International Blues Challenge 2024

Bluesshakers – Photo by Helge “Nick” Nickel

The International Blues Challenge (IBC) was held in several clubs on Beale Street in Memphis, TN, USA, Januaray 16- 20, 2024. But some troubles startet some days ahead, when several European acts stucked on the airports in Europe, like London, Rome or Zurich. For example: “Blue Deal” from Germany stucked in Amsterdam. Because nobody can´t guarantee that they can travel ahead early next day they changed their flights to Frankfurt, rented a car and made a night ride.

Blue Deal – Photo by Helge “Nick” Nickel

So they arrived in Memphis in time for the International Showcase – but without any luggage, same as many other acts. In Memphis the next problem was coming up: because of a blizzard there was a longer period of snow and frost with about -18°C. In consequence the pipes in some hotels burst and also some in the public supply. Because nobody takes cake the streets and sidewalks keep icy, most of the shops were closed and so the number of visitors of the IBC sadly was as low as never before.


The IBC starts with the International Showcase on Tuesday, where 28 non-US-acts were performing in 6 clubs on Beale- just for fun. Next day the first quarter final of the Challenge started with 137 participants coming, from North America, Australia and Europe, split in 2 categories, band and solo/duo, performing 25 minutes, in 13 clubs, ahead of 3 jurors. In the second part of the quarter finals on Thursday the order of performance and the jurors changed.

Odin-Landbakk – Photo by Helge “Nick” Nickel

The points of both quarters where added and the best 4 of every club reached the semifinals. With the same system, but performing 30 minutes, the semis where held and at least 6 solo/duo and 6 band acts reached the finals- all from US, except one solo act (Nico Wayne Toussaint/France). The finals were held at the Orpheum, an old plush theater from 1928 with over 2000 seats. Alternating solo/duo and band every act performed 20 minutes. In total the solo/duos performed perfect traditional Roots and Delta Blues, sadly without any modern touch.

Winners on stage – Photo by Helge “Nick” Nickel

Nearly every act at the bands competitions was performing Chicago Blues or something close by with excellent voices and great instrumental skills- but sadly total uninspired and far away from the Blues for younger listeners. Only the “The Stephen Hull Experience” opens the door to modern times a little bit. After 7 hours Joe Whitmer and Kimberly Horton announced the winners:

1st Place: Piper and The Hard Times
2nd Place: The Stephen Hull Experience
3rd Place: Mandalyn & The Hunters

Winner: Joe Waters
2nd Place: Drum & Dye

Stephen Hull

Bill Dye

John Paul

Sister Lucille – Tell the World

Summary: hard travels, heavy weather and results that only can satisfy triditional Blues lovers. But at least a lot of fun and a great experience the the European participants.

Written by Helge “Nick” Nickel (Baltic Blues, Germany) while still waiting for his luggage


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