Atlanta musician Little G Weevil and Florida band Selwyn Birchwood Band took home top honors in the 29th International Blues Challenge.
The four-day competition concluded with finals in the solo/duo and band categories Saturday night at the Orpheum. The annual event is presented by the Memphis-based Blues Foundation, which also stages the Blues Music Awards.
The competition began last Wednesday with more than 231 acts from 40 states and 17 countries playing at 22 venues in the Beale Street historic district. After quarter- and semifinals on Thursday and Friday, the action moved to the Orpheum, where Weevil, a longtime Memphian and Beale Street club fixture who relocated to Georgia in 2009, edged out the Suitcase Brothers, a duo from Barcelona, Spain, for the win as best solo /duo act.
Tampa-area outfit the Selwyn Birchwood Band earned top honors among bands for their brand of swamp blues. They also beat out another international competitor, second-place act Michael van Merwyk and Bluesoul of Germany. Colorado ensemble Dan Treanor's Afrosippi Band with Erica Brown finished third.
Selwyn Birchwood took the award for the IBC's top guitarist. Judges also recognized Canadian Steve Hill for the best self-produced CD
Continuing a decade-long trend, the 2013 IBC marked another year of increased attendance and revenues. Organizers are still tallying numbers, but estimated attendance for Thursday and Friday was roughly 3,600 people per night. The event was projected to generate more than $3.5 million in economic activity in Downtown Memphis. Overall, this year's IBC proved to be the biggest to date.
"We exceeded all records. That's what I do know," said Blues Foundation deputy director Joe Whitmer. "The crowd definitely grew this year. We had record sales of on-site tickets. More individual tickets sold to the finals than we have before, and more of our passes sold in advance. All in all, it was a huge success."
The 30th International Blues Challenge is slated to begin on Jan. 29, 2014.