Tim Onasch, Publicity, PRJC
A few weeks after last year's annual picnic, word arrived that Blob's
Park (which had been closed as of 12/31/2007) would re-open after some
much-needed repairs and renovation. Sure enough! The legendary beer hall
did re-open with a bang on New Year's Eve of 2008. We board members and, I'm sure, most
of you were relieved to have our old annual picnic
venue back in full swing. So earlier this year, we made sure that we
reserved the second Saturday in September for this time-honored and
highly-anticipated annual event.
As you all know very well, 3 long-time PRJC bands, Buck Creek, the
Federal Jazz Commission, and Last Chance, had all disbanded by the end
of last year. So we had one heck of a dilemma confronting us: Who could
we get to perform at such an important event like the annual picnic's
return to Blob's Park? It would be hard to replace the "Big Three", but
we came up with a 3-band lineup that would not
disappoint most perennial picnic-goers. This year's 3 worthy entries were
the Washington Conservatory Jazz Band (who've made quite a reputation
for themselves at their monthly gig at Normandie Farm Restaurant), Ben
Mauger's Vintage Jazz Band from the Harrisburg, PA area, and Hal's Bayou
Jazz Band primarily from the Baltimore area (this band has been a real
crowd-pleaser for a number of years now!). Each band was scheduled to
play 2 sets consecutively, beginning at noon and ending at 6:30PM, with
a 15-minute break between bands for each to set up.
As not too many tickets for the picnic were sold in advance, we board
members were hoping for a good turnout at the gate. Also, the weather
wasn't forecast to be the most pleasant on the day of the picnic: cool
and dreary, with a slight chance of rain. However, some 170 eager souls
did show up and, except for a few sprinkles early in the day, the
weather held up rather well. I think Someone Upstairs was looking out for us!
Leading off the day's entertainment was the Washington Conservatory Jazz
Band. I think that most of you readers are familiar with the band's
members, especially if you've attended any of its monthly jam sessions
at Normandie Farm. Its featured singer is none other than the fabulous
Lena Seikaly who belted out a number of tunes during the band's 2 sets,
including "Deed I Do" and "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues". She just
keeps getting better and better! The band performed a number of trad
favorites, such as "Panama" and "Weary Blues". If this first band was an
indication of things to come, then we knew that we were in for an
exceedingly fun afternoon!
Batting second (yes, I'm a baseball fan; hence, the references to our
National Pastime!) in the lineup was a band that most of us are not too
familiar with: Ben Mauger's Vintage Jazz Band. The leader, Ben Mauger,
plays the cornet and trumpet, as well as performs most of the vocals. On
this day, the band also featured local DC area trombonist, Brian
Priebe, whom many of us are well acquainted with. This Pennsylvania band
plays music from the Jazz Age, Dixieland and a little New York-style
trad jazz swing. This band lived up to the highest standards of earlier
veteran bands who've played at the picnic in past years. It played such
familiar tunes as "Just A Little While To Stay Here" (made popular to
PRJC-ers by the Federal Jazz Commission), "Basin Street Blues" and
"Beale Street Blues". The band's tight style and enthusiasm on stage was
well-received by the audience who applauded heartily after each number
that it played. Also, attesting to the approval the band received was
the number of couples who got up and cut a rug (so to speak, as the
floor inside Blob's pavilion is made of concrete!). I have a feeling
that these Keystoners will be invited back to next year's picnic and
possibly to one of the club's monthly specials in the coming year.
Batting clean-up was the afore-mentioned crowd-pleaser from Charm City,
Hal's Bayou Jazz Band. With Sig Seidenman leading this fine assembly of
musicians, we attendees knew we were in for a real treat. The band plays
with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and Sig's humorous anecdotes have
become legendary over the past several decades. The band played such old
chestnuts as "Tishimingo Blues", "Fidgety Feet", "Tin Roof Blues" and
"Wabash Blues". Again, numerous couples got up and danced to the
melodious strains performed by the HBJB, attesting to its popularity.
I looked at my watch just before the end of HBJB's last set and couldn't
believe that it was nearly 6:30 and nearing the end of a splendid day of
music at good ol' Blob's Park. Those 6 hours of music blew by like a
freight train trying to make up for lost time! Others sitting near me
also felt the same way. We couldn't believe that we had to gather
ourselves up and leave the premises in such short time.
Yes, I believe that all 170 in attendance went home with smiling faces
and contented hearts. Hopefully, many of you reading this little article
will plan on making it to next year's picnic - you won't regret it in the least!
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