SUNDAY – SEP 24 2023 @ 1-6PM
Lefty’s Live Music, 2307 University Ave, DM
2023 Iowa Blues Challenge
doors open at 12:30

Join us for the 2023 Iowa Blues Challenge on September 24 at Lefty’s Live Music in Des Moines, IA. NO COVER – FREE EVENT!!! This year’s challenge consists of three Solo/Duo acts and four Bands. The performance schedule is as follows:

1:00-1:20 SOLO/DUO
Beggars Bargain

1:35-1:55 BAND
Izzy Starchild & the Psychedelic Rose

2:10-2:30 SOLO/DUO
Cedar County Cobras

2:45-3:05 BAND
Ronley King Band


3:45-4:05 SOLO/DUO
Matt Woods

4:20-4:40 BAND

4:55-5:15 BAND
Rush Cleveland Trio

Participating acts will be vying for a prize package that includes cash, opportunities for paid gigs (including but not limited to the 2024 Winter Blues Fest) and travel expense stipend for the 2024 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, presented by The Blues Foundation. The Central Iowa Blues Society is an Affiliate of the Blues Foundation, which produces the annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.

2023 Iowa Blues Challenge Sponsors


2023 Iowa Blues Challenge Participants

1:00 to 1:20 SOLO/DUO
Beggars Bargain

Founded in 2021, The Beggars’ Bargain is a two guitar duo with their own brand of sound rooted in folk, blues, and rock n’ roll. We mix a handful of covers with our original tunes under the influences of B.B King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, John Mayer, Bob Dylan, Jack Johnson, Jason Isbell and Nathaniel Rateliff. When we are not busy recording, we are always on the lookout for new venues to play around the area.

1:35 to 1:55 BAND
Izzy Starchild & the Psychedelic Rose

With poetic lyrics, grungy guitar hooks, and a thumping rhythm that drives funk-filled grooves, Izzy Starchild and the Psychedelic Rose is quickly becoming known as one of the best performing bands in Des Moines. The band plays a mix of original blues, rock, funk, and punk that is sure to get everyone on their feet with the unique sound that has been described as “a wicked blend of original Cosmic Mother Punk Funk” and what The Cramps would sound like if they had been a jam band. With all original music, these Des Moines-based rockers are rapidly building a reputation with live-music fans as being among the best bands in the land.

2:10 to 2:30 SOLO/DUO
Cedar County Cobras

Cedar County Cobras play American Roots & Blues music from the last century. The music takes on an “old time” blues feel that would most likely be found in a juke-joint down a gravel road in rural Iowa. Arriving with an upright bass, foot-drum, a mandolin, and a collection of guitars this duo plays music that is best described as contagious, acoustic rockabilly swamp blues, or old-time country with the gritty sound of soulful blues. Tom Spielbauer is the singer/songwriter for the duo and is known for playing slide guitar. His music partner, April Dirks, plays the boogie-blues on the upright bass. Tom is also the winner of the 2022 Central Iowa Blues Challenge and placed as a semi-finalist at the 2023 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. The Cobras have played hundreds of shows across Iowa from the local brewery to large festival stages. For more information on the Cobras visit: (Tom Spielbauer was Solo Winner in the 2022 Iowa Blues Challenge)

2:45- 3:05 BAND
Ronley King Band

The Ronley King Band is the culmination of three individual experiences brought together for a common cause. While this group is still relatively new to the scene; Ron, Kaleb, and Ethridge have played together on many different stages, traveled many miles, and worked together in various projects over the last four years. The music is their product; having fun is their principle. No matter the show, they hope the crowd can recognize their love of performing, not only for others but for themselves. The band has been hard at work over the last year refining their sound while growing as musicians and look forward to performing at the 2023 Iowa Blues Challenge! (2022 Iowa Blues Challenge Winning Band)

3:40- 4:05 SOLO/DUO
Matt Woods

Matt Woods is both a native of Iowa, and a longstanding purveyor of its diverse music scene. As a seasoned performer of many local, regional and national venues, Matt has developed a distinct style while staying true to his love of traditional American music. Woods is well versed in the many shapes this music can take; from traditional delta, hill country and urban electric blues, to gospel, country and folk music. In addition to performing 100+ shows per year as a solo act, playing with several roots oriented bands and backing up some of the finest songwriters in the Midwest, Matt can often be found in the studio, adding guitar parts to a diverse array of recordings. (Matt has represented Iowa in the International Blues Challenge three times! 2008 as a band and 2007 and 2013 in the solo/duo category. Plus, his albums “If I Was a Fish”  and “Sawdust & Gasoline” were finalists in the IBC’s Best Self-Produced Category in 2007 and 2016)

4:20 – 4:40 BAND

The Chuggaluggers are a 4-piece American blues rock band from Des Moines. The band formed in 2023 a collection of high-energy, seasoned musicians who met at local jams and who couldn’t get enough of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, and Tom Petty. “Music illuminates even the darkest moments. Just when you need it the most, a song lets in a sliver of light.” Now hailed as a premier party band by audiences, The Chuggaluggers light up the stage playing variety of upbeat songs, including some originals written by front-man, Doug Trammell. Their unique brand of entertainment fuses hard-hitting grooves and punchy horn lines with witty stage banter that will make you want to dance all night.

4:55- 5:15 BAND
Rush Cleveland Trio

Rush is a 2023 Iowa Blues Hall of Fame inductee and has been playing music around the Midwest for more than five decades! Born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Rush has played on hundreds of stages around the U.S. When Rush is on stage expect some blues, classic country and rockabilly with almost hypnotizing electronic guitar solos. Gordie Sankey has played the bass since he was young kid. He played in a family band with his dad growing up and many others after that. His low end brings the band together and is just remarkable! Will Quegg has toured all over the country growing up playing in metal bands. After jammin’ with Rush, the band was formed! Check out their Facebook page @ The Rush Cleveland Trio where you can preview their album “Gettin Into It”. Get the latest merchandise at

Call for Acts

The Central Iowa Blues Society is seeking acts for the 2023 Iowa Blues Challenge. This competition will decide who will represent Iowa in the 2024 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN where hundreds of acts from around the world converge on Beale Street to perform before music industry pros searching for new talent, with the chance to win prizes, notable gigs, and make career-changing contacts!

Iowa Blues Challenge applications are available now. We will begin accepting submissions on a first come first serve basis beginning July 7th. NOTE: We cannot accept applications prior to the July 7 date. 

  • Application AVAILABLE NOW download above
  • Application SUBMISSION begins July 7, 2023 (do not submit before July 7)
  • Application DEADLINE is August 18, 2023

NOTE: the application is a fillable PDF. You will need to save to your
device and then complete it and SAVE again to retain the information.
Once completed and saved, submit with your high resolution photo.

Please contact the Iowa Blues Challenge Chair with questions.
Julie Spong — 515-401-8495 or


How to Compete – Important Information

  • Up to FOUR Bands will be chosen to participate
  • Up to FOUR Solo/Duo acts will be chosen to participate
  • There must be three entries in each category to hold the competition
  • Only Acts with a COMPLETED application will be accepted; meaning all sections of the application must be completed and photo submitted
  • Completed applications should be emailed to Julie Spong at


  • An act may enter the IBC a maximum of three times after which they are no longer eligible
  • An act may not participate In the IBC three consecutive years
  • Acts are limited to the state of Iowa

Performance Categories

  • Band: any act with more than two members
  • Solo/Duo: any act with only one or two members

Equipment Provided

  • A PA system, mic, drum kits and throne
  • Drummers may bring their own throne, cymbals, snare, and kick pedal

Time Limits

  • Each act is allotted 20 minutes for their performance. Timing begins when the first note is played
  • Please review all rules and scoring criteria at


Acts in the Central Iowa Blues Challenge perform for a panel of independent judges and are scored using the same criteria used by the Blues Foundation at the IBC. You can find the rules and criteria at: The highest scoring act in each category will be our representatives.