PUBLISHED AUG. 18, 2016
By ANDREA SHAY
This past Sunday, 10 skilled and soulful local blues bands competed to win the Suncoast Blues Society’s International Blues Challenge for a chance to compete with national acts in Memphis, Tenn., early next year. The International Blues Challenge event was held at Aces Lounge for the second year in a row, although the SBS has held the event for nearly 20 years at different locations.
The SBS is Southwest Florida’s “Blues Affiliate,” which means they can legitimately hold IBC competitions and send the winners to a national competition organized by The Blues Foundation of the United States. Money raised from the SBS and the IBC event help to pay the band’s travel and performance expenses in the national competition. This year’s winner — The Souliz Band featuring Sugar and Spice — will face off against other IBC winners from different areas of the country at the end of January 2017, in a week-long music festival in Memphis’s Beale Street music district.
Warren McDougle, the public relations representative for the Suncoast Blues Society, has been with the organization for about seven years. He loves working the International Blues Challenge events because they promote blues music, and he especially enjoys “trying to make [the blues] available to different generations.” McDougle talked excitedly about some of the competing bands, saying, “Earlier, we had a very young band, all of them in their early 20s, and they were playing some great blues music. Keeping the blues alive is what our organization is all about.”
The organization, however, does need support from the community to keep it going. “We need to have members and people to help us support blues in the community and blues in the schools,” said McDougle. “That’s what a lot of our money goes to — educating people about the blues and making it available in the community.”
This year’s lineup included local favorites Ari and the Alibis, Bill Seward, and the Lauren Mitchell Band as well as top blues bands from around the state including the Backwater Blues Band, Victoria Ginty, Galbraith Group, Alex Lopez Xpress, Troy Youngblood, the Wendy Rich Band and the event’s grand champions, Souliz.
Artists were judged in five categories set forth by the Blues Foundation — blues content, instrument talent, vocal talent, originality and stage presence. Winning bands typically score well enough to show they could headline a major blues festival.
To find out more about the Suncoast Blues Society, the Blues Foundation or the International Blues Challenge, visit suncoastblues.org, bealestreet.com/international-blues-challenge.html or blues.org.
To find out more about the Souliz Band, their performance dates or their trip to Memphis for the next leg of the International Blues Challenge, visit thesoulizband.com or facebook.com/thesoulizband.