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The Third Annual Columbia Pike Blues Festival offers more than bluesy boogie-rock clichés. The Hardway Connection, for example, may be D.C.’s best-kept secret. This octet, with four soulful vocalists, won the 1994 National Blues Talent Competition but since then has stuck mainly to low-profile gigs at Maryland clubs like Gee’s and Lamont’s. Though overreliant on Al Green and Z.Z. Hill covers, the group has a new cassingle with two impressive, albeit retro, Stax-like originals. Despite having two albums out on a British label, harmonica player and Vietnam vet Charlie Sayles has been, until recently, living in a homeless shelter and playing for change on the street. Onstage with Tennessee-raised guitarist Memphis Gold and his band, Sayles is a commanding live performer. Also performing are country blues master John Jackson, the blueshounds, and Sam Gunderson & Cactus Groove. From noon-6 p.m. at the Patrick Henry School, 701 S. Highland St., Arlington. Free. (703) 892-2776. (Steve Kiviat)