Feels kind of strange being home, back to familiarity, with the cold January wind knocking on my window. Its a murky night, and I’m restless… decompressing… allowing my thoughts to filter through me, naturally.
I imagine being somewhere new is exhilarating for anyone. The unknowns, the swarms of strangers, the freshness of the air, the virgin sidewalks and the untouched territory that awaits ones very footsteps, its exciting and refreshing. For me, it has become a necessity. Being in Memphis has secured this feeling, and the desire to travel and carry my songs to new places is very much alive and pulsating.
I've got the bug, the travel one that is, and it’s time I make sure it gets properly fed.
I had an incredible trip, so short, yet deep and running, like a rivers curve. To describe it all on pen and paper will be difficult, but I will try.
Too be honest, competing in the International Blues Competition scared the shit out of me. I had no idea what to expect, I felt a bit out of my element and I certainly had never considered myself to be a “blues guy” leading up to this trip. But the challenge intrigued me and it took me outside of my comfort zone, which was something I was hungry for. I had prepared a set compiled of 5 of my original songs that I felt were bluesy enough to fit the criteria. My nerves were very apparent during my first show in the quarter finals. I was rushed, short of breath and felt shaky for the majority of my 25 minute set. But I made it through, and was relieved, and ready for the next heat. The second night I was on 3rd last out of 12, so I got to see all the performers I was in company with, there were some very very heavy hitters. I did my little pre show ritual, walked up to the stage, plugged in, and struck my first note. It was a completely different set from the first night. I was relaxed, comfortable and unyielding as I dug into my guitar, hard and heavy. There was a voice echoing through the room, speaking to me, I can't tell you what it said, but It woke me up and I will be forever grateful for that night.
After my set I packed up and hit Beale street to meet up with my buddy Nigel, who was playing with The Dylan Farrell Band representing Edmonton in the band category. We all roomed together in this tiny little nook at The Exchange building which was about 8 blocks off of Beale where all the action took place. I slept on the floor, it worked out perfect. Anyways, Nigel and I spent a couple hours in a bar called the Absinthe Room, drinking $2.25 PBR’S and swapping stories of all the music we had witnessed that day. By the time midnight came around we waltzed over to Club 152, this is where they were announcing the acts advancing through to the semi - finals. Nigel and I found a place to squeeze in near the back of the club, it was jam packed, I lit a smoke. They started calling out the names of those proceeding to next round, starting with the bands. After about 5 groups in we heard “Dylan Farrell Band” ringing through the P.A speakers in the back corner, Nigel and I had a good wolf howl and cheers'd each other. It seemed like the wait was forever after that, and then finally, the lady started calling out the solo/duo acts moving forward . I truly did not expect to hear my name, then sure enough, near the end of the list we heard it come through the speakers, and I laughed out loud and shook my head. Nigel and I went back to the Exchange building shortly after that to share the positive news with the rest of the boys.
Thursday night was the semi - finals, and it was a venue change for me. This time relocating from the Orpheum room to King’s Palace. King’s palace was a much louder, larger and intimidating venue for an acoustic player like myself. I was on 4th out of 11. The guy right before me was a blind 26 year old, slide guitar, harmonica playing prodigy from Italy. He did an instrumental version of Howling Wolf’s Spoonful that musically, was something I have never seen before in my life, and it’s too hard to describe on here. He brought the whole bar to a hush, it was mystifying and beautiful, I witnessed somebody doing what their spirit was meant to do, fully and completely. He received a hollering standing ovation after his set. It was maybe the hardest act I have ever had to follow. Now, it was my turn, this time a 30 minute set. I remember walking to the stage, the judges glaring at me from the centre table right in the front of my office. The whole place jittery, and bouncing around like old furniture on a ship in the middle of a storm. The M.C. introduced me and the green light turned on. I don't remember much after that. All I can say is that I was calm, I took my time, and at the end of my 5 song set I felt like it fit in. I did the best job I could have done, and I am still over the moon that I even had a shot at going to the finals. What I learned is that I got to be part of an experience, a happening, and everyone in that moment, and everyone walking down Beale street, we were all in it together. I realized that I am a “blues guy” and I got a small taste of the rich, deep well that it comes from, and I let it pass though me, and it was enlightening. My new friend who played before me never made it to the finals either, and that was another gift I got to take away with me. Knowing that he was there for reasons greater than himself, prizes, or recognition, when I watched him play he was in that place, that indescribable place… home.