Two days later, on a Sunday afternoon, Heat 2 got under way. Again at the same venue, again with a barbecue going on, and again with seven more music acts playing at their best in order to get into the finals and possibly win a coveted spot on that trip to Memphis in 2016 to compete in the International Blues Challenge. Traditionally, Sunday afternoon gigs at the club are more relaxed, with smaller crowds, but what an incredible surprise this day became as punters poured through the doors creating breathing room only. This reviewer felt high pride in South Australian punters for coming out in the cold to support our home-grown musicians, and wow, did the musicians respond, some great Blues rang out all afternoon and into the night. Mick Kidd and David Blight took out the solo /duo spot in Heat 2, and The Dirty Roots Band claimed band honours, and now we knew who it was to be vying for top spot in the Finals to be held the following Sunday.
As I drove into the Semaphore Worker’s Club carpark on Finals day, I couldn’t help but notice it was already almost full. “Crikey, this is gonna be big”, I thought, and it was. When the doors opened to admit the punters, there was a veritable flood of people as wave after wave of eager folks came through the door. Many, many folks had been to both Heats and were there again, ready to cheer and support the Heat winners on their way to Memphis. Coins were tossed to determine the playing order for the afternoon and J.J. Fields took the stage first. He played some achingly beautiful Blues as he honoured Blues greats of yesteryear by offering faithful renditions of their songs. The crowd was enormous and they loudly demonstrated their appreciation after each tune. The Dirty Roots Band followed and they tore the place apart with some blistering hot music and those on the dancefloor went crazy, it was great to see.
After a short break when people could avail themselves of the barbie outside and some fresh air, Mick Kidd and David Blight were next on stage and the pair bedazzled everybody with their virtuosity as they tore through a set of Mick’s original songs. Then, the final act, Lazy Eye mounted the stage and blew all away with a glorious demonstration of original, crowd-pleasing Blues and the crowd responded, roaring, cheering, clapping and dancing. I looked around the room and saw every single head in the room nodding and appreciating what they were seeing, and as the set drew to a close I sat back and thought about how great this competition really was.
Now the Adelaide Roots and Blues Association could do what equivalent organisations in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia had already done, and that was to have our state’s representatives at the world’s foremost Blues competition in Memphis next year, we have at last joined the world map of places were Blues are played well. At last we were told who the judges had chosen for this purpose. Mick Kidd and David Blight would represent us in Memphis in the solo / duo category, and Lazy Eye would do the same in the band category. No-one in the crowd had left, they all wanted to know the results and they cheered themselves hoarse as the winners were announced and it seemed crowd favourites had prevailed. Good luck and bon voyage to our guys as they travel to America and tell the world that South Australia also has world-class musicians.
I wish to offer my heartiest congratulations to all concerned in this worthy endeavour. The Semaphore Worker’s Club is a truly special venue and sound man Dave Pearce performed his duties superbly. As a sound mixer myself I know how hard it would be to set the sound for seven different acts each heat, well done Dave. And to the people who cooked the barbecue…..WOW. To ARBA, and in particular President Mick Young and Secretary Peter Allan, you guys worked tirelessly to bring this thing all together and I salute you. Your strength, dedication and determination to ensure fairness and integrity were obvious. To Chris Finnen (Patron of ARBA) who’s seasoned stage presence was appreciated greatly, and how about those crowds? All three events were packed solidly with South Australian Blues punters who offered marvellous encouragement to our musicians.
And as we await with bated breath for news of how “our” musicians will fare in Memphis during the final week of January 2016, we can already cast our sights and minds to this time again next year when it will all happen again, and again the year after that, and so on into perpetuity. Just as it was this year, dedicated people will ensure that The Memphis Blues Challenge becomes an unmissable event on the South Australian entertainment industry calendar, and that “our” musicians have a chance to shine on the world stage.
Blues Presenter and Writer
July 2, 2015