updated 06/09/2012 AT 7:55 PM ET
•originally published 06/09/2012 AT 8:15 PM ET
All four judges of The X Factor walked out of the Kansas City auditions at the Sprint Center on Saturday after a vocally challenged contestant faced away from the panel as he sang.
“It was really awkward,” says an audience member. “You could tell the judges were done.”
Spears, Demi Lovato, L.A. Reid and Louis Walsh, who was subbing for an ill Simon Cowell, chose to leave in the middle of the audition rather than remain in front of a contestant who refused to look at them.
“I don’t think they had a choice,” says the guest. “They didn’t want to waste their time.”
Adds another source: “He was one of the worst singers and had a bad attitude … [The judges] all hated it and walked off.”
The male contestant didn’t even notice the departure and continued to sing long after the judges left the building.
All but Spears returned to finish the show with one final contestant. Audience members were chanting, “Where’s Britney?” as the other three judges offered their critique to the last contestant.
The show’s warm-up comedian was the only one to respond: “I don’t know!”
Spears did return later for a second show taping in Kansas City.