05 October 2008

On the Road to Memphis - Ottawa Blues Society Blues Challenge Results

Two rounds of Semi-Final competition for the Ottawa Blues Society’s ‘On the Road to Memphis’ Blues Challenge took place Wednesday, September 24 and Wednesday, October 1. Ottawa’s JW-Jones was MC for the event and six blues enthusiasts gave up an evening of their time to judge and choose the bands that would advance to the final on Thursday, October 2, at Tucson’s.

Judges Bob Cabana (owner of Ottawa’s FabGear64), James Doran (organizer of the ‘Blues on the Rideau’ series) and Todd Bernard (from DAWG-FM, Canada and North America’s first ever all blues commercial radio, expected to hit the airwaves by Summer 2009), for Semi-Final Round #1, and Alan Marsden (director of the Ottawa Folklore Centre School of Music), Yves Trottier (DAWG-FM Program Director) and Diane Wells (host of CKCU-fm’s ‘Iron Maidens’), for Semi-Final Round #2, had their own ‘blues challenge’ choosing two finalists each night.

Advancing to the Final competition were Elyssa Mahoney & Lucas Haneman and Wicked Grin, and Phlegm and MonkeyJunk.

This local ‘Band’ category competition is Ottawa’s first time participation in the prestigious Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge, and looks to become an annual event. A $5.00 cover charge and impressive raffle draws raised nearly $2500 to provide financial support for travel and accommodation expenses for the winning OBS representative. Thanks to the following sponsors who supported the event: Tucson’s, The Works, CD Warehouse, FabGear64, Folklore Centre, Lorenzo’s and Ken Fraser.

Performance order for the final, on Thursday, October 2, was drawn 90 minutes before the first band took the stage at 7 pm. Phlegm kicked off the night with a rocking set; they were followed by the powerful voice of Elyssa Mahoney combined with Lucas Haneman’s fiery guitar; Wicked Grin provided their trademark ‘Blues with Bite’ and MonkeyJunk ended the competition with down & dirty, timeless blues.

It was no easy task for Final Round Judges Fred Litwin (President of Northern Blues Music), Lynn Saxberg (Ottawa Citizen arts reporter) and Ed Torres (President of DAWG FM), who judged the four competitors using the same scoring criteria that will be used in Memphis in February.

When all the scores were tabulated, MonkeyJunk (Steve Marriner, Tony D and Matt Sobb) was chosen to represent Ottawa in Memphis, TN, February 2009 at the 25th International Blues Challenge. All participants joined in the jam session that followed and fans who attended are already looking forward to next year’s competition.


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