My story about competing in the International Blues Challenge

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Hi Larry

You were off to a blues contest with one of your bands.

Apologies if you posted it, but I missed seeing how it went.

How did it go, and what songs did you play for the contest?

James


Just James sent me a PM, so instead of answering him privately, I decided to share the story with everyone here. (I hadn't mentioned it at all, so you didn't miss anything James)

The 6 piece band I was in competed in 2013 and won a spot to compete in the IBC in Memphis Tennessee at the end of January 2014.

We left at 4:30 PM from just outside of Philadelphia, we had to be in Tennessee by 5PM the next day to sign in. I rented an economy car, and myself and the B3 player rode together, with me driving. Of course we departed in one of the worst snowstorms we had this year, and the first 4 hours of the 18 hour trip I couldn't do more than 35 MPH, as we got stuck behind 2 plow trains. They would not let me pass them. After 4 hours I finally shook them, but the snow lasted for the first 9 hours of the trip.

So I drive 1000 miles straight, we're almost there and I get pulled over by a Tennessee State trooper. He asked if I knew why he pulled me over, (I didn't) it was because my license plate was so salted over, he couldn't read it. He actually cleaned it off. Nicest State trooper I ever encountered. No ticket, everything was OK.

Get in Memphis, and had a fantastic breakfast before getting our room around noon. Got about 3 hours of non sleep before we had to get up, shower, eat, and sign in.

We finally got to play at about 9:00 PM that night. There were over 250 bands from all over the world, our venue had 11 bands. The venue we were in, The New Daisy Theater, was the biggest venue on Beale Street, so all the largest bands were slated to play there. As a result, we were there with 10 other bands, and they all had big horn sections, and some were choreographed. So we brought a knife to a gun fight. Had we been in a different venue, one without the horn bands, we might have advanced. But we were a 6 piece band with 2 keyboard players, so we needed a bigger stage plot.

We were pretty whooped the first night from the trip. We played better the 2nd night, but it wasn't enough. So we didn't advance. We played 25 minutes both nights. Mostly original songs, but we did throw in "Walking The Dog" and "Same Old Blues"

Memphis....the food down there was friggin fantastic. It was freakishly cold the whole time we were there, highs of like 23 degrees, single digits at night. So 90% of the people who would have been there....weren't. I visited Memphis Drum Shop while I was there and got some "souvenirs" there. (new beats, remo starfire head, sticks, MDS skull cap) We toured Graceland, (a lot cooler than I thought it would be) and we took a tour of the Gibson guitar factory. We drove by Sun Studios, but didn't take the tour. I wanted to see that and the Stax Museum, but that didn't happen. Did I mention how good the food was down there?

So beings that we didn't advance, We decided to drive home the next day. Drove straight through, 18 hours in more snow but not nearly as bad as the trip down.

All in all it was a fun trip. I did not expect to advance, I went down there to have a great time mainly.

That band broke up afterwards. The leader thought the band had run it's course, this was their 3rd trip down there, they never advanced. I'm not bummed the band split, it was not nearly as satisfying of a band as my trio is.

So that's pretty much it, nothing bad happened, and I got to see a whole slew of blues bands from all over, and ate some of the tastiest food I ever had.
 
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Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
In my experience, those things have never really been about actual musicianship or who performs best. It usually comes down to either a personal popularity contest, or it's based off whomever has the most "flash" in their performance.

18 hour drive for un-paid competition where nobody really pays attention to you is kinda pits. It sounds like you were able to enjoy the trip, at least, so not a total loss!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Sounds like a cool (pun...) trip even though you didn't advance. How was the Gibson tour?
The Gibson tour was interesting. I liked it.

In my experience, those things have never really been about actual musicianship or who performs best. It usually comes down to either a personal popularity contest, or it's based off whomever has the most "flash" in their performance.

18 hour drive for un-paid competition where nobody really pays attention to you is kinda pits. It sounds like you were able to enjoy the trip, at least, so not a total loss!
Spot on Watso. It's more about who can entertain the best, not who sounds the best.

I decided before I left that I didn't care how the competition part went, whatever. I just wanted to see Memphis, the muddy Mississippi, eat the food, and soak in the culture. SO in that respect it was fun. But driving 18 hours to play for a total of 50 minutes...not a very good deal. Still I'm glad I went.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
That's a good attitude. I take that same approach for every gig that I'm unsure of as far as turnout or reception. Especially if it's a long drive. I just try and enjoy as many aspects of the whole experience as I can. Look on the bright side, so to speak. Sure, nobody showed up at the club all night, but at least I had some laughs with the guys on the way there!
 

planoranger

Junior Member
larry -- great attitude about the experience. Wish there was more of that around these days. Thanks for sharing.

I know you were pretty "wiped" prior to the competition, but, did you get to hear any of the other bands? Did any stand out musically? You don't have to mention names even if you remember....I can't speak for anybody else...but I know I probably wouldn't recognize any of them anyway. Just want to know if there were any bands that piqued your interest, or were they musically "blah"?
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
The 6 piece band I was in....musically was better then average, but it's not a band I could ever "get in the zone" with. It was too big of a band to be daring, it had to be structured. That's why I love the trio. Each member contributes more or less an equal part. It's more satisfying. The 6 piece had so much sound going on, I had to keep things pretty close to the vest. But the guys were a lot of fun, and the practice space was a dream man cave set in a pastoral location (read bux deluxe) and there was always really good food. The band was called "The Porkroll Project" and man did those guys like their food. Bacon was revered, truly. I got 2 pounds of real unsliced country bacon in a canvas bag for a holiday gift lol. Lotsa laughs and great people in that band.

The leader was like a big wet blanket though. He had a B3 player who hands down is the best entertaining musician I've ever saw, the guy had me in STITCHES the whole trip down. It was hard to drive in snow and laugh that hard. His impressions of almost anybody are a total scream. He seriously has the chops to be a stand up comic. A tragic clown if there ever was one lol. Pretty fair B3 player too.

But the leader guy didn't like being upstaged, so he wouldn't let Joey out of his cage. The leader is a "stare a hole in your guitar neck" type of "entertainer". Lol. So serious.

SO I knew this band wouldn't be able to hang down there. We still tried our best of course, I mean that's a given. Fun band to be in though.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
"Great story dad...tell us another one."
No really, you do tell a good story and it sounds you made the most of a memorable trip. A visit to Memphis has been on my list for awhile, just for the history of American music produced there. And now I know the food is awesome.

I can tell from your writing that you really like that trio you're in.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
larry -- great attitude about the experience. Wish there was more of that around these days. Thanks for sharing.

I know you were pretty "wiped" prior to the competition, but, did you get to hear any of the other bands? Did any stand out musically? You don't have to mention names even if you remember....I can't speak for anybody else...but I know I probably wouldn't recognize any of them anyway. Just want to know if there were any bands that piqued your interest, or were they musically "blah"?
I did get to see, in addition to the other 10 horn bands at our venue probably 7 other bands in the bars. We played in an actual theater, and the rest of the strip were bars. I think each venue was allowed to advance only one band to the semi finals. So if we were in one of the bars, I feel we would have had a good shot at advancing. TBH, the best music I saw was at the jam at the theater after the competition. That was better than the competition IMO. But in the competition... I mean with the horn bands... each horn player had the little stands with the bands logo on it they stood behind...choreographed moves....it was slick, and big and powerful. The bar bands had none of that. The bar bands....I only got a small sampling of what was there, and there was some good stuff for sure. Not all of it was great though. We belonged in the bar class. But because of our size, we put ourselves in a more difficult league. I think we could have fit on some of those bar stages, but we don't get to pick which venue we play in, it's assigned.

I have to say, in an environment where there are THAT many bands all going on at once, and it's hurry up hurry up get the next band on....I go on sensory overload and it's just too much information to process and everything runs together, forget keeping track of the band names. Even if someone did stick out, I forget their names! I honestly can't keep up. I wish I had better answers for you.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Aw man the barbecue was great. You go to get breakfast and the bacon is actually curled, not flat like a pancake. Everything just tastes the way it's supposed to taste. Good food really is one of the best things in life, and down there, it's in a whole different league. It's like real food that you get at home, only cooked by a southern grandmother. Their collard and turnip greens are so friggin good. I don't know how they make their chicken taste so good, but damn man. Oh and the cornbread? Fuggetaboutit. Some places are better than others, but it's all so much better than what I get up here it seems..
 

RockNGrohl

Senior Member
I'm a New Englander, Boston born and raised. But my dad's job put us in Memphis for ten years. From age nine to nineteen. I both loved it hated it for different reasons. The Bar B Que was outrageously good, the southern hospitality even better. My grandmother came up from Boston once. In Boston, when you go out to eat, you get lucky if you get a table within an hour and waitresses that aren't rude. We went to a Fridays' type of restaurant and they gave us our meal free because it was a 45 minute wait! The poor manager came out looking pale. He was so upset and embarrassed. My grandmother kept asking us over and over again if the meal was really free. So funny! Or the Sears refrigerator man who thought he was going to get fired for being there in thirty minutes and that was "too late, ma'am.. I'm sorry you had to wait soooo long!" Jeesh! Thirty minutes being long? I'll take it!
The New Daisy was where all the club touring alternative bands used to play. It was the only reason kids would go down there. And the Memphis drum shop was awesome.

Funny story: I had my first beginner drum set and it had a cheapie steel snare. I liked the tight funky snare sounds of the '90's. I cranked that sucker. It sounded good. But I thought i'd crank it some more all the way! Being young and stupid and not knowing any better, of course. It then sounded choked. I go to de-tune it and i'd cross threaded all the tension screws in the inserts. Locked in place. My dad was ticked! But he took me down for my first visit to the Memphis Drum Shop. They took apart my snare and fixed it on the spot, and jokingly scolded me while showing me how to properly tune a drum. Cool guys.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
The people were so friendly there. Like people still matter. I hope that never goes away. They take their food and hospitality seriously. It's not nearly as warm north of the Mason Dixon line.

Got to see Elvis's airplane, The Lisa Marie. The bed had a seatbelt lol. Graceland was very moving. At the end most people wind up in tears. I did, but then again I cry at the Lion King when Mufasa dies. It's a cartoon! Lol! What a life that guy had though hoo-wee! Elvis, not Mufasa!

Best line I overheard while down there...a young woman was talking with her young woman friend and said "yea I'll probably end up in some strange blues mans' bed tonight".

Priceless.
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
...

Best line I overheard while down there...a young woman was talking with her young woman friend and said "yea I'll probably end up in some strange blues mans' bed tonight".

...
Larry, I hope you volunteered to help her prediction come true. It would've been rude not to.

Or did you feel you weren't strange enough?
 
W

wy yung

Guest
Great story Larry. A shame the leader failed to realize any member of his band who shines reflects directly on him.

Reading that story from across the globe, well it seems very exotic. Memphis, the very word evokes images so grand it is hard to comprehend. And I have NEVER driven in snow.

The breakfast I can relate to. I recall some eggs in a little town called Cobar. Those yokes were like sunshine. To remember eggs from 20 years past says much about them.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobar
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Larry, I hope you volunteered to help her prediction come true. It would've been rude not to.

Or did you feel you weren't strange enough?
I'm a happily married man, so even if I did, I'm not wacky enough to say it here! What happens in Memphis stays in Memphis. But no I didn't volunteer. I'm not a bluesman! Bluesmen have guitars and long fingernails ewww.

Great story Larry. A shame the leader failed to realize any member of his band who shines reflects directly on him.

Reading that story from across the globe, well it seems very exotic. Memphis, the very word evokes images so grand it is hard to comprehend. And I have NEVER driven in snow.

The breakfast I can relate to. I recall some eggs in a little town called Cobar. Those yokes were like sunshine. To remember eggs from 20 years past says much about them.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobar
Yea, Joey is a born performer, that's all he wants to do. He's always "on" anyway, so he can't help but interject a little of that in our shows. Like one time he called an audible and started a different tune from the set list (to keep the dancers going) and he got reamed out afterwards.

But the food was so country fresh and real. So were the smiles of the people who served it. Yes there are certain dishes that you always remember, like your eggs. I wouldn't call it grand though. It's really cool though. Pretty homey. Elvis's kitchen is not much bigger than mine. Very modest indeed by today's standards.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Great story, Larry!

Southern hospitality is definitely real. And I'm glad you got to eat the food. For some reason, I thought you were eating tofu and quinoa with kale chips and washing it down with a cap full of borax mixed in with your prune juice. But it sounds like you ate the good stuff!
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Great story. Now you can imagine working out hard for four or eight years to go to the Olympics and have a track event that lasts 30 seconds or a minute and you don't even qualify. It's tough but a great experience. Thanks for sharing.
 
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