TWO for the money

Solo Voice of Pride vets Angie Landers and Robert Olivas finally hit their stride as a team

BRIDESMAIDS NO MORE | Landers and Olivas found two really is better than one, as their duo Spare Parts won the Voice of Pride group competition. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Always bridesmaids, never brides: That has been the case for Voice of Pride veterans Angie Landers and Robert Olivas. Frequent competitors in the annual “Oak Lawn Idol” competition, they’ve never taken the top prize.

So of the many magical moments at this year’s finale — Kristen Phillips belting out Tina Turner, Dru Rivera’s winning take on Aerosmith, Steven Patterson’s charming stage presence in both solo and group competitions — none was perhaps more special than the announcement of Spare Parts as the best duo. The flood of emotions displayed by Landers and Olivas touched everyone.

“This was very important to us. It was so awesome,” Olivas says a few days after winning. “We really did work hard to represent well and I still can’t unscrew my smile.”

“It just worked out great,” Landers adds. “I think we know each other so well now that I don’t think we could have been as before. It’s like a marriage but not a marriage.”

As M.C. Richard Curtin announced them as the winners, Landers hopped with excitement while Olivas stood with a look of complete disbelief. The $2,500 in prize money was barely on their minds; after years as also-rans, they finally walked away winners.

As a team, they pulled out that little extra in each other. Their first number was a powerhouse, singing Jason Aldean’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” which killed the crowed with both drama and chemistry.

“After that song, I wasn’t worried about winning,” Landers says. “We knew our next song well and it was something nobody would expect from us.”

With rousing applause, Landers’ confidence was well justified. But at the very end, they tripped up the lyrics. Although they laughed it off onstage, backstage was another story.

“We didn’t wanna go down in books being balladeers,” Olivas says on picking the song. “We had two songs in which we could show our versatility.”

“I was afraid it would come off cheesy, but it was more about our stage personalities and that we could entertain you outside of putting you to sleep,” Landers says. “But when we missed the vocals, I knew we had just given it away. I hoped the judges surely wouldn’t take points away for that but I was feeling the panic.”

The bobble was only that, and it added charm to their performance. Now, Spare Parts prepares for their first Pride performance together at the Lee Park festival.

The way Landers and Olivas interact, you’d think they had known each other for years. They act like brother and sister or even a very happy husband and wife. Truth is, they just met in 2008 during the VOP competition and soon started singing karaoke together. Their voices harmonize, so pairing up made sense. All that remained was the question of what to call themselves.

“We wanted to do something with my knee replacement and the hip replacement that he needs,” Landers says, so they started a poll to name the group on Facebook.

“If it hadn’t been for all that stuff, we would have had our name!” says Olivas.

Both are strong soloists with a solid presence and great pipes. Together, they strike a chord that tends to balance both their strengths. Now they get to show it off much more.

“We want to do something more with the title and take it above and beyond what any other winner has before,” Olivas says. “I think that it’s created a strong environment of competition that people are so dedicated to it and passionate about it. I think Voice of Pride can be a great thing.”

With each competition comes a rush of controversy in the community, members of which comment publicly (and harshly) about the results online. Landers hopes she and Olivas rise above that, even though both have been on the receiving end of mean barbs.

“Sometimes the hype and money gets in the way of what it’s really about,” she says. “I think that negative energy going around could be harnessed and focused for the better rather than knocking down contestants. Voice of Pride is a great springboard for Pride.”

For the team, the title is also a privilege, reflected well by last year’s solo winner Mel Arizpe, who also won with her partner in the group category.

“I am honored to be an advocate,” Olivas says. “Mel was a great advocate; she’s out there, she’s doing benefits. The way it should be done.”

The victory means that next year, they are frontrunners in group and solos… well, not necessarily. “I plan to [compete],” Olivas says, but Landers doesn’t know yet. “It wouldn’t be because I didn’t win; I’m just not sure right now,” she says.

Until that decision, Spare Parts will perform at Pride and then work to pull a band in and continue to book gigs around DFW and make their own name for themselves.

“Angie and I have every intention of performing for fundraisers and we’ve been approached by some venues already,” Olivas says. “I feel like we have the talent to do that. And maybe even get discovered.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

And your 2011 Voice of Pride winners are …

Voice of Pride individual winner Dru Rivera, from left, and group winners Spare Parts, made up of Angie Landers and Robert Olivas. (Photos by Gregory Hayes/Dallas Voice)

On Sunday night, the Rose Room hosted the 2001 Voice of Pride finals and, with some surprises. The competition started in early June and whittled down from hundreds of entrants to a strong handful of talent. With 10 solo finalists and three groups competing for top honors, the night belonged to both new and old faces.

The competition for group contestants grew exponentially. Steelos and AMP(H) rounded out the group finalists but by the end of it all, one group rose above the rest. Spare Parts set a high bar delivering oodles of chemistry and charm. As soloists, both are fine performers, but Robert Olivas and Angie Landers brought out something in each other that I hadn’t seen from either before. Landers was letting the audience have it as she poured her heart into Jason Aldean’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” Olivas let her shine but didn’t disappear by solidly holding up his end of the vocals and even performance. It really was a great moment as they finished to rousing applause, and this was only their first song. They followed up with the punchier “Stuck Like Glue” by Sugarland. With simple but effective choreography, they delighted with a strong showing and even the bauble at the end of the song added charm rather than detriment.

“After six years, it’s finally happened,” Olivas said while walking to the Round-Up Saloon for a post-victory celebration. Their excitement on stage after the announcement was a genuinely sweet moment.

In the individual competition, the decision had to have been a difficult one. Each of the 10 finalists delivered strongly and feasibly, any of them could have deservedly taken it home. But in the end, Dru Rivera crooned a beautiful “Cryin'” and rocked out with “Dream On,” and he ended up with the title of Voice of Pride. I figured he’d place high, but thought the winner might have been between Angie Landers and Kristen Philips. Landers was riding high from her strong performances with Olivas, and Philips killed everyone in the room with her rendition of “River Deep, Mountain High.” But Vanessa Guzman rallied with a strong second song — a fun and engaging “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” by Etta James. But it was Rivera’s connection to his inner rock god that I think pushed him to the top. He body-slammed the audience with his take on the signature Aerosmith tune and proved that even classic rock can win over a gay crowd. The other top finalists included 4th runner-up Joel Canales, 3rd runner-up Juliana Jeffrey, 2nd runner-up Kristen Philips and 1st runner-up Vanessa Guzman.

It was a riveting moment because I think Rivera’s victory came as a surprise to some being that there were more familiar faces in the running, but the audience still roared and applauded his win. Interestingly, it was his first time to participate in the event. As the winner, he won a $3,000 cash prize, a trip to Puerto Rico and a performance at Pride in September.

—  Rich Lopez