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International Blues Challenge 2014The International Blues Challenge is back again. The place where countless great blues musicians got their jump start to the big time.

If you are not hip, The IBC is the Blues Foundation‘s annual gathering in Memphis where local and regional blues acts compete for the coveted prize of being the best blues band or solo/duo act from over 100 entries and from countries all over the world. Last year, 125 bands and 80 solo/duo acts competed, filling the clubs up and down Beale Street for the quarter-finals on Wednesday and Thursday, the semi-finals on Friday and the finals at the Orpheum Theater on Saturday. You can see the list of this years entrants here.

And here’s how it works…

Local Blues Societies have their own competitions to see who will represent them at the IBC. One band and one solo/duo act is usually chosen to go to Memphis. Those winners then all come to Memphis to compete head to head with the judges choosing the winners. The judges include blues professionals and long-time experts in the blues. The judging criteria can be found here. I noticed one of the rules is the No Mustang Sally Rule, which means you must show some originality in your song selection.

This is the 30th Challenge and past entrants includes Barbara Blue, Fiona Boyes, Eden Brent, the late Michael Burks, Sean Carney, Albert Castiglia, Tommy Castro, Grady Champion, the late Sean Costello, Albert Cummings, Delta Moon, Larry Garner, Joey Gilmore, Diunna Greenleaf, Zac Harmon, Homemade Jamz Blues Band, Richard Johnston, Robin Rogers, Matthew Skoller, JP Soars, Super Chikan, Susan Tedeschi, Teeny Tucker, Trampled Under Foot and Watermelon Slim. Many of these musicians have gone on to become major stars in the Blues world.

The week of events will once again kick off Tuesday night, January 21st, with a Meet & Greet hosted by the Beale Street Merchants Association at the New Daisy Theater, followed by the International Showcase.

In addition to the evening Blues competition, the days are filled with seminars and workshops and topped off in a moving Friday afternoon in which the Blues community will honor its own with the prestigious Keeping the Blues Alive (KBA) Awards that honor the men and women, who have made significant contributions to the Blues music world, in 20 categories such as journalism, literature and photography and to the best clubs and festivals, as well as managers, promoters and producers. My friend Larry Lisk from here in Tampa Bay, has won in the category of Radio (Public). Here’s a little about Larry…

Radio (Public): Larry Lisk – St. Petersburg, Florida Now in his 16th year hosting Mo Blues Monday on Tampa’s WMNF 88.5 FM, a 70,000-watt community radio station, Larry Lisk has made his show the definitive place for west-central Florida blues lovers to get their weekly fix of music, information, and commentary. On the show, Lisk emphasizes the diversity of the blues, from its roots to classic blues to current performers. Introducing new artists to his faithful audience is a show mainstay, along with the popular Blues Goodie Bag, which has put more than 1,200 CDs, tickets and other blues-related items in the hands of his listeners. When not on the air, Lisk is the emcee for area festivals such as the Tampa Bay, Clearwater, and Sarasota blues festivals, and can generally be found where blues music is playing. In addition, he was a co-founder of the Suncoast Blues Society and served as president from 1997 to 2005.

You can read about the other recipients here.

And speaking of the Tampa Bay area… Last year the big winner was Selwyn Birchwood from Tampa. His band won the whole darn thing and he also won Best Guitarist in the Challenge for the week.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great competitors this year from here in Tampa Bay. The Lauren Mitchell Band and Steve Arvey and his Delta Swamp Rats have won from The Suncoast Blues Society and are up there now competing. Good luck to Lauren and Steve.

And the list of prizes to the winner is quite impressive. The first place band gets all this…

1st Place Band
— First Place International Blues Challenge plaque
— $2500 cash
— A Reactor Watch the Best Built Performance Sport Watch…period!
–2 Year Bandzoogle Pro account WITH web design assistance
— Ad in Blues Festival Guide and banner ad on its website

Great gigs, including:
Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, 2014 Legendary Rhythm and Blues Pacific Cruise
Heritage Blues Festival, Wheeling, WV
Telluride Blues and Brews Festival, Telluride, CO
Hot Springs Blues Festival, Hot Springs, AR
Eureka Springs Blues Weekend, Eureka Springs, AR
Greater Ozark Blues Festival, Springfield, MO
Gladstone SummerTime BluesFest, Gladstone, MO
Levitt Shell Concert Series, Memphis,TN
Sin City Soul & Blues Revival, Las Vegas, NV
Bottleneck Blues Bar Ameristar Casino, Vicksburg. MS

That’s no small potatoes.

To learn more about the International Blues Challenge you can go to the website here.

So if you’re anywhere near Memphis is week best go check out the show. We’ll post the results here next week if you don’t get to go.

By the way…

They are streaming many of the shows this week. Here’s a list with links…
01/21/14     Tuesday 7:00 pm – SHOW 1
01/22/14 AM     Wednesday 11:00 am – SHOW 2
01/22/14 PM     Wednesday 6:00 pm – SHOW 3
01/23/14 AM     Thursday 11:00 am – SHOW 4
01/23/14 PM     Thursday 6:00 pm – SHOW 5
01/24/14 AM     Friday 11:00 am – SHOW 6
01/24/14 PM     Friday 6:00 pm – SHOW 7
01/27/14     Monday 9:00 pm – WRAP-UP SHOW


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