Alex Shansky

International Blues Challenge

by Samantha Crespo

For over 33 years, the Memphis-based Blues Foundation has hosted the International Blues Challenge (IBC). The challenge builds in communities around the world, where affiliate blues societies host regional competitions to crown their strongest talents. It’s these regional winners who are invited to compete in the IBC, making it the world’s largest gathering of blues musicians—routinely involving more than 250 bands, solo acts and duos.

You don’t have to be a groupie or a blues scholar, or spend a lot of cash, to listen in to the IBC. But for beginners, the simple tips that follow go a long way. Mark your calendar for January 22- 26, 2019, and we’ll see you on Beale Street.

When and where to listen

  • International Showcase,: The volume cranks up, and crowds swell, as the days of the challenge rock on. If you’re looking for a low-key experience, the International Showcase on opening night makes a good orientation—not only to the IBC, but to Beale Street. This is your chance to hear how musicians from Australia to Colombia to Italy interpret the blues, and to experience 10 different Beale Street venues where they’ll be performing. Trumpet player in Memphis
  • Quarterfinals: As the first night of the quarterfinals, this should be another easy time to come and go. All you’ll need is a wristband, available for purchase on Beale Street, to hop between the host venues.
  • Youth Showcase: Thursday and Friday of the IBC promise to be the busiest on Beale and inside its clubs. Get an early start Friday with the Youth Showcase at Hard Rock Café. Musicians ages 21 and under will perform for a room of talent scouts, journalists and you, as long as you arrive in time to nab a seat and a wristband. And with that, you might as well stay for the night’s semifinals.
  • Finals: Doors open early for the grand finale event at Memphis’ historic Orpheum Theatre—no club-hopping required. Tickets are available at the door on a first come, first served basis.

In addition to the events I’ve shared here, the IBC will present jams, panels and meet-ups for blues affiliate members, and the annual Keeping the Blues Alive Awards. Check back for the full schedule and additional ticketing options, including a package deal pass.   

Between sessions, you'll be able to visit The Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame. Any casual blues fan or music-lover will want to make this part of their Memphis itinerary.

Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis

SCHEDULE 

JANUARY 22

35th Annual IBC Kickoff
6 p.m. at Club 152

11th Annual Generation Blues Jam
8 p.m. at Rum Boogie Café

JANUARY 23 

Sylvie Bosc book signing
Noon at the Blues Hall of Fame Museum 
This event is free and open to the public

Bruce Iglauer book signing 
3:15 p.m. at the Blues Hall of Fame Museum
This event is free and open to the public 

International Blues Challenge Quarterfinals, Round 1 
5 p.m. at various clubs on Beale Street
An IBC pass or wristband is required for entry 

JANUARY 24

Blues Yoga Class
9:00amat The Blues Hall of Fame Museum
IBC Pass required for entry

Great Canadian Polar Bear Blues Showcase
11:30 a.m. at Kooky Canuck Restaurant
Open to the public

The Official Documentary of the IBC — “Two Trains Runnin'”
1 p.m. at Blues City Café
An IBC pass is required for entry

Blues master classes 
2 p.m. at various venues on Beale Street 
An IBC pass is required for entry

International Blues Challenge Quarterfinals, Round 2
5 p.m. at various clubs on Beale Street
An IBC pass or wristband is required for entry

All Star Jam
After IBC Competition Ends until Late at Club 152
IBC Pass or wristband required for entry

International Jam
After IBC Competition Ends until Late at Tin Roof
IBC Pass or wristband required for entry

BratGirlmedia Guitar Conspiracy
After IBC Competition Ends until Late at Rum Boogie Cafe
Proceeds to benefit Generation Blues
IBC Pass or wristband required for entry

JANUARY 25  

IBC keynote panel: 'The Blues and Race'
2:30 p.m. at Alfred’s
An IBC pass is required for entry

Youth showcases
5 p.m. at various clubs on Beale Street
An IBC pass is required for entry

International Blues Challenge Semifinals
6:20 p.m. at various clubs on Beale Street
An IBC pass or wristband is required for entry

Youth Jam
After IBC Competition Ends until Late at B.B. King's Blues Club
IBC Pass or wristband required for entry

All Star Jam
After IBC Competition Ends until Late at Club 152
IBC Pass or wristband required for entry

Bob Margolin Presents VizzTone’s Blues Party on Beale
After IBC Competition Ends until Late at Rum Boogie Cafe
Proceeds to benefit Generation Blues
IBC Pass or wristband required for entry

Tas Cru’s Blues Jam
After IBC Competition Ends until Late at Blues Hall Juke Joint
IBC Pass or wristband required for entry

United by Music North America AllStar Showcase and ProJam
After IBC Competition Ends until Late at Alfred's
IBC pass or wristband required for entry

JANUARY 26 

International Blues Challenge Finals 
Noon at the Orpheum Theatre
An IBC pass or single finals ticket is required for entry

International Blues Competition
2018 IBC Recap
DittyTV at the 2019 IBC