Maggie A's Meanderings




August 7, 2011

The Sounds of Pensacola: Sounds of Summer

The last of the four regular, free concerts series to kick off is "Sounds of Summer" (click for schedule). It's on Pensacola Beach, not on the gulfside, but the soundside giving Sounds of Summer a double meaning. Like "Bands on the Beach," "Sounds of Summer" is put on by the Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA). The concerts start sometime in June and run most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through around Labor Day when the tourist season ends. They're from 6 to 8PM.

Boardwalk (Google Earth)
The Boardwalk at Quietwater Beach
Image courtesy of Google Earth

Sounds of Summer is held at the Shell on the Portofino Boardwalk. The Shell is an outdoor stage; the back of the stage is in the shape of a huge scallop shell. (If you're visitors and you tell your party to "meet at the Shell" you'll sound like real locals.) Of the four concert series, the Shell is the most intimate setting. The tiny stage is only a step up from the Boardwalk with a small dance floor right in front of it, then faced by low bleachers. Many performers take advantage of this to come out into the audience. Behind the stage is Quietwater Beach on the Santa Rosa Sound.....walk down the steps from the Boardwalk and you're on the beach. From Quietwater Beach you can look across the sound to city of Gulf Breeze and to Gulf Islands National Seashore - Naval Live Oaks (so named because the huge Southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana) were once a national resource used for ship construction). 

If you don't want to sit up on the Boardwalk, you can sit down on the beach and still hear (though not see) the concert. Quietwater Beach is known as a family beach. Bisected by a "T" shaped dock, the water is protected and is the safest beach on the island for swimming. This is the area where the very young children go swimming. The water is very shallow; you have to walk out to get into knee-high water.......even as far out as the end of the dock it's only about 4 feet deep.

Sadly, as of this year, I cannot recommend you go to this concert series. In the past Sounds of Summer has been cover music. This year the format was changed to be a songwriter's festival (even if it's not stated as such on the website). Five out of the first six weeks featured unknown people singing their original music. So it's strange singers singing strange songs. Only people who like that sort of thing should go. The rest of us prefer to hear music we are familiar with being played well. Because that's the other problem with concerts featuring all "local talent" ---------- sometimes they aren't very talented. With cover bands at least you can enjoy the songs if not the performances. Now you're risking listening to people who suck perform songs that suck. That's the reason I don't go to songwriter's festivals.

The Portofino Boardwalk

The Portofino Boardwalk's original name was Quietwater Beach Boardwalk and that's how I still think of it as it was perfectly named. The Boardwalk is on Quietwater Beach, not Portofino Beach. I've always suspected the name change involved an outlay of cash of dubious morality, though not legality. If nothing else it's in extraordinarily bad taste to rename a landmark for your own commercial purposes. If you're old enough to remember when the news inaccurately reported that Mitsubishi bought Rockefeller Center, you'll recall the outrage that followed at the mere idea of Rockefeller Center being renamed Mitsubishi Center. Renaming the Quietwater Beach Boardwalk was the Pensacola equivalent of doing just that. The only time I have ever used the name "Portofino Boardwalk" is when I'm giving tourists directions or on this site as I don't want to confuse people. Otherwise, I simply call it "the Boardwalk." I've noticed all the locals do the same; I don't know anyone who actually calls it "Portofino Boardwalk." Amusingly, I've noticed that both Pensapedia (the Pensacola wiki) and the Pensacola Beach Wikipedia entry both refuse to refer to it as "Portofino Boardwalk" but still call it by the local name of "Quietwater Beach Boardwalk." Having made my distaste for the Portofino name quite clear, I won't use it again in the rest of this article.

Built in 1985 by local real estate developer Dean Baird, the Boardwalk is small. You can walk from end to end in a few minutes. It consists of restaurants, shops and clubs; the club "Capt'n Fun Beach Club" is named for Dean Baird. There is no amusement arcade or anything specifically for children --- except, of course, the beach itself. In the daytime the Boardwalk has a mix of families and partygoers as even in the daytime there are some people out there who believe in the philosophy that "It's 5 o'clock somewhere." Late night, the Boardwalk is given over strictly to the partygoers. (But all the kids should be in bed that at that time anyway.)

Although there are bars/clubs up and down Pensacola Beach, nowhere else has so many clubs in such close proximity. So for out-of-towners, especially the military, the area centered around the Boardwalk on Quietwater Beach is the big summer party area. (Once the season ends, the partying moves to downtown Pensacola as all those places on the beach are open air and it's too cold.)

Quietwater Beach

The Shell
The Shell stage at Quietwater Beach.

Quietwater Beach

Quietwater Beach
My understanding is that boats can dock up to three nights here at Quietwater for free.

Quietwater Beach

It's only a few steps from the Boardwalk to the beach.

Quietwater Beach
The Santa Rosa Sound is extremely busy when it comes to water recreation.
In addition to boating, there's parasailing, jet skiing, paddleboarding, pretty much anything but surfing. Not good surfing at Quietwater.
People also fish from the dock, but fishing in Florida requires a license.

Quietwater Beach
Evening starts to fall at Quietwater Beach.

Sunset from Quietwater Beach looking northwest on Santa Rosa Island.
Pensacola Beach is part of an island named Santa Rosa Island.
Bizarrely, the easternmost portion of Santa Rosa Island is called Okaloosa Island, but it's still Santa Rosa Island -- just the section in Okaloosa county.
Santa Rosa Island is one of the longest barrier islands on the Gulf Coast, stretching for almost 50 miles.

The Bands

Hooks Band
June 10: Hooks Band
This family group consists of four siblings: two boys, two girls ages 16 to 22. Plus their dad was playing bass guitar.
This was the opening concert for Sounds of Summer and my first indication that the format had been changed to a songwriter's festival.
Given the age of the band, the original songs were about what you'd expect they'd be about: teenage love, teenage angst.

The two boys were cute enough to get the tween girls screaming, and the girls were pretty enough to attract the teenage boys.
Combine their looks with their music of somewhat sophisticated bubble-gum pop and, who knows, they might make it big.

David Shaw
June 18: David Shaw accompanied by the banjo player from his band, The Revivalists.
He actually was an excellent performer. A New Orleans band, it's unusual to have someone from so far away playing the Shell,
but it turned out the band was already booked in Pensacola for the weekend at one of the Boardwalk clubs.
He played an original set of what I'd describe as New Orleans blues/bluegrass.

June 25: Reflections
Finally, a band performing songs I actually knew the lyrics to.
Reflections played rock from the 60's, 70's and 80's.
Definitely, a "Grandpa Band" (in this case, Grandpa & Grandma Band) as I described in "The Sounds of Pensacola: Bands on the Beach."
They weren't the best local band I've ever heard, but they were fun to listen to and to sing along with.
I also admired the band for having sense enough to bring a fan as the Shell doesn't get shade until late in the evening.
Until then the bands stand in the full summer sun pouring sweat until their clothes are soaking wet.


Reflections actually got someone to take to the small dance floor in front of the stage for a different kind of dip at the beach.

After this week, I read the description for the next Saturday. It was back to being some guy I'd never heard of playing songs I've never heard of. I decided to stop attending. For me, Sounds of Summer used to be something I went to virtually every weekend. But unless the website makes it clear that the band is planning on playing cover music, I won't be planning on going.

Shell on the Boardwalk at Quietwater Beach

For the other SRIA Pensacola Beach concert series, read "The Sounds of Pensacola: Bands on the Beach." For more about the Pensacola music scene, check out "The Sounds of Pensacola: Sunsets at Plaza de Luna." For more beach coverage, read, "Red, White and Blues: The Pensacola Beach Airshow Featuring the Blue Angels." To read about subjects beyond Pensacola, please take a moment to look through the Archive.



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