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Artists praise fest as high-end

June 05, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Duffy Kane thinks the Western Maryland Blues Fest is among the best organized in the country.

"It's amazing that Hagerstown, a little town in Western Maryland, can put on a blues festival like this with legendary national performers," Kane said. His band took the West Washington Street stage Saturday from 1:15 to 2 p.m.

"They even carpet the stage so it takes up the high-end," he said. "I hope this festival gets bigger every year."

Shemekia Copeland, Saturday's headliner, said the Hagerstown festival is one of the best she's ever played.

"It's very warm and friendly, like being with family, The two stages on the street are cool. It changes the whole atmosphere," she said.

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"I come to these parts a lot and I have friends here. This festival is good for the city."

Pete Ragusa, drummer with The Nighthawks, a Washington, D.C., group, said the band played at the first Western Maryland Blues Fest.

"This one seems to be 1000 percent more organized," he said.

Ragusa especially liked the two-stage set-up with one on West Washington Street and one on South Potomac Street. While one stage was occupied, the next band was setting up on the other. The system gave the crowd almost continuous music all day.

"They can hear twice as much music and it cuts the break-down time," Ragusa said. "It makes it real easy. Basically all you have to do is drive up and play."

Chicago bluesman Byther Smith was signing autographs backstage after his show. He was noncommittal about how Hagerstown stacks up with other festivals.

"There's only one way for me to go. I just come in, play and go home," he said. "I just have a job to do.

"Every city sets things up its own way. I don't try to compare them," Smith said. "One is just as good as another. I have nothing to say for or against them."

Carl Disque, a Hagerstown saxophone player who sat in with 2Blue, the band that backed up Smith, is the founder of the local blues Fest. He said while organizers are never able to get an accurate count on the crowd, this year's festival, the fifth since it started in 1996, is the biggest so far.

Disque said the organizers planned for more fans this year by adding more chairs and more space on Washington and Potomac streets, portions of which were blocked off near the Public Square for the festival.

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