It’s a little after six o’clock on a cold Friday night at the Inner Harbor’s Hard Rock Café, where dozens of anxious teens and their parents have gathered around the stage adjacent to the guitar-shaped bar. Rock legends like Paul McCartney and Roy Orbison play on flat screens around the restaurant, but these kids have a much younger legend on their minds: Justin Bieber.
Bieber isn’t in town, but his music is headlining. Thirty girls and one boy, ages 13 to 17, came to sing the mop-topped mini pop star’s hits for a chance to win a trip for three to the Los Angeles premier of his new concert movie, Never Say Never, opening Valentine’s Day weekend.
Contestants take turns performing for three judges, including Lisa Mathews of local kids band Milkshake, Paul Manna of 24-7 Entertainment, and Sarah Quackenbush of Pivec Advertising. Patrons watch, some amused, some annoyed, as the teens’ voices fill the restaurant.
One girl clutches a Bieber doll. Another totes a life-size cutout of him onstage to observe her performance. Some stand like stone before the judges. Others flip their hair and shake their adolescent hips. And while only one, 15-year-old Alyssa Shouse, can win the grand prize, it’s clear that Bieber Fever is alive and well in Charm City.