For every Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, there are dozens of "American Idol" contestants who have yet to find stardom, but haven't given up on their rock 'n' roll dreams. Burbank resident Mary Powers is one of them.
Until recently the 28-year-old single mother fronted not one, but two different rock bands. But being in two bands can also mean twice the drama.
On a recent Sunday night, as the Recording Academy was lauding their favorites at the Grammy Awards at Staples Center, Powers and her band Death on the Radio were sweating it out at AMP Rehearsal studios in North Hollywood. It was their first rehearsal since October, gearing up for a show set for Feb. 28 at Release the Bats in Long Beach. By all accounts, the rehearsal went well, but a few weeks later, it all went south.
Death on the Radio featured Power's estranged husband, Lee "Evol" Powers on bass, as well as guitarist Danny Dorman, who's played bass in Wasted Youth and Aggression, and drummer Roger DeLong. After two years, Powers found it too difficult remain in a band with her soon-to-be-ex.
She has no such problems with her other band, Black Sabbitch, an all-female tribute band to Ozzy Osbourne-era Black Sabbath. That band — which also includes drummer Angie Scarpa, former Betty Blowtorch guitarist Blare N. Bitch, and ex-Penny Dreadfuls bassist Melanie Makaiwi — plays Paladino's in Tarzana on Feb. 21, sharing the bill with Holy Diver, a tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio.
Prior to her 2009 "Idol" shot, Powers often performed at Science of Mind Spiritual Center in Burbank and other churches, but entering the TV singing competition forever changed her course. "Preparing for 'American Idol' was a big deal, because it got me out of the church-y circuit and back into the pop real world," she says.
It was on "Idol" where Powers got some major exposure in a three-minute plus segment. She sang Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" in front of the judges and millions on TV. Then-"Idol" judge Simon Cowell offered some harsh criticism along with the praise: "I think you've got a good voice, but I think everything about you is very clichéd. You know, trying to dress like a rock star, but I do like your voice," he added. "That's a very difficult song to sing without a track."
The rest of the panel, including guest judge Avril Lavigne, and then-regular Randy Jackson also gave Powers the thumbs up, sending her to Hollywood and into the top 24. Powers' daughter, Lillian, then 8-years-old, was also able to share an on-camera moment with Cowell, whom she idolized for his honest, but often harsh criticism.
Today, while she's not rocking the stage, Powers is rocking her body and those of others as a trainer at the Burbank-based Xtreme Pro Fitness. "We work with everyone from fighters who have been doing it for 20 years to people who are just getting back into fitness after 20 years of not doing it," she says, calling music and fitness her true passions. She explains that it's important for her to be a strong woman and a role model for her daughter and her training clients.
"Not a bitch or a nasty person, just someone who knows her strength and what they're capable of," she says, adding that it becomes even more important for women who are mothers. "There are some women my age when they have kids, that's it. They live through their kids and give up on their own dreams and aspirations," she says. "They eat bad, don't work out and it all spirals downward."
Powers has no such plans. In the summers, she works as a pool lifeguard and swim instructor for the city of Los Angeles, most recently at North Hollywood Pool. She also has dreams of competing as a female boxer and an MMA fighter.
That aggressiveness is apparent in her performances on stage with Death on the Radio and Black Sabbitch. While Powers and Black Sabbitch pay tribute to Sabbath and its legendary frontman Ozzy Osbourne, she has someone else in mind when she hits the stage. "I'm completely insane on stage like Wendy O. Williams," she says. "I don't know if that's what comes off, but that's what I feel like."
Those familiar with the late Plasmatics' front-woman may recall that she performed topless, with nothing but electrical tape covering her nipples, but Powers isn't likely to take it that far. "I don't have the boobs for it, sorry," she says, with a laugh. "I'm an athlete."
Where: Paladino's, 6101 Reseda Blvd., Tarzana
When: Friday, Feb. 21
More info: (818) 342-1563
CRAIG ROSEN is a Los Angeles music journalist and a previous contributor to Marquee.