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Nighthawks just one local band catching fire

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Published on: Thursday, June 20, 2013

By Jack Owen

The Washington, D.C. area has long been home to a rich local music scene, with a seemingly endless number of open mic nights, jazz clubs and venues for live music lovers. And with a fresh slate of venues in Montgomery County, such as the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club and the Golden Bull Grand Cafe in Gaithersburg, the county itself is remaining an integral part of this scene.  

“I think it’s forever had a great reputation,” said drummer and percussionist Wes Crawford of the area’s music. “Montgomery County and the region is really full of high caliber singers and musicians, artists of all sorts.”

Crawford, a Silver Spring resident, is a freelance drummer who performs with a variety of different bands in the area. He also teaches drums at Goucher College. “I’ve made my career by being as versatile as possible,” Crawford explained. “I’m one of those who you can call who can play pretty much any kind of drum style, and some percussion too. If you ask me what kind of music I like playing, my answer is usually whatever I didn’t play last time, because I really enjoy playing a lot of different styles.”

Crawford will be performing with the band Envirodrum Maryland at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club on Sunday. Envirodrum Maryland is a franchise of the original Envirodrum group from Toronto. The band uses all recyclable materials as instruments, such as plastic and metal. “Our message within all the music is an environmental one, and it revolves around reduce, reuse and recycle,” explained Crawford.

Crawford has performed at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club three other times with three different groups this month, and said he is impressed by the new venue.

“It’s by far the best place for musicians to play in our whole region that I know about,” he said. “As far as the staging and the lights and the capability to hold a big sized crowd – it’s great.”

Guitarist and vocalist Gary Brown of Palmer Park, MD, who will be playing at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club with his band Bushmaster Blues on June 27th, also spoke to the diversity of the area’s music scene and his excitement for the new venue. “I think there’s a healthy scene, as in everything there’s always little things that could be improved here and there, but overall I think it’s healthy and thriving and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”

“Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club] is a new venue and I just heard about it not too long ago, and I’ve heard nothing but great things. This will be my first time playing there and hopefully not my last,” said Brown.

Brown describes Bushmaster Blues as a funky, blues, high-energy rock band, and cited a wide range of individuals as his influences, ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Nelson Mandela.

“With my music I can go in a lot of different directions. I’m civically minded and politically aware, and I do somewhat address those themes in my music.”

Brown emphasized that Bushmaster Blues draws a diverse crowd, appealing to a range of different people. “I know it’s a cliché, but in my case I think it really is true that my music can appeal to a wide variety of people,” he said. “A Bushmaster audience is usually a pretty diverse audience – you’ll see older couples, younger couples, tie-dye wearers, all different types, because everyone can find a common bond in the groove.”

Mark Wenner of the legendary local band, The Nighthawks, a group that has been a favorite in the Washington, D.C. area since 1974, has seen how the music scene in Montgomery County has changed and developed over the years. A Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School graduate, Wenner currently lives in Kensington, and his house is the home base for the Nighthawks.

“It’s been an interesting ride. It’s definitely ever-changing,” Wenner said of his experience with the area’s music scene. Wenner said that since the early ‘70s he has seen how the area’s music has altered. From the growing presence of racially integrated bands in the ‘70s, to the flood of the punk scene in the mid ‘80s with local acts like Fugazi, and other factors such as the changing drinking age, The Nighthawks have bore witness to the area’s many shifts in music.

“There been some movement recently,” Wenner said of local venues and open mics. “ Some new places have opened up – the Golden Bull in Gaithersburg seems to be doing some real stuff, Bethesda Blues and Jazz, the Fillmore in Silver Spring seems to be pretty successful,” he added.

The Night Hawks will be performing at the Golden Bull on Friday June 28th.

“We have a strong local presence, I believe” said Wenner of the Night Hawks. For those interested in turning off Netflix and spending a night out to hear live music, check out the line ups for Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club, The Golden Bull Grand Café, the Outta the Way Café, Dietle’s, and numerous other places. 

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