July 4 at the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival — you know it’s going to be packed to the extreme. People coming for the great musical line-up and the fireworks staking their claim of space in the bowl right from the gate’s opening in the morning. But once you have found your ground for the day, make it a point to head directly to the far north end of the festival, to the Front Porch Stage, to witness one of the greatest and most fun happenings of the festival every year, the Cascade Blues Association’s competition, Journey To Memphis finals. Four bands will be competing to claim the right to travel to Memphis Tennessee this coming January to take part in the world-renown International Blues Challenge, which can lead to international recognition and prizes including spots at many high-profile festivals and venues.
The 2016 Journey To Memphis began in early June when eighteen acts performed before a set of judges at The Rose Room over two nights. And those acts fielded one of the strongest line-ups in the history of this event. They were: Beacon Street Titans, Ben Rice Band, CD Woodbury Band, David Brothers, David Pinsky, Eric Sugar Larsen Group, Holfar Blue, Joanne Broh Band, JT Wise Band, Julie Amici, Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers, Randy Morrison’s Party Bus, Rogue Rage Duo, The England Trio, The Thunder Brothers, Tim Connor, Timothy James, and William “Froggy” Hyland. Each played twenty minutes with the top two highest scores from each night moving on to the finals at the Waterfront Blues Festival.
The event mimics the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in its structure, with each act being scored in five categories: blues content, talent – vocals, talent – instrumentation, originality, and stage presence. Our judges for the first round were three adept individuals with a wealth in backgrounds of music education, theory, promotion, teaching and performance: Darlene Solomon-Rogers (aka Blacque Butterfly), John Jaqua, and Herb Kanne.
Starting at 11:30 am on July 4 on the Front Porch Stage, the four finalists will perform twenty-five minute sets before three new judges. Each act has its own distinct style and all are powerful and exciting. They are: Beacon Street Titans, Ben Rice Band, Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers, and The Thunder Brothers.
Congratulations to David Pinsky, who will represent the Cascade Blues Association in Memphis as our solo/duo entry. Each affiliated blues society of The Blues Foundation is allowed to send a band, a solo/duo and a youth act to the International Blues Challenge. As our highest scoring solo/duo act over the two nights at The Rose Room, David has won the right to participate in Tennessee. Timothy James as the only under-age act of the competition has been invited to take part in the Youth Showcase in Memphis.
This will be the Cascade Blues Association’s eighteenth year been sending acts to the International Blues Challenge for eighteen years and holding the Journey To Memphis competition for seventeen. A few of the acts that we have sent include Junkyard Jane, Robbie Laws, Bill Rhoades & The Party Kings featuring Michael Osborn, Franco Paletta & The Stingers, Ty Curtis Band, multi-Blues Music Award nominee Karen Lovely, and two –time Blues Music Award winner Lisa Mann.
Set times for this year’s Journey To Memphis Finals are as follows:
11:30 – The Thunder Brothers
12:10 – Beacon Street Titans
12:50 – Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers
1:30 – Ben Rice Band