Houstonians Place High In International Blues Contest
Updated at 5:25 p.m. with Orq's account of the weekend.
This past week, Ezra Charles & the Works and The Mighty Orq, both long-running pillars of the local blues scene, each represented Houston and the Houston Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. The week-long competition brought in 110 performers from all over the world to compete in both the semifinal and final rounds.
Charles & the Works and Orq both advanced after winning their respective categories, Best Band and Best Solo/Duo, at the HBS-sponsored regional event last fall at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar. Charles says the IBC has grown into such an international event that a special showcase was created to allow groups from overseas to test their chops with a song or two the night before the contest actually begins.
"This was mostly amusing because their performances sounded so authentic, but their in-between-song patter was in their native dialects," the pianist (right) said via email earlier Monday, singling out Norway's Urban Blues Band for its specialization in the Texas-style blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and others.
Charles & the Works wound up competing against the Urban Blues Band in the IBC's first round, held last Wednesday and Thursday at 11 Memphis clubs. Charles' band was assigned to B.B. King's famous namesake club on Beale Street, at very different times.
"We were unlucky enough to have to be the first band to play at B. B. King's on Wednesday night" for their 25-minute set, he said, "but drew the seventh spot on Thursday night and brought the house down."
The group advanced to the semifinals, held at Memphis' Hard Rock Cafe, which Charles notes "unlike the one in Houston, has a beautiful permanent stage and sound system." The Works were selected to perform first again, however, and the sparse crowd at their 5:20 p.m. performance was mostly Houstonians who had come up to Memphis ("a surprisingly good turnout," Charles noted) and other musicians waiting to go on.