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The Suburbanite
  • A wild week in Memphis for Canton’s Brighter Side blues band

  • A popular local blues band has made history in Memphis, Tenn. The Brighter Side is the youngest band ever to have made the semifinals at the International Blues Challenge, a prestigious competition.

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  • A popular local blues band has made history in Memphis, Tenn. The Brighter Side is the youngest band ever to have made the semifinals at the International Blues Challenge, a prestigious competition.
    “It was a week of wild. Just amazing,” is how Jake Friel, 16, the band’s vocalist and harmonica player, described the recent Memphis trip.
    “I was ecstatic. All of our hard work paid off,” said guitarist Fuad Farah, also 16.
    “After playing music for so many years, I felt like I really made it somewhere,” said bass player Anthony Lumpp, 21. His brother Danny, 24, on drums, rounds out the band.
    This was the Brighter Side’s second time at the Blues Challenge, which ran Jan. 29 through Feb. 2. In 2011, the group performed in the non-competitive youth showcase. This year, it competed against 122 blues acts from the United States, Israel, Croatia, the Netherlands, Australia and other countries, which were narrowed to 48 semifinalists.
    TOUGH COMPETITION
    “The crowds were crazy, for the whole competition and all the jams we did,” Friel, a sophomore at GlenOak High School, said. “It was really an audience of 17-year-olds to 70-year-olds, all there for blues music. It was just a party the whole time.”
    “We knew this was going to be really tough,” said Farah, a Jackson High School junior. “We went down there with the mindset that we’ll just have fun, meet as many people as we can and do the best that we can do. The cherry on top was how well we actually did.”
    “We definitely caught a lot of people by surprise, because we look so young,” said Lumpp. “When Jake and Fuad each announced that the other is 16, jaws were dropping.”
    Winner of The Repository’s 2011 Battle of the Bands, the Brighter Side’s competition sets in Memphis included three original songs — “Bad,” “755” and “Louisiana Woman” — plus versions of Louis Jordan’s “Caldonia” and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You.”
    THE WINNING BAND
    In its semifinal round, against four other bands at the Wet Willie’s bar on famous Beale Street, the Brighter Side came in second place behind the Orlando-based Selwyn Birchwood Band, the band that eventually won the entire Blues Challenge.
    “I guess that makes us feel better about losing,” said Friel.
    “They were incredible,” Lumpp said about the winning band. The semifinal round “was some of the best music I’ve ever seen.”
    While at the Blues Challenge, the guys handed out many copies of their lowdown live CD, “Broke Down and Busted,” and made numerous valuable connections with blues musicians and booking agents.
    “Several blues festivals from around the country have expressed interest in the band,” Friel said. “We have the potential to put a nice tour together in the next few years.”
    Page 2 of 2 - NEW BLUES FRIENDS
    Friel still sounds excited about the musical friends he made at the challenge.
    “I got to play with James Cotton’s guitar player!” he said. “I met Big Lou Johnson, from Sirius radio, and an amazing lady named Red Velvet. The coolest kid band I met down there was the Unexpected from Virginia Beach.”
    “My favorite part of the trip was Friday night,” Lumpp said. “We made really good friends with this band from the Netherlands, Sugar Boy & the Sinners, and they invited us up to host a jam night at Blues City Cafe. We got to bring a bunch of people from the whole competition up to play with us.”
    “We’re happy with everything that has come from this experience,” Farah said. “We’re all good friends in the band. There’s nothing like a five-day music vacation with the closest people to you.”