Festival brings the blues to D.C.

The skies weren’t blue, but the music was.

The D.C. Blues Festival, punctuated by periods of heavy rain and thunder, featured eight hours of blues music for free at the outdoor Carter Barron Amphitheatre Saturday. Held annually by the D.C. Blues Society, the festival focused on bringing live music to the city.

Between live acts, which varied from acoustic sets to performances with almost all electronic instruments, the stage’s speakers were used to play recorded classic blues acts, such as Muddy Waters. In front of the entrance, a tent housed workshops for beginning players, whose ages ranged from grade school children to gray-bearded men.

“Our mission is to promote blues, and we’re turning people on to all sorts of blues music,” said Chris Kirsch, who is on the society’s board of directors.

The audience was filled with enthusiastic people bobbing their heads to the music. As musicians ended impressive solos on their instruments, spectators jumped to their feet, clapping loudly.

The almost constant flow of music stopped once when thunder signaled possible danger, but the festival continued through the pouring rain.

“It was a covered stage, so the show goes on,” Kirsch said.

Walter Robinson, who performed at the show, said the festival came at an appropriate time.

“(Blues is) starting to pick up,” he said. “A lot of people are starting to get tired of the everyday stuff you hear.”

Robinson is a guitar player from Maryland and a member of one of four amateur bands that competed at the festival for a place in a larger Memphis blues competition.

But some said a free live event provided a needed boost for the blues scene.

“People just don’t go out to see live music, period, not to mention blues,” Kirsch said. “It’s a real problem for musicians today.”

Attendee Nicole Antoine said the festival was effective in promoting music appreciation.

“It’s very good, and it’s helping to keep the blues alive,” said Antoine, a blues fan for about 20 years.

“The lyrics are always very sad, that’s true, but it’s more than that – it’s a feeling,” she added.

Attendee Cindy Konisky, of Maryland, said she goes to about 10 major blues events annually, and always anticipates going to the D.C. festival.

“This is huge,” she said. “I would consider this the premier event of the year.”

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