The blues is one of the older genres of pop music and a foundation for a generation of rock ’n’ rollers, many of whom are now rock legends, and it continues to inspire aspiring bluesmen and blueswomen of all ages. Though you might not hear a lot of blues in much of the machinated mainstream pop music on the radio, chances are, on any given weekend night, there is at least one (probably decent) blues band jamming on a small stage in a small bar in your town.
Starting at noon today, blues fans will have a one-stop shop of local artists as the North East Ohio Blues Association holds its third annual Blues Challenge at The Eagles in Jackson Township.
The nonprofit NEOBA was founded as a labor of love by a group of blues fans in 2006. The group holds monthly meetings at venues throughout Northeast Ohio and is an active supporter of several blues-related educational and arts programs, including Kent State’s Blues in Schools and the Canton and Kent blues festivals.
In 2011, NEOBA became one of more than 200 official affiliates of the Blues Foundation. For three decades, the Memphis foundation has held an annual International Blues Challenge, which every winter invites winners of regional “battle of the bands” competitions to perform in venues around Memphis. All compete for the grand prize in blues band and solo/duo blues for cash, prizes and industry recognition.
For this year’s regional round, 13 area acts will compete for the privilege of going to Memphis. The contestants are judged on criteria including blues content, vocal talent, instrumental skills, originality (taking into account that nearly every blues band plays at least a few covers) and stage presence.
This year's judges are Canton Blues Festival Chairman Bob Bowers; producer/musician Jeff Alviani; recording artist Deb Landolt; Hudson’s Blue Rock Cafe co-owner Matt Lerner; and audio engineer and Kent State University Stark Campus assistant music professor Jeffrey Tackett.
The 2013 International Blues Festival in January played host to 233 entrants from around the globe (48 bands and 28 solo performers). Last year’s NEOBA winners, the Brighter Side Band and singer/guitarist Colin John, who is competing again this year, made it to the semifinals of the IBC. NEOBA was one of only 10 Blues Foundation affiliates to have more than one artist make it beyond the first round.
Tickets are $12, $10 for NEOBA or Eagles members. The Eagles is at 6979 Sunset Strip Ave. NW, Jackson Township. Find out more at www.bluesneoba.org or call 330-877-3913.
Blues Challenge schedule
Here is the schedule:
Noon: Doors open.
12:30 p.m.: The Michael Weber Show (Cuyahoga Falls) — 15-year-old guitar phenom backed by area veterans.
1 p.m.: Dan Holt (Mentor) — Singer/songwriter/guitarist and 20-year touring and recording artist.
1:30 p.m.: Rooster Jones Band (Akron) — Big power-soul female-fronted blues, rock and soul sextet with a splash of funk.
2 p.m.: Luther Trammell (Elyria) — Akron-bred singer/guitarist.
2:30 p.m.: Real Deal Blues Band (Cleveland) — Sextet with a classic blues rock sound, dual guitar attack and harmonica.
3 p.m.: Big Daddy & the Hoodoo Men (Akron) — Hard-grooving quartet of area veterans with decades of live music experience, including opening for Johnny Winter and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
3:30 p.m.: Blues in Schools performance.
4 p.m.: The Juke Hounds (Akron) — A quartet augmented by a horn section, with dirty ol’ school blues guitar sound, some funky grooves and a sense of humor.
4:30 p.m.: Paul Borger (Chagrin Falls) — Singer and finger-picking guitarist who won the 2011 NEOBA solo performer category.
5 p.m.: Memphis Cradle (Akron) — Very electric, blues-rock power trio that won the 2011 NEOBA band challenge and made it to the semifinals at the 2012 IBC.
5:30 p.m.: James Baker (Canton) — Singer and acoustic and slide guitar player who performs in area coffeehouses and festivals around the state.
6 p.m.: Conway Brothers Trio (Tallmadge) — Talented band of young blues and funk lovers that formed in February.
6:30 p.m.: Colin John (Aurora) — Local favorite and fine electric and acoustic/slide guitarist and singer who won the NEOBA's 2012 solo challenge and made it to the semifinals at the 2013 IBC in Memphis.
7 p.m.: Rogues Hollow Blues Band (Doylestown) — A trio with a classic-rock flavor to their blues.
7:30 p.m.: Closing remarks and results.
8 p.m.: The Brighter Side Band (evening show) — Last year's group winner who made it to the 2013 IBC semifinals.