There was no need to begin lining up for "American Idol"auditions outside the United Center early Thursday. Aspiring singers were given their 30 to 45 seconds with "Idol" producers based on when they picked up their wristbands during pre-registration, which took place Tuesday through Thursday morning at the United Center. Everyone was likely to get a turn.
Did that keep some applicants from arriving around midnight for auditions that wouldn't begin until after 8 a.m.?
Of course not. This was "American Idol" auditions, where dreams and over-enthusiasm can often get in the way of logic (and, in some cases, work). But then there are those who go, not so much to compete, but to be around the "Idol" atmosphere. And in those cases, arriving early makes more sense.
"I do this pretty much every year," said Allison Keck, a 17-year-old Neoga, Ill., resident who auditioned in St. Louis last year and Milwaukee the year before that. "It's an experience. It's so much fun. You meet so many new people. It's fun and nerve-wracking at the same time."
Some spent the morning trying desperately to get on the Fox cameras or taking part in singalongs (everything from Adele's "Someone Like You" to Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me"). Others passed the time quietly, including India Maton, a 26-year-old Detroit resident who sat on a blanket studying for a nursing exam.
The crowd of around 9,000 had its share of colorful outfits and props (Nicole Miller, a 15-year-old who drove in from Iowa with her mother, held a cornstalk that matched her T-shirt, which read "Farmer's Daughter"), though the costumes likely didn't affect whom producers picked in the preliminary round.
"Costumes are fun on camera," said "Idol" senior supervising producer Patrick Lynn. "Do they work to get you to the next round? Not necessarily."
The next round is the executive producers' auditions, which will take place at a to-be-determined date and location in Chicago. Those who make it past that round will then try out again in Chicago in front of the "Idol" judges panel, whoever that may be (rumors have included Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Adam Lambert as well as last year's judges, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson).
"Idol" host Ryan Seacrest, who like Jackson, has taken part in all the previous seasons, will return for the 12th season of the Fox show and was on hand at the United Center. When he wasn't delivering the standard "This is 'American Idol'" and "The audition starts ... now," sound bites for the cameras from the crowd, he was hugging star-struck fans. Asked if he can spot a contender just from looking at them after all these years, Seacrest said it takes a little more than that, but not much.
"We can tell who's got potential from hearing them and looking at them in about 20 seconds," Seacrest said.
That's not to say they always get it right. Wheeling native Haley Reinhart was turned down when she first tried out in Chicago for season 9 but would audition again in Milwaukee for season 10 and finish in third place that year. Reinhart, whose album "Listen Up!" debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard 200 in May, will perform at Lollapalooza next month.
"To be honest, I wasn't even going to try out (the second time)," said Reinhart, who was in attendance Thursday to lend her support. "Lee DeWyze had won (season 9) and he was from a town over from me. I didn't think there was much room for another Chicagoan. But I heard some wise words from somebody who encouraged me to try out again and went out on a limb.
"After going through it and standing at the end of the line and getting to where I am now, it's just an amazing feeling. I'm so excited for all these hopeful dreamers out there."