Our first outing at Western Maryland Blues Fest showed us what we’ve been missing the last 17 years. This intimate festival, right on the streets of picturesque Hagerstown, has all the elements that make smaller festivals special: friendly atmosphere, manageable surroundings, great food and excellent music, both tried-and-true and fresh-and-new.
Two large stages alternated bands like clockwork. Fans had just enough time to grab a beer or soda and walk the half a block to the next show before the music kicked in—”kick in” being the operative words. Whether the hard-driving favorites Moreland & Arbuckle, Matt Schofield (who Elmore’s Arnie Goodman raved about only last week) the up-and-coming sacred steel ensemble the Lee boys or blues stalwarts Walter Trout and Ronnie Earl, one way or another, the crowd either couldn’t or wouldn’t sit down.
Beside the festival itself, unexpected delights for these reporters: fried catfish, with cajun-fueled breading that melted in my mouth, and Trampled Under Foot, a sibling trio (Danielle, Kris and Nick Schnebelen) who tore it up with terrific instrumentation and killer vocals from Danielle. This family band has won a few awards recently, but watch for them to garner more. Kudos to the City of Hagerstown and festival organizers for a very good festival and very good ears.
– Suzanne Cadgene and Faith James