Next weekend, the biggest blues explosion in the world will go down in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge on Beale Street. More than 100 bands from Australia to Croatia will represent in this competition that is sponsored by the Blues Foundation, an American nonprofit that provides medical and dental care and funeral expenses for blues musicians and their families.
I caught up with three local musicians who will make the 450-mile trip for the competition and showcase: Bryan Redmond (lead singer and saxophonist from the swing-jump-blues band the Grand Marquis), Mary Bridget Davies (frontwoman of the Mary Bridget Davies Group) and Jason Vivone (solo entrant, member of the Billy Bats).
The Grand Marquis' Bryan Redmond says:
"The Grand Marquis have written two new songs in the last couple months that we will feature in Memphis for the Blues Challenge. We'll also be recording at Sun Studio when we are there.
Our goal is to perform our best, meet a lot of people and enjoy our time down there networking. Any advancement in the contest will be great, but we aren't stressed out about it at all.
We appreciate the wonderful people from Topeka Blues Society that are sponsoring us and have been so supportive of us and our music. We are excited to play the Blind Raccoon Showcase on Wednesday at Rum Boogie on Beale Street.
In 1998, I was at the Rum Boogie for "Memphis in May." As I was watching a band from the balcony, I told my girlfriend -- now she's my wife -- that someday I wanted to play on that stage. Well, now I am. This is a bit of a dream come true.
Mary Bridget Davies says:
We have been gigging and rehearsing a lot, debuted our latest song this past Saturday at the Hideout in Gladstone to a packed house, and they loved it! We can't wait until next week!
Being on KKFI 90.1 FM this past Saturday morning with Junebug on the Blues Kitchen was a blast. We have six new songs that, time permitting, we will be debuting in Memphis.
Competitions always make me nervous, but that's the nature of the beast. I know we are going to show up, make new friends, have a great time and hear some awesome musicians.We are very grateful to the Kansas City Blues Society, and all of the awesome fans and appreciators that have been coming to our shows and will be following us down to Memphis!
Jason Vivone says:
I've been blessed with a busy January -- gigging, rehearsing and going into the studio. I'm lucky to have not had much downtime to think about IBC. I believe I'd psych myself out. God, now that you mention it ...
I've been doing First Fridays at Coda on 17th and Broadway. The audiences there -- and Annie and Dan and Clint behind the bar--- have been so supportive of me. Night after night, they ask me to surprise them, as well as myself. That place -- Coda -- is why I'm going to Memphis next week.
On my Facebook page, friends and fans have been writing in with their requests for my IBC set. Someone wants me to do an a cappella Sam Cooke song. Someone else, an Elmore. I'm humbled by the KC folk who urge me to do my own material at the International Blues Challenge.
The IBC competition last year spurred me to author new solo material, and voila, I have a new CD called My Roaring Twenties. Not making the cut last year urged me to dive deeper into new material.
Catch these three acts tonight at Knuckleheads at 8 p.m.. Tickets are $8.