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Wyoming Blues & Jazz Society

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Here's what J Shogren had to say about the experience
at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.
Thank you J, Mandy, Jascha and Jake for representing 'lil 'ole
Wyoming on the international stage!

J Shogren

Yer Wyoming Mtn Blues in Memphis
J Shogren Shanghai’d at the IBC 2013
What a trip: 1000 plus musicians from over 30 countries crammed into 3 blocks of Beale Street, all with the same goal - to play their brand of blues music the best they possibly can. JSShanghai’d were no different than any other band in that regard. We are proud and honored to have represented Wyoming in this Battle Royale of the Blues.

We played two nights at Alfred's on Beale Street. The first night we were the last of 12 acts, the second night, one of the first. Our band was tight and unique - after the first night a judge thanked us for “being original.” We held the crowd, won over some new fans, and made new friends. Taylor Scott and his friends were in the audience providing some most-welcomed WY support. Bob Moore from Laramie and Chris Shannon from Saratoga were also in our group, traveling out on their own dime to help with our logistics and transportation.

The 4 bands that advanced from our group all had three things in common: (1) tight music focused on tradition blues forms, (2) coordinated stage costumes, and (3) an interactive stage show in which the band jumped off/on the stage to play/sing in the middle of the audience. We held our own in category (1) - our music was very tight. We did not follow these other bands in categories (2) and (3). We learned a lesson on how to look for a balance on style versus substance.

The eventual winning band was from Florida - a guitar/horn based roadhouse blues band with the charismatic front man Selwyn Birchwood. The Afrosippi Band with Erica Brown from Colorado took a well-deserved 3rd place. My favorite band in the finals was the clean blues sound of Howell Divine from San Francisco. The biggest surprise of the trip was to drift in to BB Kings on a Saturday afternoon to hear the McCrary sisters from Nashville - wow! They have long been a staple in the Nashville blues/gospel scene, and have provided backing vocals Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and many others over the years.

Both nights we played our brand of WYO Mtn Blues the best we could, but we did not advance to the semi-finals. We knew we would be distinctive given our old timey acoustic blues music. Case in point - I was the only player carrying around a mandolin on Beale St. that entire week. We got a phone call early Saturday to play a third night at one of the biggest clubs based on word-of-mouth. The manager said: “You’re that blues bluegrass group with the mandolin, right? We heard great things about you and we want you to play for us tonight.” That felt good.

Finally, we were also invited to play at DittyTV - 1 of 30 acts invited from 21 countries. The DittyTV experience was amazing. A million dollar operation dedicated to filming and recording music for internet broadcast. Here is a link to our show. Take some time and watch if you can, it is the best representation of our music yet:

JSS will always appreciate our chance to represent Wyoming at the IBC in Memphis in 2013. Mandy Bohlender, Jascha Herdt, Jake Goheen, and myself thank you all, for the support and vote of confidence.
~J Shogren
Centennial, WY