The attached document contains much pertinent information on the 2016 Road To Memphis showcase taking place on Sunday May 22nd. Give it a read to be the best prepared you can be.
Hello all…My name is Jason Simonds. I will be running the sound system during the Road To Memphis competition. I also have a blues band that competed in the RTM a few times. I just wanted to highlight something Duane mentioned the other day, in a thread on Facebook about the rules and scoring system, and to let you know a few details about the stage setup Bunker Hill Sound will be providing at the RTM.
“Typical scores are …. 1-3 – Typical of a beginning blues band.
4-5 – Typical of a local weekend band.
6-7 – Typical of an advanced local band but not yet ready to headline a major blues club.
8-9 – Typical of the quality of blues artists who headline major clubs.
10 – Typical of those who play the main stage at major festivals”
Each category is judged on a 1 to 10 scale, and then a multiplier is applied at x4, x3 and x2 resulting in the category totals below, see the attached score sheet.
Blues Content 40pts
For the top 3, you are on your own. For the bottom two I can toss out some … thoughts.. ideas and opinions. I’ll start with a question. Do you go out to see national acts? I ask, because that is who you are being judged against, and compared to, in the above scoring system. ( the scoring system is what it is) What I am about to say, might come off as critical, but it is not meant that way, it is meant to help your act score well in the above criteria…. the intent is to help… it is meant as constructive suggestions from someone that has competed and from the guy that did sound for the RTM last year and is doing it this year and someone who has seen a lot of national acts in the past few years.
How “professional” is your appearance, demeanor and sound… especially when compared to nationally touring acts? How “tight” is your sound? How together are the members of the band? How comfortable is everyone on stage? How professional is everyone on stage? Does the band come across individuals or is it a focused group? All of the above, is why I ask if you go to see national acts. Beyond having good music, an act has to be able to make a presentation of their music. In my veiw, the goal of this competition is to create a way for local blues acts, to get a shot at national exposure and recognition. A leg up into the next level. Sort of acting as minor leagues for the blues industry. It is a very successful process, with hundreds of acts arriving in Memphis every year from all over the world and many going home with not only experience, but gigs on a national level.
A coordinated look of any kind scores points. … it does not hurt to have some polish… of the total 140 points an act can score 20 are for stage presence, so all things being equal the act that has a good stage presence will win, or conversely the act with great presence may score the same overall as an act that has a better score in other areas. Talk to the audience and the judges, let them know who you are and why you do what you do…. make eye contact… but keep the talk short… not too much… make sure you tell the judges when a song is an original.. if they are all original, mention that a couple of times to make sure they know. If there is a short backstory tell it… have some ramble ready in case someone breaks a string or has to adjust something… Be a star, but be humble too. The only other advice I could give would be make it all original if you can. Originality is another potential 20 of the 140 possible points.
Running the stage…..
There will be a backline. As of the writing of this guide there will be a SoulTramp Tweed12 Amplifier on stage. This is a hand built $2500 amplifier designed to create classic sounds. There will be one other guitar amp on stage. At this point we are awaitng confirmation on the drums set and bass rigs.
Everything will be mic’d. The drumset, amps will be mic’d. Bass direct if we can, and keys through the PA. This will accomplish two major goals. The first concern is time, starting at noon sharp and allowing for 20 MINUTES PER ACT, there is nearly 5 hours of just playing time, let alone any time used for changing acts. By using a backline we will facilitate much faster change overs on the stage, that will result in a much faster flow for all of us. The second goal will be overall volume. Certainly adjust your volumes as you would in solo’s and for effect, but try to maintain a level that doesn’t get too loud. If it needs more, the PA can compensate through the mains. The vocalist is at the mercy of the PA system, but the on stage amps can create real issues for the overall sound. Have someone check your rehearsal balances so you know where you need to be on the day of competition. When the stage amps get too loud it means the PA system has to get louder so the vocalist can be heard…. and then it all gets too loud. Please consider, once your competition set starts, you are on your own. If you are too loud, I am not allowed to do more than adjust what I can from the board. If the on stage amps are cranked up, there will be nothing I can do and your overall sound will suffer.
Speaking of Volume… please keep a mind to overall volume. The judges have a long day ahead and with a random draw, everyone has an equal chance of being first, or last. If everyone can tame their overall sound it will help the judges do their job as best they can. With your permissions, I will help you get your volumes right before your set starts, but only if you directly ask. I have no desire to do other than help you sound the best you can, but I also appreciate that we are all artists and want certain levels of control of our sound. I am here to work with and for you. There will be a basic monitor mix setup to start, please feel free to ask for adjustments during your warm-up. Look farther down for giving me feedback on monitor mix needs or nots.
If there is a techincal issue during your performance, bring my attention to it, tell me what is happening, and how I can fix it, and/or if you need me to make a switch on something. Done smoothly it could even increase your score. (see the above note on having a ramble ready) Don’t put up with something that will affect your score. In this competition you are being told in advance that you will have 20 MINUTES. You might consider budgeting 20-30 secs for potential technical issues.
Stage flow… there will be 13 acts as I type this up.The challenge on the day will be getting everyone on and off stage in a timely manner with as little stress on the incoming act as possible. We are going to try to have gear stacked in front of the one door (that we will close off) on stage right. ( see attached Stage Map) Once your act has completed, please move your gear straight fwd off the stage, to allow the next act to come in from the side. If you can, please remove your gear from the premises once your act has played to make it easier for the rest of the acts to setup and tear down. When your set is done, your priority is to get off stage as quickly and safely as possible, so the next act can setup and get ready as soon as is possible. In the same breath, if your act is up next, be ready to go. Please read a copy of the IBC rules. Please wait to bring your gear in until after the draw for play position. If you are the first act, you will get the time you need to setup, but please expedite it as much as you can. Ask for help from one of the other acts to lug gear. If you are the last act, you have my empathy, as I have had to play in both slots, first and last. At this point there is only one keyboard in the competition. We will work with this on the day to expedite the storage and setup. Be respectful of other acts when they are playing and you are waiting to go on or waiting after…. this is especially a concern during quieter passages… suddenly the band quiets down and the people in the room become louder than the music from the stage… also, please ask your guests to also be mindful of their talk during performances.
Cell Phones OFF. ( I forget sometimes myself)
On a personal note… try not to be too hung over when you show up… 😀 … and don’t blurt out an obscenity when your band gets called on to be first up in the rotation. ( ask me how I know )
There is a considerable amount of personal, musical and other work to bring an act, your act, to the stage… years and years of individual work and a ton of group work, but the working bands also have another mountain to be done, and I think that is where many acts fall short. I know for my own part, and in hind sight, I was way too nervous and no where near as relaxed on stage as I needed to be..we rushed things, didn’t take enough time with the audience.. .eye contact was lacking… we made a lot of little mistakes… and they all add up.. or rather they don’t add up…to the higher score. My advice to all, is to create the set you will use, and run it down with all the talking you intend to do as well… and video tape it… watch it back each time and adjust. Be genuine, be fun and be relaxed, but also be sharp and on point.
Please send an email to
for the subject please use your “Band Name at Road To Memphis” In this email please descibe your act. How many members? Names? What instument(s) do they play, do they sing, do they have a mic preference? Direct Insert Box?(acoustic guitars, etc) Horns? ( I have an AKG Clip on that just rocks) Keyboards? Does the Keyboard want a stereo feed or will a mono line work?
Any preference on lead vocal mix.. reverb/echo etc? Any effects needed at a point during a song?
The lighting system will be set to a red blue wash. It can do more if you want it to. A generic stage map has been attached. Up front will be two 15” wedge monitors, Mon #1 & #2, they can be aimed as you wish with a mix changed independently to whatever you want in them. Mon#3 and #4 will be 12” wedges for either the keys or third front-person and the drummer. There will be a 300wt 15”sub on stage to help the lower end of the keys/guitars and kick in the PA. If you have not been in the room at Fast Breaks, the stage space is similar to the one at the Tailgate, without the risers, even to the door on one side of the stage. RTM-Guide