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IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2009 3:31 pm
by blomax
Hey ya'll, hope everyone doing well over here. I been away again for some time. Finally got the band going, only to lose our bassist and breaking in a new guy, and now he is working nites. NEXT!! We've got our cd coming off the press in about a week.

My topic here is the International Blues Challenge Competition. We are entered in the Triangle Blues Society competition June 13 and this is way new to me. I have read the rules I know we play a 25 minute set. I know about being penalized points for playing too long and that stuff.I know my drummer needs to take a trip with me to TJ Maxx for wardrobe. My guitarist is crying about not being able to use his amp,,wa,wa, wa. We've got the bassist thing straight now hopefully.
I went to a blues jam in Raleigh where the competition is held and had a great time Sunday. And I will go back in 2 weeks and ask some more questions.
I am curious of those here who have played in these competitions if ya'll could share some experiences on DO's and DON'Ts related to these shows. I am sure they like originals and read they judge on Blues content. But our originals are not near as good as most covers. And while we do mostly covers, we do our own arrangements mostly. So any advice or cautions is appreciated. Thanks in advance, Blomax :wha:

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2009 7:10 pm
by dcblues
Here's a few things I can tell you.

Don't go over time. Rehearse your set, and try to finish in around 20 minutes. If you go over time, you will lose points.

Do originals. Not necessarily all originals, but make sure you do at least a couple. I once saw a band at a local contest start with that they called an original instrumental. It was just a plain old 12 bar blues, with lots of solos - no hooks, no stops, just a 12 bar blues.

Original arrangements of covers can get you points for originality.

Stage presence is important. Part of that is your look. Don't wear shorts and sandals, or jeans and a t-shirt. Wear something decent. Don't dress like Stevie Ray Vaughan or the Blues Brothers.

Every judge has a different idea of what blues is and what's good. You can never know what to expect. The three piece power guitar bands seem to usually win in Memphis.

Don't be upset if you don't win, and don't complain to the judges or anyone else running the contest. Nobody likes a sore loser.

Good luck and have fun!

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 1:05 pm
by gdudiv
I've been to the IBC 4 times since '02. 3 of those were in the competition, 1 with my musical partner supporting his other band, last year. We (2blu) went to the finals in '08. No we didn't win, but it was an experience of a lifetime.

The best advice I can give you is HAVE FUN WITH IT.

The guys I've met over the years that take the competition part of it too serious don't have a good time. They're too busy whining about what the judges "thought" was "good".....bla blah..... big egos will hurt you - there's always someone else there that can play you under the table.... so HAVE FUN and take the experience as it is - a GREAT time fellowshipping with a city full of (mostly) great players.

Make time between your sets to 1: listen and appreciate the other competitors in your venue. We all thrive on being appreciated by other musicians, and supporting each other. That whole "competition" thing is over rated - make friends, the contacts are priceless if you want to tour and such. 2: Get your butt out to as many clubs as you can and listen to the other 150 acts that are in town. There is some killer stuff out there. 3: Network with the bands, clubs, promoters etc... on a PERSONAL as well as a professional basis. Everyone likes a freindly, down to earth musician that isn't overly cocky or aloof....

Trust me - this will be the best weekend of your life musically if you approach it with the right attitude.

As far as what to bring to your performance.... first, originality is very important. There's a million guitar slingers in town. Period. Don't clone anybody. The judges have seen every variation of SRV there is. Be yourself. If you play covers, make sure you make them your own - really your own. The best band I ever saw at the IBC was from the Republic of Georgia - monster players at every position - on of the best guitarists I've ever seen ina blues context - they played note for note covers of Allman Brothers tunes and SRV - the guitarist was owning every bit of it and the club was rockin' - they had ZERO chance, even though they were the best band in town that night -IMHO. They had every other base covered - I bet they had the time of their lives - but i think they were surprized by the judging that night - all because of the cloned covers.

Follow the rules to the letter. Our Blues society here in Birmingham patterns the local competition here after the IBC rules to get us primed for the real thing. But we get to use our own guitar amps, which is different from memphis. Oh - and your guitarist will be fine if he's using a fender-type amp already - and then there are some clubs that have a few choices anyway. Mainly the backline will be Deluxes, Twins, Hot Rods - that type of thing. They will be well maintained rentals everywhere - these guys that do thisthing are all musicians, and they get it. Have him rig up a small pedalboard if he uses pedals, so he can dial in his basic tone with these kind of amps in mind, if he doesn't use anything similar.

Try to keep your basic set arrangement to 20 minutes - even if you're allowed 25 - this will give you some wiggle room if the crowd is rockin' to stretch out a solo or 2. it also gives you some room to cut short if it gets away from you and that 1 minute sign comes out.

Bring your A Game and HAVE FUN!!!

I could go on and on.... peace g

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 12:21 pm
by blomax
Thanks ya'll, ,,this is the info I was looking for. I just enjoy the experience. Of course I would like to score well and get a trip to Memphis and play the Bull Durham Festival. But I have no problem keeping my humility in check. I play and sing for relaxation, it aint my day job.A drummer I met stopped by the other day and was telling me about the local competition as well. Nice guy, informative, even offered to help us get some gigs. When I asked if he was in the competition,,he said he got so frustrated with local Blues bunch he is not even a member anymore,,but still hangs out at the jams sometimes and has a pretty successfull gig going already. He was saying some band won over them a couple years back and the entire winning group was drunk on they asses. I thought this was part of the blues;),,,,,thanks again,,Blo

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 1:53 pm
by dcblues
I agree with gdudiv - it's so much fun in Memphis, and you'll meet so many great musicians it won't even feel like a contest. The last time I went the other local band - who we travelled with on a bus trip - was at the same venue as us. We all wished each other the best of luck, knowning that there was no way both bands would make the finals (and neither of us did.)

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 9:20 pm
by blomax
I am not even thinking about Memphis guys, though I would love the chance. And actually I might just take that week as a vacation and go whether competing or not. I just want to do my best show in Raleigh, get noticed, get some gigs for the band.
Thanks much for the replies, it means a lot especially knowing you guys have been there, done that. Blo

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Sat May 16, 2009 6:13 am
by gdudiv
blomax,
Then bring your A-Game to Raleigh. Show the crowd a great time. Make sure you're having the best time ever and that it shows to your audience. Nail your breaks. Do some coreography with bass player. Make the judges notice you, and believe themselves, that you guys are having the time of your lives. Be helpful to the other bands during the "battle." you'll gain a roomful of fans, and who knows - you might just represent Raleigh after it's all said and done.

that's how it's done by the classy guys and gals

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Sat May 16, 2009 12:33 pm
by jbone1
we entered as solo/duo in 2 local competitions last year. didn't win or place but over all it was invaluable for the friends we saw, new and old. we worked for several weeks to hone 5 original songs to just under 25 minutes. dressed like what we are, street/acoustic duo musicians. brought our own amps.
the first competition, we were 5 minutes late in the 1 hour show-up-early window and lost a few points for that. i also forgot my harp mic so had to blow through the vocal mic, which was not great but worked out ok. to my mind we did a perfect set of original blues songs, with feeling and conviction. we established a repoire with the audience and just had a great time. Jo was not well at the time- kidney stones, edema, and a couple other health issues- but she comported herself like a true professional and made me so proud. we brought our own monogrammed folding chairs and sat for the set. this is necessary because of Jo's health issues, and i think the judges didn't like it. oh well. i felt we were head and shoulders above most of our competition, but the 2 acts who won in the category were both electric, distorted to the point you couldn't hear the lyrics they were singing, and way too loud and fuzzy. but the judges knew what they liked so that was that. the important part for me though, was the chance to hang with old friends and make new ones, and we had several people come up and give us big props for doing real deal down and dirty blues.
the second competition was in a city an hour away. ironic but some of the folks from the first competition signed up for this one also. including us! in fact the harp guy from the winning band in little rock sat in with a different band in hot springs! which didn't win. Jo and i did the same set at the second competition, but in the third song, she popped a string, and there was no time to re-string. she was offered another guitar but declined. one of our little rock friends and fellow competitior got up with us and Jo sang while i backed her on harp. we came through a glitch fairly well, bit didn't carry off a win. the guy who helped us out DID win in the solo/duo and went on to memphis. he did some great original material and really made contact with the audience. i amost hate to say it but he earned his slot at least twice over.
a 4 piece band we'd made friends with at the first competition, their keyboard guy didn't show, so i sat in with them on harp for their set, and they won the slot! i had hopes of going to memphis with them but they took their keyboard guy instead, and oh well. we're still great friends and work together when we can. we're working on some gigs where we open for them and then do a big finale set all together. they are really good guys we may not have ever met if not for these competitions. over all these were bvery positive experiences and we plan to compete next year and in coming years as well.
take from this:
be on time!
dress like a pro and carry yourself like one
be a good sport no matter what
hone your set to fit
do originals or do stunning re-arrangements of covers
bring an extra guitar and try to be ready for a mini crisis. if it comes up handle it quickly and with grace
be prepared!!!
don't waste time between songs, rehearse the set until you have it on automatic (but play like you're 100% there)
take the position that it's a great opportunity to show love and respect to your peers
do all that, relax, and have a great time with it!

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Sat May 16, 2009 4:23 pm
by watertore
great replies! I went in the solo/duo as a 1 man band a couple years ago. I had a not so good time because what I do is not really condusive to the format. If you can fit into the above mentioned suggestions, it will be quite a time for sure. I spontaneously make all my stuff up as I go along and feed off the vibes around me. The competition is real. Don't let anyone fool you on that. People came from all over the world and had been rehearsing the same stuff to perfection musically and time wise for a lot of hours. To be on a clock and with the audience primarily made up of fans of the bands, makes it like a beauty pagent- lots of tension. I may try to get back again just for the challenge of letting go of all that stuff which will let my music flow. Walter

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 11:19 am
by jbone1
speaking of competitions:
i got a call from a friend who is in the teaching field. students at her school just won a state education challenge and need $$ for travel to d.c. for the national competition. one thing my friend put together to help fund that trip was a songwriter's showcase, which she invited Jo and me to attend. registration was by song, and we decided to do 3 songs for a total of $30.
so we loaded and rolled to the city it was taking place at, under an hour's drive away. there were a total of about 8 competitors signed up and some were doing 2 or 3 songs like us. we got to kick the whole thing off. did i mention this was all originals? the judging panel was a seasoned music biz guy who had worked in nashville for some years, an organizer of a songwriters' showcase in yet another city, and a student who was attending that school.
there were of course sound issues, no dedicated sound guy. that worked against several people but was not insurmountable. i finally asked the kid who'd set the p.a. up to ride herd on the board and make sure things got tweaked for each artist.
the material we brought was all good solid blues written by Jo and myself. we were the only blues entries there, and i feel like we were also the most seasoned not to say oldest entrants. we did a song at the start, then in the middle, and at the end. we worked flawlessly together, and the audience responded very well for us.
other competitors did well in some cases and not so well in others. one guy was doing folksy sort of comedy numbers, one of which was actually an old willie nelson song. there were several younger alt rockers there and a couple of them did very well with both the material they did and their presentations. one guy was straight up country, but very powerful, stark delivery, spare and raw lyrics over sparse and elemental guitar chords. he and a couple of others, like us, obviously had stage hours behind him, and a real conviction about what he was doing. and there were the tentative players/singers who just weren't sure what to do. maybe they needed more rehearsal or just more time in front of an audience.
so over about 3 hours we did our respective things and the judges did theirs. meanwhile some cash was raised for a good cause.

at the end, the judges sequestered in a room to themselves to score the whole thing out. after maybe 45 minutes, they handed out their picks for 1st, second, and 3rd place.

did i mention- and this may be a universal truth about songwriters contests?- the guide we were given was much more focused on the actual lyrics than on performance. so even though Jo and i had the biggest audience response, and we saw the one seasoned judge- the guy from nashville- tapping his foot and bobbing his head- we didn't win or place. instead, 3rd went to a half-comedian guy doing old willie nelson ripoffs, second went to the daughter of the organizer, and 1st actually went to a kid who had been writing for only 6 or 7 months. but the 1st place winner actually did very well and i have to respect his spirit and competence on both guitar and lyrics, let alone a decent delivery.

as we were leaving the nashville guy shook my hand and told me how much he enjoyed our music. wish i'd thought to hand him a business card but if he really is interested he can find us.

Jo was just plain livid about the whole thing. and she made some good points. so she is dead set against doing any more competitions, or at least not with that organizer involved. previous competitions we have been in affected her this way also to some extent. so at this point i'm guessing we won't be competing anyplace, any time soon.

myself, i feel like, so what, we didn't win or place. and we did, imho, some of the best music at this thing. but still, we had a great time together- until the end of the thing. we met some decent young musicians from the area, who we may or may not see again. and it was a nice day for a lil road trip too. now i always hope that something like this will get us a gig someplace and at some point. and it may, who knows. but it does seem like the negatives outweigh the positives at least at our house this time. which i am sad about. i try to remain philosophical about stuff like this.

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 12:17 pm
by NEONMOONY
I've seen "songwriting" competitions that went to the best vocalist. I was even in one that the contest itself was created for a particular person to win right from the getgo. However, we were able to perform in front of crowds that obviously liked our music nonetheless.

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 2:18 am
by DeFord Harp Slider
I think that a lot of music competitions are fixed.... My only experience was a " Harp Blow out" contest at a Mars Music Center ten years ago. The rules were to bring a CD and your harps and they would supply a Green Bullet and Blues Junior..... When it started, it turned out that 3 guys had brought a guitarist and one of them brought a trick microphone and a very enhanced Blues Junior.... Guess who 1ST through 3Rd place winners were.... The judges were officers in a local harmonica club, the guys were members and students of one of the judges.... The guy with the trick gear took 1ST and would have if he had shown up with a Hohner GLH and nothing else.... The other 2 were very good, but there were other guys there (and one in particular) that played better.... I didn't play well at all that day. :oops:

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 3:25 am
by watertore
the truth of the matter is industry people know who they want to see when going to things like the IBC. They rarely venture out to see "unknowns". I have played the New Music Seminar in NYC, the South by Southwest in Austin (3 times cause I lived there 12 years) and the IBC. Who will win the IBC IMO is an unknown, but the industry people that attend know where they are going all week. An example is when I played, the people from Jefferson Blues Mag were in town to recieve an award. they are based out of sweeden and are I belive, the oldest blues mag. They reviewed one of my albums back around 1982 and came to my show to see what I was up to. That is a typical scenario. I think DC blues was there when they were. Walter.

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 3:32 am
by watertore
hi jbone: Sorry to hear about your experience. These competitions can wear you out. I guess if you can truely let go of all expectations, it will be a good time. I am hoping to get back to Memphis before I die and just be me and not let the stresses all around bother me. Walter

Re: IBC BLUES CHALLENGE Experience

PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 6:33 am
by Slim
To me, I don't get musical competitions. WHose to say good better and best. Not to say I don't like to see some guitarists cutting heads (but that is a different thing altogether) but I just don't get a musical competition.