Breakin' out the blues

May 31, 2003|By GREGORY T. SIMMONS

Guitar licks and harmonica riffs pierced the cool air Friday night in downtown Hagerstown, but no one appeared to have the blues; they just listened to them.

By music's end, the first night of the eighth annual Western Maryland Blues Fest had drawn a crowd that event staff estimated at nearly 1,250, Many of them twisted, boogied and howled to the music while enjoying cold drinks in the city parking lot between Franklin and Washington streets.


Bill Carrington, 47, of Norristown, Pa., stood up and let loose a hoot during The Nighthawks' set. Carrington and his wife, Donna, 46, had driven three hours to attend the show.


"We're just watching the people up front. They're really getting into the feel," Carrington said. "It's exciting to see people getting into it so well."

Near the stage, dozens bobbed to the beat pumping from band.

Just before migrating up front with friends, Bryan Hale, 53, of Smithsburg said he keeps being coming back to the music festival. "It's local and it's really good, too," he said.

Sipping a beer and wearing shorts and sandals, Hale said he wasn't planning to sit anytime soon.

"It's the kind of thing ... where you can let down your hair," he said.

Ceasar Perdomo, 21, of Rockville, Md., said while the blues isn't his first choice of music, he was enjoying himself.

"I think it's cool. I like it, something different," Perdomo said.

At a beer truck in the main section, proceeds from which went to the Washington County Arts Council, sales were brisk.

Carol Breakall, 52, of Hagerstown said she has been volunteering at the truck for the past five years. She said people seemed to be in good spirits Friday, even before they bought their beverages.

"It's not the beer; it's the interaction with the people" that makes the event fun, she said.

She said that last year she had a memorable encounter with someone who had been drinking. She had worn a pair of goofy sunglasses, and a man who appeared to be intoxicated liked the glasses and offered her money.

"So I sold them to him for twenty bucks," she said, "and then he gets on TV with them."

Just after the first band, Bonedaddy, finished its set, Pam Jamtgaard, 43, offered her thoughts about the blues.

"I've chased the blues around the world," said Jamtgaard, who lives near Hagerstown. "To me, the blues tells the story of every man, rich or poor, on the streets or just your middle-class person. ...

"The music gives you an out, and it's beautiful."

Her daughter, Chelsea Jamtgaard, 14, felt differently about the music

"I'd rather be listening to Eminem," she said. "Unfortunately, I can't."

Her mother said rap music isn't allowed in their house.

Not everyone who was listening to the music was inside the fenced-in paid attendance area. The music could be heard just as well outside the fence, where Robert and Tina Turner of Hagerstown had stopped by after dinner.

"To tell you the truth, we didn't want to pay to drink," said Tina Turner, 43.

"But the next two days, I will not miss," Robert Turner, 57, said. "I'll be here tomorrow, rain or shine, and the next day, too."

The event organizers have purchased rain insurance for today, Hagerstown city spokeswoman Karen Giffin said.

Giffin said if 1/2 inch or more of rain is recorded between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Hagerstown Regional Airport, the policy would pay out $40,000 to the event organizers to cover lost ticket sales. She said the policy cost $4,300.

Donna Carrington, who was taking in her fourth Blues Fest on Friday night, said weather was the last thing on her mind.

"With all the bad things going on in the world, it's nice to see people happy," Carrington said.

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