Memphis Blues Competition: International Showcase

By Richard White, January 21, 2014

The Calgary boys - Tim Williams and Mike Clarke Band - are going to have to "kick-it-up-a-notch" if they want to win the International Blues Competition that started today at the New Daisy Theatre in Memphis.

The Brat Pack from the Philippines set the bar high with a young keyboardist who could be this generation's Jerry Lee Lewis with his flying fingers and infectious smile and enthusiasm.  The entire four person band was on fire, especially the keyboardist and drummer.  The Brat Pack was the only group to get a standing ovation - not bad for a band where all the members are in their early  20s.  The Brat Pack was one of two bands from the Philippines in this year's International Showcase. 

RJ Pineda enjoys the spotlight. His fingers were literally a blur to the naked eye.  He didn't miss a note!

The audience sat attentively.  It was sitting on the floor room only.

From the Brat Pack's Facebook page: 

It is the uncommon blend of old and new that ultimately sets The Brat Pack apart from their contemporaries. Armed with their own unique style, a fusion of blues, jazz, soul, and pop, they can put their own unique spin on modern tunes, and slip comfortably into the tried-and-true standards of yesterday with ease.

Bassist David de Koenigswarter, an Eric Clapton enthusiast whose family tree attests to the fact that music literally is in his blood, being the grandson of the famous Nica Rothschild de Koenigswarter, Pianist RJ Pineda, who you might remember as one of Promil’s Gifted Children, a child prodigy whose repertoire spans from Rachmaninoff to Ray Charles; Allan Abdulla, a St. Scholasticas Conservatory of Music, also a part of the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra who really takes his drumming to the next level at every performance and Christine Mercado, a spunky/charismatic vocalist who finished Music Production at the College of St. Benilde and has been singing jazz and blues since the tender age of 4. 

The Blues Powder Band from France was ranked second best by the guy from Kansas City sitting in front of us.  He was more than willing to share his rankings with us. This was his second IBC and he said he was hooked after last year's experience.

Lead singer Joe Elbaz and his Blues Angels from Israel put on a great performance also.  The best band competition is going to be tough. 


Kicking off the festival was the International Showcase with 12 groups (solo, duo, bands) playing short sets over a three hour period.  As expected, the quality of the music was very high; however the quality of the showmanship was a big surprise. The Blues truly has evolved into an international cult.

What was even more surprising was the audience was almost totally white.  I could have been in Calgary's Blues Can, Ironwood or Mikey's based on the skin colour of the audience.  I couldn't help but wonder "What would Robert Johnson think about the international scope of the 21st century blues scene, if he was still alive?" 

The festival has been going on for 30 years, but it seems to have taken off only recently.  I overheard someone say, "I have never seen so many people in this building." 

Canada is well represented this year. In the International showcase, Tracy K and Jamie Steinhoff from Thunder Bay represented us well, paying homage to Winnipeg's Big Dave McLean as their mentor and one of the most influential blues performers in Canada's blues history.  

Tracy K and Jamie Steinhoff represented Canada well. 

Flex Slim from Barcelona, Spain was a true blues traditionalist.  

Polar Bear Blues

We have also met lots of Canadians while flaneuring the streets of Memphis - Chatham, Winnipeg and Kitchener.  On Thursday, the Ottawa Blues Society is presenting the Polar Bear Blues Showcase (great acts from the north), with the first 200 guests getting a complimentary "Canadian" beverage.  

The competition starts tomorrow, but already the event is a huge success in the eyes of the dozen or so Calgarians who are here ready to cheer on the Calgary Boys! 

The Jan Galach Band from Poland mixed strong vocals and violin harmonies. 

International Showcase program:

  • Herbie & Guitarguy (Netherlands)
  • Kingpin Trio (Philippines)
  • Tim Lothar & Holger Daub (Germany)
  • Tracy K & Jamie Steinhoff (Canada)
  • Joe Elbaz & Blues Angles (Israel)
  • Zamba (Croatia)
  • Naffis & Massarutto (Italy)
  • Brat Pack (Philippines)
  • Felix Slim (Spain)
  • Jan Galach Band (Poland)
  • Chris O'Connor (Australia)
  • Blues Power Band (France)