Washington rock musicians and their fans had a party of their own Thursday night at the Ontario Theatre, as three local favorites -- The Nighthawks, the Rosslyn Mountain Boys and the All-Stars -- offered their raucous brands of holiday cheer. Beer and wine flowed freely, hot dogs were downed, the crowd hollered and staggered all night and the music itself displayed the strengths and weaknesses of Washington-area rock 'n' roll.

The Nighthawks headlined the show. They are a plucky group of blues maniacs who have been refining their music for several years and who played with a skill and abandon that was a boisterous contrast to many "superstars" who have plodded into town recently. They are the perfect blend of wit and raunch, with Jim Thackery's vocals and needle-nosed guitar and Mark Wenner's hearty harmonica providing the musical thrills while Jan Zukowski's bass and Pete Ragusa's drums pound a solid accompaniment. The only mystery about The Nighthawks is that they still do not have a major recording contract. They certainly deserve one.

The Rosslyn Mountain Boys and the Allstars did not fare as well. Both suffered from a lack of musical ability and imagination. The "Boys" featured an eclectic blend of country and rock, yet their vocals were weak and their musicianship sloppy and unequal to the demands of some of their material. The Allstars offered strait-laced interpretations of old blues numbers that seemed more reverential than emotional. While they are able to simulate many of the stylistic devices of the music, the group is a pale imitation of the original masters and seems to lack a style of its own.