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Is ‘American Idol’s’ Adam Lasher on the eve of fame?

It was 20 minutes before Adam Lasher’s 7 p.m. show at Laguna’s Cliff restaurant, and fans, or those curious about the singer, were snagging seats under the patio’s canopy of strung lights. The outdoor venue became so crowded that management had to provide additional chairs.

The growing number of people and light sprinkling of rain left Lasher undeterred as he secured his guitar’s cables.

“I hate untangling chords and not being prepared before a show,” he said of having arrived early to the Jan. 29 performance. “It’s not respecting the audience.”

He is learning a lot about show business decorum as a contestant on “American Idol,” a singer-elimination contest now in its 14th year, as he is scrutinized by celebrity judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr.

The nephew of music great Carlos Santana auditioned during the show’s stop in New Orleans, charming all three judges and earning himself a ticket to Hollywood. That episode, which aired Jan. 22, showed his performance of “These Shoes,” a song he had written. The albumof the same title is for sale on iTunes.

Judges were impressed with Lasher’ ability to play the guitar with a cast on his right hand. And they had plenty of questions for the 27-year-old, but never once asked about his celebrity connection.

“Dude, you’re trying to pick with a broken thumb,” Urban said with a laugh. “What is going on?”

A skateboarding accident, he answered.

“Do you ever get that you look like Jimmy Fallon?” Lopez questioned.

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A Lagunan on loan

His public recognition is growing quickly. The remark about looking like the talk-show host had Lasher being spoken about recently on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

The night after Lasher’s audition, “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest was a guest on Fallon’s show. He and the late-night comedian joked about the resemblance, and Fallon threw on a long, brown wig and taped a scruffy beard to his face. He even accessorized by wearing a copy of Lasher’s signature teal bandanna.

“It’s awesome,” Lasher said of becoming a contestant on the show. “I’m learning so much.”

It’s the same feeling he wants listeners to experience during his concerts. Lasher has been playing regularly in small, casual joints, having started out at Rock ‘n Fish and expanded to Laguna’s Tommy Bahama, Mozambique and the Cliff. He said he commutes from Long Beach to the seaside town because he appreciates that Laguna is receptive to the arts and music.

Laguna locals are just as appreciative of his artistry. Lasher studied music theory and guitar at Berklee College of Music in Boston and met his bandmates in the Adam Lasher Band while pursuing his degree. The group’s sound is a blend of rock, Latin and blues — a style that makes fans nod to the rhythm.

“He is a great original artist,” said Rick Conkey, who has known Lasher for three years and has booked him into community venues. “He can add his own flavor to a song and we need to shine a light on him.”

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The diabetes factor

Seconds after Lasher strummed the beginning notes to the opening song Jan. 29, the crowd responded by whipping out cellphones to photograph the band. Couples danced, while others, also captured by the music, threw their hands in the air or tapped their feet.

Though he wasn’t wearing his bandanna that night, his fans hadn’t forgotten. A crowd of men and women sported turquoise strips of fabric on their foreheads.

During the 90-minute set before intermission, Lasher undid his high ponytail and let down his fierce mane of shoulder-length brown hair that shook each time he belted out lyrics. He played and sang Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” and his original “Love for Granted,” among many others.

“He’s got a groove that’s accepting,” said first-time listener Sandra DeVorss. “It’s just kind of chill and intense, yet brings you back to relax.”

Many of his fans, he said, are from the diabetes community. When Lasher appeared on the televised audition, the judges noticed the black Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitoring case hooked to his guitar strap and asked him about it.

Lasher explained that he has Type 1 diabetes.

He assumed he was going to be listed as Santana’s nephew, but he learned that many of the people supporting him either have diabetes or have children with the condition. Lasher said having that in common with the community is one of his many ways of staying grounded during the competition series.

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A famous teacher

He also credits his family with helping to nurture his musical abilities.

His maternal grandfather was a mariachi violinist and supported a wife and seven children by playing his music. Two of the sons, Jorge and Carlos, became famous guitar players.

Lasher began playing the piano at age 5 but grew to favor the guitar by 11 or 12. He remembers Santana sitting down with him at family gatherings and teaching him how to play. But his technical education at the feet of talented family members wasn’t all there was to the lessons.

“The most important thing in my family was to learn how to carry yourself, play in tune and make good choices along the way,” Lasher said.

It’s a mentality he’s bringing to “Idol.” Wednesday’s episode was the culmination of Lasher and more than 200 hopefuls receiving the go-ahead to compete in “Hollywood Week” at the Orpheum Theatre. This time, he wore a black bandanna and performed “Wicked Game.” Harry Connick Jr. remarked on Lasher’s “good singing” to Lopez and Urban.

“I think he’s a superstar,” Connick said. “I really do.”

Lasher and 37 other contestants who performed that night were told by the judges that their performances were memorable. They were all safe and told they would go through the next round. An additional 10 contestants were expected to be chosen Thursday night, after the Coastline Pilot’s press deadline.

The 48 total contenders will then move on to the first showcase round, where they will perform in front of a live audience at the House of Blues in hopes of becoming one of the 24 semi-finalists. The top 24 will head to Detroit, Mich., for the first voting performance show of the season.

“I’m having a great time,” he said. “I’m not nervous at all. It’s about just having fun and enjoying it.”


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