Los Angeles Times

New sensation

Oct. 3, 2005-- Marty arrived in his hometown Sept. 30 to play an Oct. 1 Hurricane Katrina benefit concert at the Tweeter Center; Marty and his band, the Lovehammers, opened for Jessica Simpson.

After the show, Marty and the Lovehammers partied upstairs at Rockit Bar & Grill, and we were there to touch base with the local singer. Marty told us that playing for 20,000 screaming fans--most of whom were young girls--was pretty amazing. The crowd's cheers were defeaning, he said, and it was incredible to see them shriek and tremble when he signed autographs for his young fans.

Fans, friends, family and bandmates gathered around Marty all night at Rockit, and when "Trees" came over the bar's speaker system around 2 a.m., the group cheered and raised their glasses in a toast.

(Original story: Sept. 20, 2005) Thanks to fans across Chicago and beyond, local singer Marty Casey, 31, enters tonight's "Rock Star: INXS" finale (9 p.m. CBS) as the public's choice to front the international rock band.

Last Wednesday, the Casey family and hundreds of friends and fans gathered at 115 Bourbon Street to watch the final elimination episode, in which Marty scored an automatic ticket to tonight's finale, thanks to receiving the most votes.

Tonight, the hometown hero from local band The Lovehammers goes up against Canadian J.D. Fortune, 32, and Australian MiG Ayesa, 35, (see "We chat with the competition" at right) in a fight to find the right frontman to replace the late Michael Hutchence as lead singer of platinum-selling band INXS.

Chicago voters have been gathering at "Marty parties" each week at local bars to wach the episodes. At one of last week's parties, Kristie Kinzig, 36, of the West Loop, told us she's been voting for hours each week via text message and the Internet.

When she saw Marty sail into the finale based on the public's votes, "I was literally shaking," she said. "I felt like I was going to start crying just from being overjoyed."

That same night, Marty's mother, Marilyn Casey, told metromix, "It's an indescribable feeling of pride and love for him because he's just such a wonderful person ... and he seems to have kept his head on his shoulders."

When we caught up with him via phone interview Friday from the "Rock Star" mansion in the Hollywood Hills, Marty, too, was overwhelmed.

"I was just kind of blown away," he said. "I kind of felt like the underdog the whole time … I had so anticipated being in the [bottom] three and just kicking some ass. And not having to do that and ... having the free ride into the final was un-real. It's a great feeling. … I was like, 'Thank the voters.'"

Marty's definitely stirred up a local fan frenzy. Janine Schaults, 24, of Beverly, said at the party, "Even if you don't know him, you know someone that does, and that just brings it home for you."

Viewers have watched Marty deliver a frenetic cover of a Romantics classic, a hardcore headbang to '90s rockers Live, a restrained and powerful tribute to Pink Floyd--and who could forget what he calls a "pretty angsty" acoustic version of poptart Britney Spears' "Baby, One More Time"?

Now Marty's finally come into his own with an original tune, "Trees." Not only did he get to debut the song on the "Rock Star" stage, but INXS asked him to reprise it, and fans voted for him to sing the catchy song in an encore.

"For me, that is my ... greatest accomplishment ... getting an original song to break through and connect with people," Marty said. "And I am really, really proud of that."

Marty has taken INXS' crititques to heart and softened his sometimes-screaming vocal approach; he's flat-out told the band his vision of their future, and he's gearing up for the finale.

"You can't go into the final with any insecurity," he said. "In order to handle being the lead singer of INXS, you really have to believe in yourself 100 percent. ... I'm going there with my guns blazing, and I'm gonna do whatever I can, whatever it takes."

If Marty does win, Lovehammers' bassist Dino Kourelis, 30, said, "I don't wan't to play with another singer.

"Once you have who you feel is the best fit for your band, it's hard to settle for someone else."

But INXS is ready to move on. Maybe Marty will be the exception to the rule.

Marty Casey (born Sept. 26, 1973)
Height: 6 foot 2
Hometown: Hickory Hills native, Bucktown resident, Beverly condo owner. "Actually, currently, right now I am homeless. If anybody wants to take me in, I need a place to stay."
High school: Amos Alonzo Stagg High School
College: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Day job: Real estate appraiser
Siblings: Two older sisters and three older brothers
Favorite places to hang out in Chicago: The Double Door, Metro
INXS audition song: "Listen Like Thieves," sung at Schubas
Fave INXS songs: "Don't Change," "Listen Like Thieves" and "Devil Inside"
Things he can't live without: Non-fiction, music instruments, USDA prime steak, phone calls to the family, pomegranates, pen and paper
--Compiled from interviews with Marty Casey and information on rockstar.msn.com.

When it comes to "Rock Star: INXS" info, we've got what you need; this is what you need:
• New sensation: Chicago's Marty Casey is a hit
• We chat with the competition: MiG Ayesa
• We chat with the competition: J.D. Fortune
• Jam session: Dave Navarro dishes
• You asked Marty; now he answers

Despite being told he's just not right for INXS, Chicago's Marty Casey still comes out a winner in the "Rock Star: INXS" finale when guitarist Tim Farriss asks if the lead singer of local band The Lovehammers would open for INXS' world tour with new frontman, J.D. Fortune.

Karen Budell is the metromix nightlife producer.

Story originally published Sept. 20, 2005. Update published on Oct. 17, 2005.

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