Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"...For The First Time In IBC History..."

Those were the most beautiful words uttered on Saturday night. It’s when we knew

Before I get to all the excitement, my apologies for this being so late. After the band finals, we raced home for the guys to change, then out to dinner, then back to Beale Street, then up Sunday for breakfast, packing, and a twenty-hour trip home. I’ve been off line. And now I have a cold.

Ok, back to Saturday. As the guys went to the stage door to check in, Rose and I waited out in the cold for the box office to open, planning on purchasing tickets then going off somewhere on Beale St. for a coffee or something. However, after said purchase, we entered the lovely Orpheum Theater and saw the crowd. We amended our decision, found two seats, again within line of sight of the judges, and settled in for the next four and a half hours. It went by in a flash.

The LYB was sixth on the line up, and since I’d only heard one of the bands besides the LYB, I had no idea what to expect. The first five bands were all deserving of the finals, but after thirty plus years of listening to this most soulful music, I knew none of them had that special “thing” that the LYB brings seemingly sans effort. The fourth band, Rob Blaine's Big Otis Blues - Windy City Blues Society, gave me some concern. Mr. Blaine is one hell of a shredder, and the crowd loved him. (They ended up placing 3rd, and Mr. Blaine was awarded the Most Promising Guitarist, receiving a guitar and Category 5 amp, one of the most coveted amps on the planet.)

If I might digress for a moment, one of the more surprising things was the utter lack of wardrobe effort expended by most of the finals bands. The LYB suffered from no such lack. They looked great in their red and black, with Lionel in a white blazer. In a display of solidarity, I wore red and black stockings. Given the temperature of the day, ‘twas a comfort sacrifice indeed, but hey, we all have to suffer for art’s sake.

So, after five good bands, Rose and I sat breathless in anticipation, holding hands, huddled next to each other, filled with excitement. The LYB took the stage, stood motionless for a few seconds, and then hit it. Once again, from downbeat to the final note, they enraptured the audience, innately knowing what to do when. The rhythmic flow of that set was perfection.

Lionel always has a great report with his audience, and he typically roams the room. When Rose and I entered the Orpheum, I took one look at the height of the stage and thought, “No way. It’s too high.” I was wrong. Fortunately. Here’s the last two minutes of their penultimate number.

Nice, no? And then the secret weapon. They had the foresight to close with a ballad, no, THE ballad. “Bring it on Home.” All of the other bands ended with big, uptempo numbers. Our boys concluded leaving that audience wanting more and more and more. Here, see for yourselves (although the videographer came in a few seconds late)...[you can also view in video window to the right.]

That applause you hear was accompanied by a thunderous standing ovation, with Rose and I jumping up and down, screaming our little heads off. We had been watching the judges throughout the set, and they were held in rapt attention along the rest of the 2500 or so people there. We still had two bands to go, but I was certain. However, I was also really excited to hear the final band, the Mary Bridget Davies Group, as I have them booked at the Outlook for April 28th. Mark your calendars, because after their set, Rose and I got worried. I found out later, the guys were concerned too. She’s got the pipes, kids! I still believed the LYB had the edge, but I could have easily forgiven the judges had the MBDG taken the prize.

After the last set, it was hurry up and wait time. Rose and I mingled with the Colorado Constituency (we were a large and vocal lot), nervously checking the time, pacing, giggling, anything to dispel our nervous energy. Then I had a wonderful surprise: Blues Foundation Deputy Director, Joe Witmer came out with the aforementioned guitar and Cat 5 amp, then introduced two former Most Promising Guitarists winners who were going to simultaneously play said guitar. Out comes my good friend, Jonn Richardson who sits on a chair, while another friend, Sean Carney stood behind him as they both played for a couple of minutes, four hands on that lucky guitar. I was at the front of the stage, and when Jonn saw me, the smile he delivered warmed me to my marrow. It’s been well over a year since we’d seen each other, and fortunately we had some time to catch up after the announcements.

After that, Joe announced the 2011 MPG winner, Rob Blaine, who played his new guitar on his new amp for a minute or so. Keep that name in mind; this kid’s going places.

Then, the winners. As I mentioned before, Rob Blaine’s band took third place. By this time, Rose and I were beside ourselves, arms around each other, with Chick and Patti, Scott, Heidi, and various other LYB fans all huddled together. When Joe announced the Mary Bridget Davies Group as second place, the Colorado Constituency exploded. We knew. Mary spoke for a few minutes (a little cutie pie, that one; our room is going to love her), teary eyed and adorable.

Then Joe re-approached the mic and uttered those most beautiful words, “For the first time in IBC History...” and again an explosion. We were so loud that he had to stop talking for a few seconds. At one point he looked down at me with a look that suggested, “Will you please shut up so I can continue.” I shook my head no. There was no stopping any of us in our screaming applause. Chick and Patti were both crying, while Rose and I jumped, screamed and hugged. Joe then realized he was simply going to have to talk louder. “For the first time in IBC history, someone has won in both the solo and band divisions [I’m paraphrasing]. From the Colorado Blues Society, the 2011 winners of the International Blues Challenge Band Division, the Lionel Young Band.” It was pretty much anticlimactic as we already knew. However, we reloaded our lungs and kept screaming. I then turned around and saw the entire theater on their feet. We weren’t the only ones screaming.

After a bit of celebrating with our friends, old and new, Rose and I headed out to the stage door to congratulate our guys. The sidewalk outside the stage door was packed with well wishers and all of the other musicians, so we were able to extend our congratulations to all, and I got a chance to speak with Mary Bridget. As I said above, she’s adorable and she can’t wait to play the Outlook. When I first saw her, she was on the phone with her mother, still teary eyed and excited. Hers is another name to keep in mind. We’ll all be hearing a lot more from this tremendous talent. A lot more.

While we waited for the LYB to emerge, Jonn came out and presented me with a gigantic bear hug. I just adore that man! He also really wants to come back to the Outlook, so I’m working on setting something up for him.

As the crowd thinned, I called Bob Margolin. I’d already sent him a text with the news, but wanted to talk to him all the same. He told me he wanted the entire band to play a couple of numbers at the Rum Boogie, and I assured him we would be there.

So, we collect everyone, head back to Heidi’s for a wardrobe change (my legs were freezing, so I had to forego the stockings for the second half of the evening). Our new friend, Rattlebone Jones, came by and said, “We’re going to dinner.” We then went to this wonderful barbecue place with Rattlebone, his wife, Amy, and their two boys, Babybone (3) and Soupbone (3 months). Those aren’t their legal names, but that’s how they’re known. They are a lovely family, and I can assure that they will remain in all of our lives. When true connections are made, they are undeniable and absolute. Between Heidi and Rattlebone Jones, we had the inside track to the city of Memphis and the kind of hospitality that gives the South a good name.

After dinner, we said our temporary goodbyes to the Rattlebone family, and headed back to Beale Street to the Rum Boogie. As we entered, I saw the TUF kids on stage, wrapping up their set before Bob was to start his famous jam. For those of you who might not know this, Danielle Schnebelen is obviously pregnant, due in early May. It was wonderful to see them, all hugs and smiles. Then, I headed back to the table Kim had secured and saw him talking with Bob. I hadn’t seen Bob yet, so I ran over for hellos and hugs. He only had a minute to chat, then the jam began. He had Matt Hill on bass, and now I know how much fun the Shipless Blues Cruise is going to be. Matt is wonderfully insane, and a fantastic entertainer. Yes, he’s great on guitar, great voice, etc., but it’s his audience report that is mind boggling. He’s a ridiculous charmer, and the women love him. All ages.

The LYB then got up and gave us two great numbers, then Bob came back to the stage, kept Lionel up and brought up Nick Schnebelen (TUF). Great music!

Before that however, as the LYB was tuning, Bob began talking about “This great Blues venue in Boulder, Colorado.” He talked about the Shipless Blues Cruise, and then introduced me to the audience. Several people asked for my card and more info on the Shipless, so who knows, we might have Memphis Constituency.

I’ve been home now for just over 48 hours, and still in a state of bliss. There were tense moments as well as joyful, frustration along with confidence, disappointment (The Incident) and satisfaction. But even so, ultimately we had nine tremendous days of continuity, all there for each other no matter what. And no matter what, we are a family. I’m so very proud of my family. Some of the other family members I ran into include John-Alex Mason, Eddie Turner, Kate Moss (Nick Moss’ wife, not the English model), Nic Clarke, Taylor Marvin, Big Jim Adam and John Stilwagon, Hawkeye Herman, Jonn Richardson, Byron Cage, and Willie Panker. I know I’m forgetting someone, and I beg forgiveness. It’s all still a whirlwind of beauty in my mind’s eye. I don’t know if the events of those remarkable days will ever settle into an excepted reality. In part, I hope not.

One more thing; after the finals announcement, I was walking through the lobby to go out to the stage door, when I saw Heidi point to me and say, “Here she is right now.” She introduced me to Vinny “Bond” Marini, the host for a radio program, Music on the Couch, which airs on Monday nights at 9:00 p.m. Central time. He had a cancellation for this past Monday night’s show, and wondered if I could arrange a phone-in with Lionel and whatever band members might be available. Knowing we were expecting to be home Monday a.m., I told him I’d do my best. I managed to set it up, and Lionel, Jay, Kim and Dexter all phoned in for the hour plus interview. It’s wonderful, and you can listed to it here. This was their first post-win interview, and you can hear the joy in all of them. Hit the link and scroll down to the IBC interview:

Thank you all for joining me on the journey. I’ve had a lot of feedback, with most stating that they felt like they were on the road with us. And on that note, all I can say is, you were all on the road with us. We took your genuine good wishes with us. I hope you had a good time. We sure did.

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