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Raucous crowd enjoys thrills at Blues Fest

May 29, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

"Somebody scream," Lil' Ed urged hundreds of music fans Friday night, but there was no need. They already were raucous, pumped full of electric blues flying from his slide guitar.

A few minutes earlier, Lil' Ed -- Ed Williams of Chicago -- had ratcheted up the thrill level by stepping down from the back of the stage and wading through the crowd, playing all the while.

He got up close with dozens of hard-core Western Maryland Blues Festers, the ones dancing and hollering and waving their arms with unbridled glee.

No one, though, seemed to be having a better time than the frontman for Lil' Ed and The Blues Imperials. If he wasn't grinning, he was laughing, and it seemed to be contagious.

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"He's fantastic," said Linda Overstreet of Silver Spring, Md. "There's nothing like seeing a performer who's having a ball."

Lil' Ed's band gave way to Friday's headline act, Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers, capping Day 2 of the four-day Blues Fest.

The festival continues today in the city's central parking lot off North Potomac Street, then Sunday at City Park.

Williams kept smiling and laughing as he signed autographs after his set.

"I like what I do," he said.

Asked about the enthusiastic Hagerstown crowd, he said, "I love them. They're wonderful -- tremendously wonderful."

For Beverly Wilson of Hollywood, in southern Maryland, the admiration was mutual.

Wilson and her husband, Steve, had front-row seats, but were on their feet a lot. Beverly Wilson was part of the crush that surrounded Lil' Ed as he passed by with his guitar.

"He makes you happy," she said later. "The blues makes you happy."

Marie Messick got right up to Lil' Ed for several seconds and grooved with him, face to face.

That left her giddy. She shared the fun with her friend, Nancy Borne.

Messick said the Blues Fest has established itself as a tradition in her life, even though this only was her second time attending.

Messick, who is from California, got to know her husband, Dennis, who is from Martinsburg, W.Va., online. They met in person in Georgia. A few months later, in April 2008, they got married.

They treated last year's Blues Fest as an extension of their wedding.

"This is like a reception with people you don't know," Marie Messick said.

This year, they shared the party with Borne, who used to live in New Orleans.

"This is like a little bit of home for me," Borne said.

Marie Messick said she was ready to top last year's feat of dancing for five straight hours.

Friday also was a day for the regulars, who go from blues festival to blues festival and become friends along the way.

That group includes Jeff Jackson of Columbia, Md., and Bob Lubbehusen of Annandale, Va., who got Lil' Ed to pose for pictures with them after he played.

Jackson said the fan group's last stop was the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival on May 16 and 17.

Jackson complimented Hagerstown's event as a nice venue with good acts, good food and good drinks.

Overstreet said she was depressed when she missed last year's blues fest because of other things going on in her life.

"I hear blues and my body wants to move," she said.

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