- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Blues musicians Big Gilson, Bruce Ewan and the Solid Senders kicked off the fifth annual Silver Spring (Md.) summer concert series Thursday night amid storm clouds.

The performers started early, just before 7 p.m., with plans to play as long as the weather would allow. The nearly 150 concert-goers scattered just before 8 when lightning and rain ended the outdoor concert at Georgia Avenue and Ellsworth Drive.

"Silver Spring Swings," as the series is called, will present a concert each Thursday night through Aug. 17. Genres will include blues, Latin, country, salsa, Motown and swing. "Diversity in music is as important as diversity in a crowd," says concert volunteer Eric Sepler of Takoma Park.

The free outdoor concerts, sponsored by the Downtown Silver Spring Urban District, serve a community-building function. "It's come to be very important to the local community, who look forward to it every year and make it part of their lifestyle for the summer," says Susan Hoffmann, in her third year of coordinating the series.

With several vendors on hand, an intermission raffle for adults and children and even a clown, the concerts clearly target families. Murdaza Kxan of Silver Spring, who was accompanied by granddaughters Summer and Shauna, both 4, says the importance of children experiencing cultural diversity through music is important.

Mr. Ewan, who recently completed a blues concert tour in Argentina, and Mr. Gilson, a Brazilian blues guitarist, have played together in the past. "It's great to play at home," says Mr. Ewan, a Silver Spring resident. "Blues is not a museum piece; it is important for all ages to be exposed to this unique American art form."

Solid Senders drummer Bob Berberich recalls playing at the Silver Spring series two years ago. "So many people don't get to hear this kind of music. They're not going to go to nightclubs or the Kennedy Center. They're going to go down the street a couple of blocks," says Mr. Berberich, of Frederick, Md.

On deck for the second concert this Thursday are Ruthie and the Wranglers, a country rock band and a returning act to the Silver Spring series. Ruth Logsdon, the lead vocalist, refers to "Silver Spring Swings" as "one of the finer community concerts" at which the band has played.

Ms. Hoffmann says a new site for the concerts made necessary by construction at what was Kughn Park paired with the summer recess for Montgomery County public schools and a less than desirable weather forecast hurt attendance at the first concert. Undaunted by the weather were Carol Smalls and son Bryan Smalls, 8, of Silver Spring. "I was looking forward to it as a way of celebrating summer and ending school," Mrs. Smalls says.

Loyal concert-goers seemed to enjoy the relaxation amid the bustle of the city as "Silver Spring Swings" set the mood for summer. "It's the only way I get to see all of my neighbors," said Frank St. Mark of Silver Spring.

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