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Festival freebies

June 05, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

HAGERSTOWN

Thousands of people had bright orange paper bands placed tightly around their wrists Saturday, allowing them entrance to the 11th annual Western Maryland Blues Fest.

But an orange band wasn't necessary for those whose sole goal was to hear some good music.

Small crowds of people stood outside of the fence cordoning off the official area for Blues Fest, held in the city's central parking lot.

"I can hear through the chain-link fence just fine," said one man, who also noted he had a clear view of both of the festival's stages.

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"I came for the music, not the social side," said the man, who wouldn't give his name.

Another man, who only would give his first name of Roland, also stood outside of the fence.

"We spent all our money partying last night. I just didn't feel like forking out 50 bucks," he said. Admission was $25 per person at the gate.

"Call me stingy, if you want," Roland said.

Roland said he could think of one advantage of paying to enter.

"You can drink in there, that's the cool thing I guess," he said.

Others who live in apartment buildings surrounding the parking lot leaned over balconies or sat in plastic chairs, listening to the music. One man sat on the roof of a van, which offered an added bonus of not having to peer through chain links.

Restaurants downtown also took advantage of the Blues Fest.

Mike Duffy, co-owner of a new restaurant on South Potomac Street named 43 South Ristorante, set a target date to open before the Blues Fest. He opened the restaurant two weeks ago.

Local blues band 2Blue Ensemble performed at the restaurant Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Blue balloons tied to parking meters guided visitors to the restaurant.

"We've been looking forward to (Blues Fest) for a couple of months," Duffy said.

Cheryl Kenney, owner of Roccoco, a restaurant on West Washington Street, purposely selected two different types of bands to play live.

"Last night, it was definitely more in the folksy blues genre, following the spirit of Blues Fest," she said Saturday afternoon.

For Saturday night, she arranged to have Howard Burns, a jazz band, perform.

Her thinking?

People might want to unwind with jazz after listening to blues all day, she said.

At the festival, Bonedaddy Band was performing on one stage, but Jeff Johnston of Hagerstown already had staked out his seat for the performance of the Kelly Bell Band on the festival's main stage.

Sitting four rows back from the stage as the band finished setting up its equipment, Johnston said he was looking forward to hearing the Kelly Bell Band after first hearing them last year.

"Like a wedding band on steroids," is how Johnston described the eclectic sound of the Baltimore group.

Of course, even they couldn't compare to a performance Johnston saw Friday night.

"After Joe Bonamassa last night, everything else is anticlimactic," he said. "I hadn't heard him until last night, but I'm a convert."

The Kelly Bell Band seemed to be a crowd pleaser, encouraging people to dance and playfully teasing the crowd with its musical selections.

At one point, after playing several original songs, they launched into a cover song, then abruptly ceased playing it after a minute or so.

Lead singer Kelly Bell announced the band doesn't play covers - then quickly started another cover - The Temptations' "My Girl."

Reiterating the band doesn't play covers, Bell's band then started playing an unexpected cover of a 1980s hit, Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," then rewarded the crowd with original music.

The Blues Fest ends today.

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