I've managed to fashion a life in the Washington DC area pretty much devoid of the governmental sausage machine, spit polished by power, influence, and money. The Congressional Blues Festival on Wednesday night at the Mellon Auditorium downtown was a bizarre intersection of the two.
Supposedly this was a benefit for the Music Maker Foundation. The Music Maker Foundation is an charity that helps musicians in need of food, shelter, and health care. But I'm not sure how that works out. The show was free. I guess the sponsorship of VW, Tysons, etc. paid for it. Throw in the 30 congressional hosts, I guess that access explains it. The quality of the music (with one exception), food (courtesy of Tyson's food with not a vegetable in sight) and open bar would be worth some money.
The crowd was very young... probably mostly staffers and interns... 20-somethings and the median number of blues shows these folks had probably seen in the past year would be ONE, including this one. Still they seemed to be having fun, and it wasn't just to hit the bar.
When I arrived, the Carolina Chocolate Drops were finishing up. They are an old time country blues jug band. And I think I saw Taj Mahal sitting in on Banjo. Beverly "Guitar" Watkins came on next. She was a real surprise... kinda like grandma plays the blues. She is a great electric guitarist with a fantastic stage presence. She had her handful of songs, then Mudcat, who was backing Beverly Watkins up, got his handful. He is a natural performer and another great guitarist. More guitarists followed with Cool John Ferguson and late addition of Kenny Wayne Shepherd. It was all so good.
But for all the good, you've gotta suffer. Lets talk about the next band, the 2nd Amendments. Just staring with the name, what can you divine? (A) it's a stupid name, nothing a professional musician would choose. (B) Hyper-political, and (C) dripping with patriotism. So it shouldn't come as a great shock that this band is made up of congressional members. Musically, the keyboard player didn't suck. All to late we fled to the outside deck. I was hoping these guys would have gone on first, but I guess this is what political influence gets you.
We were sticking around for Taj Mahal. Taj was there with a minimal band. Apart from the first song, where the rhythm section and Taj were on completely different wavelengths, they were great. We got a good hour out of Taj. And we took advantage of the plenty of floor space available for dancing.
If this thing happens again next year, go ahead, go. Sign up for the free tickets. It's a good gig, now you know what to expect, and what to avoid.