Crowned with a tangle of Rastafarian tresses, solo performer Valerie June was named the solo winner in the 2010 Memphis Blues Society battle of the bands and will represent the society in the upcoming International Blues Challenge.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
A cacophony of ear candy karma bounced off the walls and ricocheted around the room for several hours the evening of Thursday, October 21, at Neil's Bar and Grill, 1835 Madison Avenue in midtown Memphis, Tennessee. Six individual performers and bands did their thing in front of a panel of judges and a grateful audience. The musicians were vying for the right to represent the Memphis Blues Society in the upcoming 2011 International Blues Challenge, not to mention bragging rights.
The next night, the plot thickened as more groups joined the competition. When the stardust finally settled late Friday, Vince Johnson and the Plantation All-Stars and Valerie June were selected as the band and the individual performer, respectively, to represent the Memphis Blues Society in the upcoming International Blues Challenge.
The youthful keyboardist in the Vince Johnson and the Plantation All-Stars band pounds it out in a frenetic performance. He and his compatriots won the rights as the band to represent the Memphis Blues Society in the International Blues Challenge.
The Blues Challenge, a function of The Blues Foundation, is also held in Memphis. The event is staged on legendary Beale Street, conducted with a series of competing performances in selected bistros of the district. The competition culminates with a grand finale at the Orpheum Theater. All of this will happen February 1-5, 2011. In the 2010 competition, 110 bands and 80 solo/duo acts participated. The foundation anticipates no less, perhaps more, this for the 2011 event.
Since this nation is more or less the Johnny-come-lately of great world civilizations, most of the cool proprietary art forms were already taken by crass foreigners when we began to be a force to be reckoned with. One of the art forms that saved our bacon is the blues. It is ours. Period. Not only are blues uniquely American, they are uniquely southern. And the epicenter is in the Mississippi River Delta.
Though his band, Absolutely Blue w/Dan Charett, was not among the winners, my first prize for best grimace and/or facial contortion goes to this drummer.
It is said that the Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Few will argue that the blues started anywhere but in the Delta. There are, however, animated discussions as to the exact longitude and latitude of the origin, but the arguments are an exercise in futility.
Suffice to say, the form persists and grows. There are blues fans at every corner of the planet. In fact, even as this epistle is being composed, one of the featured performers we captured in our first Memphis Blues Society shoot is doing his trick in Sweden. But for pure authenticity, the form is best experienced in a southern dive, with a plate of deep fried delicacies in front of you. Trust me on this.
N O T E S:
Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog. — J. D.