El Boqueron II is formally open for rock-and-roll, and the holiday season is officially upon us now that Robert Gordon has performed that seasonal standard, "Blue Christmas."

Sunday night the Rockville venue, which recently began booking Latin bands on weekends, made its first foray into North American music with a double bill of rockabilly legends, D.C.'s Billy Hancock and the Original Tennessee Rockets and the aforementioned Robert Gordon and the Rockats from New York.

The night had a nostalgic cast. Several hundred aging hippies attended a pre-performance fajita dinner celebrating Psychedelly, the long-defunct Bethesda rock hall, as well as feting the disc jockeys who worked at WHFS when it was one of the country's premier free-form progressive music stations. Many of those DJs were in attendance.

Hancock's portion of the show was ideal for warming up the crowd at the vast venue. With Bob Newscaster slinging stinging solos on guitar, Hancock and company gave a fluid performance that included "Boogie Disease," "Rockabilly Fever" and "Redskins Rock" -- a minor hit locally in the 1980s whose optimistic chorus boasts, "We're gonna see you in the Super Bowl."

For his part, Gordon seemed in a mood to croon and stayed away from the fast numbers, save for "Rockabilly Boogie." He devoted his distinctive baritone to ballads such as Bruce Springsteen's "Fire" and Johnny Cash's "There You Go," as well as "I Just Found Out" and "Bad Boy." Despite Barry Ryan's blazing guitar, the stops and starts between songs prevented momentum from gathering.

Still, the evening was a fine beginning for a promising venue.

-- Buzz McClain