all we could see was a sea of heads in all directions) with the word that James had hit the beach. It took another 15-20 minutes for the lifeguard truck he rode in on to deliver him past the throngs to the bandstand; sequential screaming from the outskirts of the mob ensued as people got their first glimpse of his blond-streaked hair in the intermittent sunlight as the truck inched by.

And then he was up on the bandstand in real life, no commercial interruption, no tape delays.  It's pretty amazing to see someone you've welcomed into your home on TV for 10 weeks suddenly live onstage; I was so glad I hadn't slothed out, stayed home and waited for the You Tube recap. The crowd went nuts, as James personally hugged every single member of the WAE, and waved to the roaring fans.
He thanked everyone for showing up, and for their support, and then the Boardwalk representative who was acting as emcee asked him how he felt about coming home to Santa Cruz. James thought about it for a moment, then walked over to stage left. "Can you hear me?" he shouted to the crowd on that side, who roared in response. "I can't hear you," he challenged them, prompting an even more seismic response. He marched centerstage, repeated the challenge, and got another deafening response, then came to our side, the edge of stage right, shouted the same litany, and had us all screaming like idiots. Then he marched centerstage once more, and raised his arms to us all, provoking a bone-rattling tsunami of rapturous joy.

"That's how I feel," he said.  (Can this guy work a crowd, or what?)
Then he sat down on the edge of the stage, front and center, feet dangling over the side, and chatted about Thursday night's elimination round on American Idol. "The reason I was so emotional wasn't because I was off the show," he told us. The reason, he said, was that he'd been so looking forward to the chance to come home and thank "each and every one of you" for their support during his Idol adventure, a reunion he now assumed he wouldn't get. He then praised Mayor Ryan Coonerty for his  Herculean 11th hour efforts to make sure James got his homecoming after all.

Coonerty then came downstage, proclamation in hand. No mean hand at crowd manipulation himself, Coonerty asked the audience if they felt like "Durbin Day" was quite enough. What about "Durbin Week," he suggested, or maybe "Durbin Month?" At last, he handed the proclamation to James, designating "2011 as James Durbin Year!" At this point, Coonerty went on, it was customary to hand over the keys to the city, "But this is Santa Cruz, and we do things differently." Then he presented James with a custom surfboard painted with a portrait of James singing.
Finally, it was time for James to do what he'd come to do: sing. (Although not before he proclaimed to the crowd, "I was born in Santa Cruz. I grew up in Santa Cruz. And I'll forever live in Santa Cruz!") With the WAE as his backup band, he opened with "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?'" (a loaded question for this crowd), complete with lilting a capella first verse, and a driving finish to the finale, "You better love me tomorrow!" that makes this song his own.  Next up was his signature tune with the WAE, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," delivered with haunting finesse (despite a funky sound system that made it difficult to hear himself).

That was theoretically all we were supposed to get, although of course he came back for one encore, after much shouting from the crowd. ("What are you saying? 'Bang A Gong?' " he asked.  "Oh, one  more song!") He then launched into a wailing version of "Don't Stop Believin'," which had everyone going nuts. If he had to narrow down his repertoire to one, single theme song, that would probably be it.
The fun thing about seeing James Durbin live is, yes, he really sings that well, moves around the stage like he was born on it, and engages the audience, big time. The next opportunity to see him live will be on the American Idol summer roadshow tour, July 13, at the Shark Tank (HP Pavilion) in San Jose. I encourage fans to show up at that event to support James in his own back yard. After that, hold on to your rat tails; his solo career is just around the corner.

See Durbin Day videos >

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Making a Scene

As it celebrates its 30th year, Santa Cruz County’s Open Studios is one of the most successful in the country—and a make-or-break event for many local artists


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


At Clothes Range

FashionART’s 10th anniversary show introduces a new generation of designers on the edge


A Ritual & Initiation

The Pope has come and gone, but his loving presence ignited new hope and goodness in many. While he was in NYC, China’s ruler arrived in Washington D.C. East (China) and West (Rome), meeting in the middle, under Libra, balancing sign of Right Relations. The Pope arrived at Fall Equinox. Things initiated at Fall Equinox are birthed at Winter Solstice. The Pope’s presence was a ritual, an initiation rite—like the Dalai Lama’s visits—offering prayers, teachings and blessings. Rituals anchor God’s plan into the world, initiating us to new realities, new rules. The Pope’s presence brings forth the Soul of the United States, its light piercing the veils of materialism. The Pope’s visit changed things. New questions arise, new reasons for living. A new wave of emerging life fills the air. Like a cocoon shifting, wings becoming visible. The winds are different now. Calling us to higher vision, moral values, virtues that reaffirm and offer hope for humanity. A changing of the guard has occurred. Appropriately, this is the week of the Jewish Festival of Sukkoth (’til Oct. 4), when we build temporary homes (little huts in nature), entering into a harvest of prayer and thanksgiving, understanding our fragile and impermanent existences. We are summoned to reflect upon our lives, our humanity, our nature, our spirit and each other. Offering gratitude, becoming a magnet for others. We observe. We see the needs. We love more.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people say they’re “going down” somewhere, and they’re actually traveling north. Julia Ragen, Santa Cruz, Psychologist


Downhill Cellars

An easy-drinking Chardonnay from Downhill Cellars


If whales have a message for humans, what might it be?

“Do not come in the water and join us.” Howard Hall, Santa Cruz, Retired


Wargin Wines

The wine world is buzzing about this Pinot Gris