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Have blues, will travel

Sammy Eubanks and his bandmates have earned a spot in this month’s International Blues Challenge.
Sammy Eubanks and his bandmates have earned a spot in this month’s International Blues Challenge.

Benefit concert aims to send Eubanks to Memphis competition

Area musician Sammy Eubanks has a chance to win big at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis this month and a few of his friends are pitching in to help him get there.

The Washington Blues Society is hosting a benefit concert Sunday at the Knitting Factory to raise money for travel expenses for Eubanks and band members Jake Barr and Michael Hays. Doors will open at 4 p.m. with a concert and silent auction kicking off at 5 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door; advance tickets are available at www.ticketfly.com.

The opportunity to compete in Memphis has Eubanks “over the moon,” he said.

“The more I think about it, the more excited I get.”

Eubanks and his band earned their entrance into the Memphis competition by winning the regional semifinal competition in Snohomish, Wash., in August, said Inland Empire Blues Society Vice President Jerry Peterson. Last year’s competition drew nearly 250 bands from all over the world, Peterson said.

“This is his first time going anywhere past Snohomish,” he said. “It’s a huge deal.”

The competition is no mere “battle of the bands” where the crowd votes for the winner with applause. The contest employs a weighted scoring system that judges various categories, including blues content, stage presence, vocal ability and originality. Eubanks said the idea is not necessarily to beat other bands, but to earn the best score.

Preliminary rounds, Jan. 31-Feb. 1, will be held in various venues along Memphis’ legendary Beale Street. The finals, on Feb. 2, will be held in the lavish Orpheum, a 1923 concert hall fully restored in 1984.

While Eubanks relishes the opportunity to compete on an international level, he’s most looking forward to the networking opportunities the event presents. There will be all kinds of music industry representatives on hand, and he and his road manager Corrie Brantner plan to hand out a lot of CD samplers with contact and booking information.

“If we do well in the competition, that will be the icing on the icing,” he said. “Because we already have the whole cake.”

Eubanks, a California native who moved to Priest River, Idaho, with his family at 15, has been a fixture on the Spokane scene for three decades. In 1992, he helped found the Inland Empire Blues Society. He’s a busy performer as well, typically playing three or more shows a week.

There’s a good chance that fans who check out a Sammy Eubanks show in the next month will get to hear a little of what the band will play in Memphis. While he hasn’t worked out a set list yet, the band will begin rehearsing this weekend. Each group gets 25 minutes to perform, and Eubanks wants to make sure they’re putting their best face forward, “so we look as top-notch professional as possible.”

The lineup for Sunday’s benefit concert includes The Skivees, Rampage, the Vaughn Jensen Band, Anita Royce and the High Rollers with Forest Govedare, Bakin’ Phat, the Kenney James Miller Band and the Fat Tones. Kevin Sutton, a member of WIRED, the Seattle band that won last year’s international competition, will be in attendance. Eubanks will also perform. The evening also will feature a silent auction.

The Post Falls resident is grateful for all the community support.

“There’s quite a lot of buzz about this in the community,” he said. “I’m extremely excited to be going.”

Eubanks’ career has been on the upswing ever since he opened for BB King in the Tri Cities in March 2011, Peterson said. “I’ve been watching him for 17 years,” Peterson said. “Everyone else is starting to get what I got a long time ago. I usually see Sammy four to six times a month.”

Organizers are hoping to raise $1,400, Peterson said. “Sammy’s got thousands of friends in this area,” he said. “We’d love to see several of them.”



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