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The NightHawks~Legendary Hard-Driving BLUES from D.C.

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Wilbert's Food & Music

812 Huron Road East

Cleveland, OH 44115

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THE ORIGINAL "BAD BOYS OF BETHESDA"

The Nighthawks, veterans of blues, play at WILBERTS, and will treate its fans to a set of new originals and blues standards alike. Since its formation in 1972, the Washington D.C.-based band has undergone several changes, and bandleader Mark Wenner is the only remaining original member.

In the '80s, the band helped launch the career of Warren Haynes, who has played lead guitar for the Allman Brothers Band, The Dead and Govt. Mule since leaving The Nighthawks.

The four-piece outfit's current lineup has played together for the last six years, and will release its finished album in May. Additionally, the band will begin distribution of its new documentary “Nighthawks on the Blue Highway” in the coming weeks.

The Breeze had the opportunity to chat with Wenner about playing the blues before The Nighthawks' Wilberts show.

Q: How did the band begin?

A: It was my idea, I started the band when I was in college. I'm the harmonica player, and by default I ended up being the frontman singer. I moved back to D.C. in 1972 with the intent of starting a commercially viable working band that played what I wanted to play but could still entertain the troops, and that's what we've got. The original band played together for 14 years.

Q: How would you describe the band's sound?

A: It's a big mish-mosh of American music. The primary fundamental source of it is the deep hard blues, particularly to me the heart of Chicago blues.

Q: How did you discover the blues?

A: I was in New York in the '60s, and my grades suffered because I was out late at night seeing shows in the village. The amazing thing was, the music I got to see — blues-oriented, roots-oriented, some psychedelic stuff — in the '60s, I was walking past places where guys like Pharaoh Sanders or John Coltrane were playing.

Q: How influential do you feel the blues is on modern American music as a whole?

A: I love to get around some rock 'n' roll kid who hears some Muddy Waters and says, “Hey this sounds like that Led Zeppelin song.” Blues is the essence or core of what I think so much of American music is built on. You can put different accents on it, but what's down inside there is the blues.

Q: Who are your favorite musicians you've gotten to play with?

A: I got to play with Muddy Waters, B.B. King and James Cotton. I played with as many guys as I could hunt down. I once drunk walked into Buddy Guy's dressing room blowing a harp.

Q: What is it specifically that draws you to the blues?

A: The real magic is, this music is pretty simple. I could fly over to Europe and play with some guys I've never met before and do a show based on certain generate material. It also means that when you work with someone for a long time, you develop your own special language and approach.

Q: Where do you see the future of blues heading?

A: I do know a lot of very fantastic young players who have remarkable depth and knowledge and real feel. I know some younger players that can play more authentically than guys who were playing 20 years ago that were trying to play authentically. The younger people are frequently exposed to the really good source material much earlier, and have a chance to not have to wade through a lot of crap before they find out what attracts them. You had to kind of know somebody to get to the best of Robert Johnson when I was coming up, and now you can just google a YouTube clip.

Q: What is your favorite part of playing your music?

A: It's the pretty primitive emotional elements that seem to be operating. Blues is not African music, it's not European music. It's absolutely American music for Americans. All the good, the bad and the ugly that went into making it happen here is all enclosed in it. I think it'll continue to be out there, as long as we don't blow ourselves up.


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Wilbert's Food & Music

812 Huron Road East

Cleveland, OH 44115

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