And you thought Blues was dead. Hah!
In just 13 days, the biggest blues event in the world, the International Blues Challenge (IBC), begins. It lasts only three days, but this event brings in over 180 Blues acts from 36 states and nine countries. And where will all this madness and mayhem take place? In Memphis, Home of the Blues.
Each year the Blues Foundation, in support of its stated goal of raising consciousness and awareness of the blues, hosts this extravaganza, which takes place in the Beale Street area, the cradle of the Blues. And each year it seems the Blues Foundation bests itself from the previous years. Then they cap it off by hosting an awards celebration that blows the doors off any others around.
State and national blues organizations across the globe run their own versions of qualification trials, picking and usually picking up the tab for these groups and musicians while they’re in Memphis. There are solo competitions, pairs, small groups, large groups, and fans from every one of the local and national competitions, all hoping for their big chance.
“Oh, yeah?” you ask. “What big chance?”
Well, to be sure, the winner could turn out to be next to nothing. Or s/he or they could turn out like Susan Tedeschi, a winner not long ago who’s gone on to become one of the biggest Blues stars in the galaxy. But keep your heads clear if you’re a competitor, people, because the competition is tough, and you get only one chance to wow the judges, who come from the breadth and depth of the Blues world. And you also have people like me, holding a stopwatch and just waiting to pounce should you go over your allotted time. I warn all entrants, “It’s better to go 30 seconds under than one second over.” Competitors aren’t penalized for going a single second over, but it’s still sage advice to be heeded.
The biggest thing to bear in mind is that you’re vying to become one of the lucky souls in the ranks of the professionals. So, if you want to run with the big dogs, you have to act like a big dog, which means no drinking until after the performance. Oh, you can drink if you want to, but I assure you, you don’t want to. It’s way too easy to make a mistake when your stone sober, so don’t sabotage yourself.
Get all the information and rules by going to the Blues Foundation’s website. Then simply follow the clues to the IBC section. This section also contains the information you’ll need, should you want to attend. Everything from where to sleep to how to get tickets, and just about anything else you’ll need to know if you’re going.
Oh, and a tip to the wise: Don’t plan on sleeping!