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Shower of blues

Hardy crowd waits out rain at annual festival

Hardy crowd waits out rain at annual festival

June 03, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

HAGERSTOWN

He sat alone in an expanse of empty, wet folding chairs and was neither hunched in a poncho nor huddled underneath an umbrella. He simply was waiting for the blues to begin, unconcerned that heavy rain had forced many others to seek shelter.

"That's why you have skin," Mike Hensley, a retired correctional officer who lives in Martinsburg, W.Va., said as rain gathered on his flatcap and striped shirt. "Plus, if the music is good, I can dry out dancing.

"I've never owned an umbrella in my life," Hensley added.

The beginning of the 11th annual Western Maryland Blues Fest was delayed for 30 minutes Friday while a heavy rain shower passed over.

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The festival continues in Hagerstown today and Sunday. Today's headliner is The Dirty Dozen Brass Band from New Orleans. John Lee Hooker Jr., son of the late, legendary blues singer and musician, also is scheduled to perform.

On Friday, Blues Fest was to start at 4:30 p.m., but the first act did not begin performing until two minutes before 5 p.m.

A sparse crowd remained in the city's cordoned-off central parking lot until then, many sipping beers.

"This is going to pass over. I can see some blue sky," a woman walking beneath an umbrella remarked to her companion, pointing to a patch of pale blue amid the clouds. "You gotta be positive."

The first act of the evening, The Rhythm Kings, based in Hagerstown, took to the stage as the crowd continued to grow. By the time they launched into their second song, a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower," not a raindrop was to be found.

Roy Roman stood at the back of the crowd's edge, his eyes shielded by a pair of clip-on sunglasses.

Roman said he became interested in the blues when he was a member of the military stationed in Memphis, Tenn. Listening to live music on Beale Street kindled a passion for the music, he said.

"The humanity of it," he said, noting that blues musicians address troubles and overcoming them.

"It's just great. Soothing to me," Roman said.

Dennis Guy, of Hyattsville, Md., dabbles as a musician - "just for my own amusement," he said - and was attending Blues Fest for the first time.

Guy said he especially was looking forward to seeing headliner Joe Bonamassa perform Friday night and Bonedaddy Band play today at noon.

Although Guy said he frequents live music venues, he never had seen either perform.

For him, an interest in blues developed as a passion for more popular music waned.

"I like to hear notes, not just a lot of noise," said Guy, 57. "I can't listen to Slipknot and that kind of stuff. There's actually a melody (with blues)."

All of the optimism regarding the weather Friday was short-lived. A few hours after the show began, music was delayed again as another heavy rain shower passed.

Karen Giffin, public information officer for the City of Hagerstown, said that the radar was being monitored. She predicted the second rain shower Friday night.

"We're looking good tomorrow, from what I understand," Giffin said Friday.

According to the National Weather Service, there is a 40 percent chance of rain today after noon, and a slight chance of rain on Sunday.

The city bought a rain insurance policy for the festival, and will be able to collect if more than one-quarter inch of rain fell Friday between 3 and 8 p.m., or if the same amount falls today between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

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