For over 35 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 200 bands, solo acts and duos. Get down to Beale Street January 16-20, 2024 to hear some of the greatest blues musicians from around the world and remember: 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.
Stay tuned for more event details to come but take a peak below at the 2023 lineup of events to get an idea of what the International Blues Challenge is all about.
- Opening Night & International Showcases (Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023): 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 the different Beale Street venues where they’ll be performing.
Quarterfinals Rounds One & Two (Wednesday, Jan. 25 - Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023): Head to various venues up and down world-famous Beale Street to see the genre's best compete for a spot in the IBC finals. All you’ll need is a wristband, available for purchase on Beale Street, to hop between the host venues.
- Youth Showcase & Semifinals (Friday, Jan. 27): Friday of the IBC promise to be the busiest on Beale and inside its clubs. Get an early start with the Youth Showcase. 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 (Saturday, Jan. 28): 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.
ARTISTS TO LISTEN FOR
Keep an eye on this growing list of musicians who are performing at the 2023 International Blues Challenge. In the meantime, listen to Southern Avenue, the Grammy-nominated soul and roots band out of Memphis (and a previous IBC finalist!).
BLUES MUSIC AWARDS, BLUES HALL OF FAME & Other To-Dos Between Sets
The IBC will also present workshops, seminars, keynote speakers and book signings as part of the 2023 event. Kick off your IBC experience with the Tas Cru's 12th Annual Generation Blues Jam on Jan. 24 at Rum Boogie Café, and be sure to check out the full 2023 IBC schedule.
Between sessions of the IBC, you'll also 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.