Before his name bounced around the Oprah Winfrey show, Access Hollywood and YouTube, American Idol contestant Chris Medina was a staple on the south suburban music scene.
And his friends say he plays one heck of an accordion.
"Little Chris Medina used to dominate in accordion competitions," bandmate and longtime friend Glenn Curran said, chuckling.
A lead singer and guitarist who has honed his craft at local and Chicago venues for over 10 years, Medina has fronted four different bands. He has tweaked his style and skill, growing from a high schooler at St. Laurence to the polished professional who impressed the American Idol judges and moved audiences worldwide as he spoke of his love for fiancée Juliana Ramos.
Ramos suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury after a 2009 car accident. Their wedding is on hold as Medina serves as caregiver during her recovery and adjustment.
Patch will be following Medina's progress through the show and telling his and Ramos' local story through interviews with friends. And we're still looking for some footage of him and that accordion.
Each week, Medina’s and Ramos’ family and friends and strangers touched by their story will gather for an Idol viewing party at Blarney Stone Pub, a local family-owned and operated bar featuring specials for the show. A portion of each week’s proceeds will go toward a support fund for Juliana's care.
'If he can shine in his capacity as a songwriter...'
Since his days as a star accordion player (the first instrument he mastered), he has coasted into the role of lead singer and songwriter with The Able Body, a five-man indie/rock band popular on the Chicago scene.
Now, members of the band sit back and watch as the guy they shared high school study halls with ignites an international stage. Bandmates Dave Alyinovich and Curran joined Medina's friends and family at Blarney Stone Pub for his Idol debut. They man the Chris Medina Facebook fanpage and ChrisMedinaMusic.com, blasting live updates as Medina's name gets even bigger.
"When he went on TV, it was ballistic. Just when his face came on, the place went crazy," Alyinovich said. "And it’s surreal, this is the kid you sit and play 'Call of Duty' with. You see him — ‘You’re on Oprah. You owe me $8, I bought you lunch the other day.’”
Medina's cyberspace fandom skyrocketed, soaring from 300 Facebook fans pre-show, to 1,500, up to 6,000 within a few hours of the debut. By the next day, he was the top trending topic on Twitter. As of Feb. 9, 18,999 people support Medina on Facebook.
'Give him another show, you'll see what he can do'
Hollywood week airs Thursday, Feb. 10, and Medina's not talking. Contractual obligations block him from disclosing how far he makes it on the show; band members are patiently waiting for his next appearance. Fans will gather at Blarney Stone Pub for a viewing party — with a portion of the proceeds going toward a support fund for Juliana.
Pub owner Tom Spellman will host the viewing party through the end of Medina's Idol run, with 50 cents of every Miller Lite bottle, and $3 of every 14-inch or larger pizza donated toward Juliana's recovery.
It's the right idea, for a good guy and a great couple, band members said. And Curran predicts Medina will blow audiences away.
"He's one of the few people I know who's a master of his craft," Curran said. "He's sang, and written, and played songs, every day of his life, for 10 years."
"He's got serious vocal chops," Alyinovich said, with Curran nodding in agreement.
"There's no way he'll get kicked off early."
Tune in to FOX at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10 for Medina's appearance in the Hollywood round. Check out ways you can support Medina and Juliana. Check back with Patch for live updates as Medina moves on in Idol.