Monday, June 18, 2012

The International Blues Challenge 2012

Sorry I've been absent but living has taken over my life a bit. Last year I switched jobs and now work extremely close to home and have significantly less stress which allowed me to play quite a bit of music. That is probably the main reason for my absence; I traded one creative outlet for another. One band I play with, The Lefty Collins Band, was entered in to the 2012 International Blues Challenge this past February in Memphis, Tennessee.  Please allow me to recap that for you.

Members of the Lefty Collins Band and 2Blu (the duo winners
from B'ham) on historic Beale Street.

In July of 2011 The Lefty Collins Band wins the Magic City Blues Society's Battle of the Blues Bands. It was Lefty's second time to win but he brought on a new bass player and and new sideman on harmonica (Me) so it was basically a new band. Our main prize was for the MCBS to sponsor our trip to the IBC's. It was an easy trip straight up the future I-22 corridor for me and we made it in about 4 hours from the extreme west side of Jefferson County, Alabama.

When we arrived on a Tuesday I was surprised at the size of historic Beale Street. Not that it was bigger than I had expected but smaller! I had a Bourbon Street sized image pictured in my minds eye. Lots of BBQ joints though and plenty of music. After we ate at one of the IBC venues, The Pig on Beale, I asked our drummer David if it was just me or did we have better BBQ in Alabama. He assured me that it was definitely not the best pork he'd had, so I knew I wasn't being a snob. The bun was so soft it didn't make it through 4 or 5 bites and the meat was ordinary but good. I guess I just expected all Memphis BBQ to blow me away.

The Orpheum Theatre from dress circle.
The next day we had a small orientation and got our venue assignment and times for Wednesday (that evening) and Thursday which are both quarter final days. We were at Wet Willie's with 2 bands from Canada and one from South Africa! All the bands were really good but only a few made it to the semi-final round on Friday and The Lefty Collins Band was one of them. The Magic City represented! Now we just had to play our best again to see who would go on to the finals at the Orpheum Theatre on Saturday.

Friday we went to lunch at Charles Vergo's Rendezvous. It was the BBQ we had waited for. I had seen it featured on the Food Network and had heard so much from others that I hoped that it lived up to the hype. So we got seated right away downstairs and they started us on complementary red beans and rice (which I hear was unusual). I opted for a small order of ribs ($14.95) which comes with beans and slaw. Let me tell you: it. was. awe. some. Totally lived up to the hype and I really can't wait to go back. If you go to Memphis and don't go to the Rendezvous you're doing yourself an injustice.

Backstage at the Orpheum.
Then it came time to play the semi-final round with other bands we'd played with all week and one new band from South Florida. The talent in that room was unbelievable, but only one band in Wet Willie's could make it through. That one band was your hometown boys, The Lefty Collins Band! The band is made up of Lefty Collins (Gadsden, AL) on lead vocals, guitar and songwriting duties; David Green (Jacksonville, AL) on drums and backing vocals; Barry Wasserman (Helena, AL) on bass and backing vocals; and yours truly Andrew Brasfield (Dora, AL) on harmonica and backing vocals. The Orpheum was amazing. It was similar to the Alabama Theatre but I'd say it's a bit more plush. We finished somewhere between 4th and 9th though we like to tell everyone we came in 4th.

Here are a few band's that I met along the way and I think you should consider buying their music or at least giving them a try.

24th Street Wailers (Toronto)

2 Blu (Birmingham)

Mikey Junior and the Stone Cold Blues Band (Northeast US)

You can also find The Lefty Collins Band on CD Baby or Amazon for physical or digital copies and iTunes, of course.

Here's a video of us in the semi-final round:
Special thanks to David Brunswick for the video!

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