Blues fans from around the world will be Memphis-bound in early 2018, as the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge will not only feature neck-shredding competition, but will also have other events with artists like Steve Van Zandt, John Oates, Eric Gales, Doug MacLeod, Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin and Ronnie and Wayne Baker Brooks.
The International Showcase will kick the party off Jan. 16 at 5 p.m., but the main draw for the 34th incarnation of the International Blues Challenge will obviously be the competition, which begins Jan. 17 and will be held throughout 21 different venues on the city’s iconic Beale Street. The finals will be held at the Orpheum Theatre on Jan. 19 at noon.
There are five categories for the competition: best band, best solo/duo act, best band guitarist, best solo/duo guitarist, and best harmonica player.
Wristband tickets to the Tuesday and Wednesday performances run $10, the Thursday and Friday shows cost $15, and a seat for the finals costs $55. Passes for the full week are priced at $100, though there is also premier seating available at an increased price.
Besides the competition The Blues Foundation is organizing is a bevy of other events for genre enthusiasts to enjoy.
John Oates is hosting a book signing and conversation at the Blues Hall of Fame museum Jan. 17. He is promoting his autobiography “Change of Seasons” and the album Arkansas, which was originally a tribute to Mississippi John Hurt. The event is open to the public and organizers are teasing a potential performance of several songs.
Little Steven Van Zandt is participating in the Blues and Social Action panel Jan. 18, which will also feature Jim Pugh of the Little Village Foundation and Dr. Janice Johnston of the Blues Foundation board.
Eric Gales, LaDonna Gales, Doug Macleod and Lance Lopez will all participate in the keynote panel for the event, titled “AAB: Addiction, Abuse, and the Blues” Jan. 19.
There will be a “Keeping the Blues Alive Awards” luncheon Jan. 19 to honor the 12 individuals and orgs receiving honors from the Foundation. Tickets to that event run $50.
Ronnie and Wayne Baker Brooks will be speaking to honor their father Lonnie Brooks at the Blues Hall of Fame on Jan. 18. Lonnie died in April this year.
There will be a screening of the documentary “Shake ‘Em on Down: The Blues According to Fred McDowell” and a conversation with filmmaker Scott Baretta Jan. 18.
Master Classes are being held Jan. 18 at different Beale Street venues, to be taught by Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin, Doug Macleod, Bob Corritore, Danny Banks and Russell Jackson. There will also be other showcases and jam sessions throughout the week.