I enjoyed being one of the three who judged one of the two nights at the Hard Rock Cafe venue on Beale Street, despite having to sit in a non-cushioned chair for hours. I had a different judging style than my two fellow, out-of-town judges, who treated their scorecards for each act like a top secret CIA dossier and who made almost no comments out loud. Hell, I wanted them to know what I thought about each act. They were probably just less confident in their blues judgment.
After the results for my venue became known to me, I started questioning the methodology used to select the winners. Each of several venues has something like eight bands that play two nights in succession in the same venue, and the acts are scored by a different set of three judges each of the two nights. Perhaps there is some thought to prevent the two sets of judges from interacting; but if that is the intent, why not have six judges one night, seated apart in the club instead of at the same table as we were? I'd rather interact with all the judges judging the bands at a venue. Sometimes I feel like influencing, be it in the positive or negative direction; and I listen to see if someone has seen or heard something I missed.
I put this in the post-competition survey of judges. I don't think I want to judge a venue the same way next time. I'd be happy to judge the finals, because the panels are not split and judging two different performances on two different nights. I discussed this with a local entertainment writer and musician who also said he didn't want to judge this thing anymore because of being blindsided by other judges' completely contradictory opinions of what a good blues band sounds, looks, and acts like.
Anyway, here are the snaps I took of what I had as the second best band of the venue, and they could have struck me as THE best on another night. They were more of a soul blues band than the others, which is certainly a concept that is popular in Memphis. In fact, the band in the pictures could play at Wild Bill's, and no one would gripe one bit. Researching these guys for this post, I see the drummer and guitar player are veterans of Buckwheat Zydeco's band, so see, I could hear the quality without knowing the bio. Dig it! The Inner City Blues Band! (MySpace site) (band site) (their CD)
Yes, that's a real zoot suit the horn player has on. Here it is closer up.
The guitar player was terrific. Again, I liked one other guitarist just a tiny bit better, but that was a close call. Check this guy out:
Here's my scorecard for this outfit, they were really fine. I had 'em second, but it was close, and maybe I should have reversed my top two.
Some of you are asking, "Who was the band you thought deserved to be first over this band?" Shawn Curle & the 44's. (band site) (Shawn's account on MySpace) I guess I was just a fool for who I thought had the best playing guitar player that night. A major touring act that needs an ace guitar player (like the guy in the other band, Nick Sonye, who goes out with Buckwheat) ought to hire Shawn and relieve him of having to field his own band and carry vocals and just make him use that electric guitar vocabulary and the great technique and tone on semi-hollowbody he showed me a piece of that night. There are a lot of videos of Shawn on YouTube, but what makes me a bit sad is that he has evidently not gotten the production, direction, and focus sufficient to show off his strength. Oh hell, this one is pretty representative sonically (yeah, only it has disappeared, so I had to substitute another one):
You wanna see and hear how the band that made it into the finals from the Hard Rock sounded and looked like the night I judged? Found a video of that too. See what I mean? You wanna see the finals performance of the band that won?