Young and old alike danced the evening away at the ninth annual College Park Blues Festival in Ritchie Coliseum on Saturday.
Three blues bands and one duo took the stage at the the event hosted by the D.C. Blues Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting blues music through performance and education.
Felix McClairen, president of the D.C. Blues Society, said the society hosts two events a month with the occasional “pop-up,” like the College Park Blues Festival.
“We had a table at a University of Maryland event and the College Park Rec Board was sponsoring the event but it didn’t have shape, so we collaborated with the College Park Rec Board to help produce the show,” McClairen said.
The event was mostly attended by community members, but some students showed up after hearing about the event on Facebook and seeing signs around campus.
Anna Blendermann, a senior computer science major, was interested in the event because of the dancing.
“I do ballroom and from that I got introduced to West Coast Swing and I got introduced to blues from that,” said Blendermann.
Senior computer science major Lawrence Roth is a fan of blues and attended the event last year. Roth said he wants more students to consider getting into blues music.
“All college kids are into EDM and rap, but they should expand their horizon,” said Roth.
The first act of the evening was duo named “Carly Harvey & Sol Roots.” Harvey and Roots each have their own band but became a duo a year and a half ago.
“I went to jam with him and kept coming back every week,” said Harvey.
The duo won a D.C. Blues Society competition, which earned them a slot at this event and a trip to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, to represent Washington, D.C. Harvey and Roots are working on a project and hope to have a duo album out in time for the competition in January.
Harvey and Roots have been taking some initiatives to get young people interested in blues music. Roots said he made an album with the Music Maker Relief Foundation that “takes old blues and mixes it with some hip-hop and electronic music.”
“You have to cater to what people like. You have to do what moves them,” said Roots.
The mission of Harvey’s band is to get young people involved with blues by covering young artists who are doing blues music or arrangements of pop music that are in a blues form.
“People will recognize it from the radio but they’re hearing in a blues form. Young people and old people dance to it,” said Harvey.
The D.C. Blues Society is trying to get young people involved in blues as well, but they have yet to find the most effective way to do so. McClairen said the society has talked about doing a regular jam on college campuses, but that these initiatives are constrained by the number of volunteers.
“We have to get our message out through the campus organs,” said McClairen, “and hopefully students will be the ones to make the outreach after that.”
The D.C. Blues Society’s jams on the first Sunday of every month at the Silver Spring American Legion from 4 to 8 p.m.