Some of the best in local blues music – solo acts, duos and bands – will be gathering at Jazzbones on June 2 for the South Sound Blues Association’s (SSBA) Eighth Annual Back to Beale Street Blues Preliminary Competition. This showcase is different from any other music event in the South Sound, and the public is invited to come out and enjoy it for a steal of a price: $10 general admission, $8 for SSBA members and active duty military, and kids under 12 get in free. The music begins at 4 p.m.
Three solo/duo acts and seven bands are lined up to hit the stage and give it their all at this judged competition in which the competitors will get 25 minutes to show their stuff. A three-judge panel (kept under wraps until the contest) will rate the acts on an established set of criteria: talent, vocals, blues content, originality and showmanship. The solo/duo act winner will be announced that evening, and the top four bands will advance to the finals at the Tacoma Freedom Fair and Air Show on July 4 on the Duke’s Chowder House Blues Stage. Winners in both categories will then go on to the International Blues Challenge held on Beale Street in Memphis in January 2014.
The International Blues Challenge is the largest gathering of blues bands in the world. Bands and solo/duo acts from more than 10 countries are chosen to represent their states and countries. Last year more than 125 bands and 75 solo/duo acts competed. Each band performs in front of an international panel of music industry professionals who judge the event.
Gary Grape is CEO/president of SSBA. He said Back to Beale Street has grown in popularity to the extent that it’s standing-room-only at Jazzbones, so those who plan at attend this years contest will want to arrive early to get a good seat.
“Since we started in 2005 it’s grown each year,” Grape said. “The last couple of years we peaked out for attendance.”
The preliminary line-up for Jazzbones is as follows:
4-4:20 p.m. – Blue Mud, a duo with the strong and sassy blues vocals of Mary McPage (of Mary McPage and the Assassins) and guitarist Jevon Powell with whom McPage has made music for more than 10 years.
4:30-4:50 p.m. – Bob McCluskey, an avid blues harmonica performer who is also the longtime general manager of KLAY radio.
5-5:20 p.m. – Arthur Migliazza, a recent transplant from
Tuscon recognized throughout country as a leading boogie woogie keyboardist. He’s been inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame and was a finalist in the 2010 International Blues Challenge in Memphis.
5:35-6 p.m. – Delta 88’s, a five-piece blues band featuring the powerhouse voice of Tery Bishop.
6:15-6:40 p.m. – Randy Oxford Band featuring a new configuration of band mates, some new and some veterans. This band was a past finalist at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.
6:55-7:20 p.m. – Blues County Sheriff, a solid, old-school, local tavern style blues band from Olympia (think Muddy Waters and BB King).
7:35-8 p.m. – Crazy Texas Gypsies are Billy Barner and Doug Skoog (of Blues Redemption) with Kenny Williams and Kevin Fraser, all seasoned players.
8:15-8:40 p.m. – Cody Rentas Band, a young soul among the blues scene in the Pacific Northwest. Rentas has made it to the finals in Back to Beale Street a few times, but hasn’t won it all yet.
8:55-9:20 p.m. – Palmer Junction. With three different singers, dual lead guitars and one of the best rhythm sections around, Palmer Junction plays a “new style” of blues with more of a cutting edge. This popular young band made the finals at Freedom Fair last year.
9:35-10 p.m. – The RoadDogz, a very popular and solid blues band that’s been around for a long time. Their Facebook page says it best: “The RoadDogz are a fun, festive, full service live band extravaganza. Combining the best of danceable classics, rockin' blues and smoky soul, The RoadDogz stand out on the Seattle blues scene. These dogs may look a little grizzled, but on stage they play like pups: fun to watch with an irresistible rompin' sound.”