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The 19th Annual Western Maryland Blues Fest: The THRILL Is Back

Blues Fest

The 19th Annual Western Maryland Blues Fest rocks into Hagerstown.

It’s about time to shake your moneymaker to the wailing guitars and perpetual rhythms that fill downtown Hagerstown. Blues Fest weekend is a citywide party that’s fun for the entire family! Get to rollin’ and tumblin’ Thursday evening with the free Blues Prelude concert in University Plaza. Friday night, the Lotta Blues Kickoff is in the City Center Parking Lot, and the good times just keep rolling through the rest of the weekend. On Saturday, at the Downtown House Party — also in the City Center Lot — both stages open up for seamless alternating performances. As the weekend draws to an end, the free Family Blues Picnic at the City Park Band Shell, and workshops and performances at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts on Sunday are a perfect way to get ready for a blues-less stormy Monday.

Kelly Bell Band opens the festivities Thursday evening at University Plaza on West Washington Street with their amalgamated take on blues. The collective offers up a genre-expanding take on blues music by incorporating elements of funk and a touch of hip-hop while remaining true to the Delta style they occasionally incorporate. The Blues Fest Poster Art Exhibit Opening at the Washington County Arts Council on Potomac Street will follow the Kelly Bell Band’s two-hour set.

Scott Ainslie is opening up the Lotta Blues Kickoff with a fiery set of acoustic, National steel guitar blues. His set will be followed by Carolyn Wonderland’s powerful voice and equally potent guitar skills. The music will lull only temporarily for the opening ceremonies, and then make way for The Lee Boys who bring their Florida-based funk and gospel blend to the Blue Moon Stage. The road-tested veteran — who happens to be a mere 23 years old —Eric Steckel closes out Friday’s festivities with what promises to be a rockin’ show in the vein of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

The Rhythm Kings return to get the downtown House Party started at noon and are followed by Old Man Brown who bring their soulful sounds from Baltimore. While they aren’t the whippersnappers they were 7 years ago when they signed their first record deal, the young trio known as the Homemade Jamz Blues Band brings their homespun take on blues — and homemade instruments — to the Blues Fest Stage ‘till the three o’clock hour when Samantha Fish commands the stage with her bluesy guitar-driven rock.

Indigenous start the second-half of the day’s music and bring with them their electric blues sounds akin to Carlos Santana. Texas-based Mingo Fishtrap will be hot on their heels, for a stage-full of a soulful style. British Blues award winners The Ian Siegal band will be up next in what will be their final show from their first U.S. tour, and the legendary Ronnie Earl brings his Broadcasters to close out Saturday. You’re going to want to stick around to see the guy B.B. King said “is one of the most serious blues guitarists you can find today.”

On Sunday, Blues Fest gives back to the community with its free afternoon of music in City Park. The Tonehounds open the day and Delaware’s Lower Case Blues will follow with some funky-blues. The one-of-a-kind Moondog Medicine Show will keep the energy high and set the stage for bluesman and storyteller Doug MacLeod. With free blues workshops at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, great food and more, you won’t want to miss one note of this free family event!

18th Annual Western Maryland Blues Fest
Downtown Hagerstown & Hagerstown City Park, May 29–June 1
301-739-8577, ext. 116 •

Friday: Tickets cost $20/advance, $30/gate; children 12 and under free with paying adult. Gates open at 4 p.m., IDs required.

Saturday: Tickets cost $35/advance, $45/gate; children 12 and under free with paying adult. Gates open at 4 p.m., IDs required. Gates open at 11 a.m., IDs required. Special combination ticket for Friday & Saturday: $50

Sunday: Free

Tickets can be purchased in advance online or at the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.