July 3, 2011
The Sounds of Pensacola: Summer Salute IV
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
A recent addition to the Pensacola free concert scene is "Summer Salute." In its fourth year, it's held annually at Naval Air Station Pensacola (proud to be the home of the Navy's flight demonstration team the Blue Angels), Summer Salute is a free concert to thank the many service personnel we have here. There are three, count 'em, three military bases in the immediate area: NAS Pensacola, NAS Whiting Field and Eglin AFB (though Eglin's more closely associated with the city of Fort Walton). Even though the concert is for military personnel, there are a limited number of tickets given away to the general public.
Summer Salute is the only free concert featuring a current A-list performer, not someone you've never heard of or someone who was big 30 or 40 years ago. (Actually.......none of our free concerts feature anyone who was ever big -- those people still cost money and our local concerts don't have it to spend. I spoke with someone and he mentioned the pay was $700 for a concert, that was for a 4 piece band and 1 sound tech for a two hour set.) But at Summer Salute it's a genuine country music star. It's always country music because it's put on by a local country music radio station, Cat Country WYCT with the assistance of additional sponsors. But I like country music, so that's fine with me. This year's headliner was Craig Morgan, so that was more than fine with me.
(Let me make it clear, I don't object to our local concerts featuring non-name performers. A very few of them are just as talented as the A-list or former A-list acts, and they can show a lot more enthusiasm --- they're not doing it for the money. I've seen non-name performers that kept playing after their set was over, for a half hour, even an hour just because they were enjoying themselves. The A-listers and former A-listers wouldn't know a genuine encore if one fell on their heads.)
Despite the name performer, crowd size is not obnoxious at this concert. Naturally, it's bigger than you're going to find at any of the standard free concerts, but it's like a local 4th of July size crowd, not New Year's Eve in Times Square crowd. There's plenty of room for people's chairs and to spread out a blanket. I always feel slightly guilty, being a well equipped local, I have folding chairs. But most of the young service personnel who are only here for training do not; so they end up standing while I'm sitting.
This year, the gates opened to the public at 4:30PM/1630. The first performance was at 5:30/1730 and the headliner came on just before 8:30/2030. The crowd arrival is staggered throughout the evening. But, depending on where you park, it can take a long while to leave the base after the show -- even getting out of the parking lot can be a challenge. We were parked in the handicap parking lot. Most events in Pensacola don't have enough spaces for disabled parking, but NAS Pensacola set aside an entire parking lot just across from the concert field so it's one of the few events that doesn't run out of handicap parking spaces.
This is the rare concert in Pensacola to use the big stage, tower of speakers set up. That means volume can get ear bleedingly loud. I learned my lesson the hard way and now make sure to bring earplugs.
You're not supposed to bring in food or drink as there are vendors selling everything from funnel cakes to pizza. The beer's really popular. And to the administrators of NAS Pensacola...........let me apologize. I don't know why people don't pick up their litter. I do, but I seem to be in the minority. It's embarrassing for me to see the field of trash we leave behind as we're guests on your base. Any time you want me to, I'll go out after the show and help clean up.
How many concerts have a view like this?
The crowd early in the evening at about 5:30/1730.
While the locals and the military personnel stationed here long term have chairs to bring,
the young ones who are here just a few months for training don't have chairs and end up spending the concert standing.
Brent Lane and Dana Cervantes and the WYCT mascot, The Cat.
Cat Country radio had such a big crew I was wondering who was left to man the tent at "Bands on the Beach" which is the regular Tuesday night concert they sponsor. The following Tuesday when I was out at "Bands on the Beach," I asked one of the Cat Country guys working the tent who was there the previous Tuesday, he laughed and said they stuck the two new guys out at the beach while everyone else went to the big concert.
The first performer was Walker Hayes, formerly of nearby Mobile, Alabama.
He did an acoustical set that ended with his hit song "Why Wait for Summer." That song's very popular here as it mentions Pensacola.
He sang mostly his original songs, and his skewed and quirky sense of humor shows in his songwriting.
The girl group Stealing Angels was up next.
Composed of three attractive, young women who believed in showing off their assets ---- something I'm sure the young service men truly appreciated,
each of them bragged of their famous ancestors. One was John Wayne's granddaughter, one was Loretta's Lynn's granddaughter and the third was a descendant of Daniel Boone. (As was my high school librarian. She can say "Hi" from me to Miss Boone at the next family reunion.)
They were fine; I liked them, but I didn't think they were anything special:
nothing to make me sit up and take notice of them vocally if I heard them on the radio.
But, in person, the sex appeal they bring may make up for that.
I do appreciate that they're going to Iraq to perform for the troops though I think the men over there are going to appreciate it more.
If I could offer these three young ladies some advice it would be.........
Especially if you're Loretta Lynn's granddaughter, don't sing one of her signature songs,"You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man),"
unless you can sing it at least as well as your grandmother..............and you can't.
And don't even try Patsy Cline unless you've got the unique vocal qualities she had and you don't.
I actually thought the best singer was the guest they brought on stage to sing a Bonnie Raitt song. She had the right voice to sing it and really wowed me.
Just before sunset and the ceremonial lowering of the flag.
Craig Morgan and his band.
They did a fantastic job. Far and away, the best performance of the night.
You might be thinking, "Naturally, they were the headliners." But last year I preferred the opening acts to the headliner.
When Craig Morgan introduced his band, I couldn't help but be amused at their prior gigs:
Bass guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd, a Southern Rock band
Keyboardist for James Brown, a Soul singer
Drummer from the Journey Tribute Band, Rock/Pop
Violinist from a Broadway musical, now considered to be a fiddler
and only one guy in the band who actually played country music......
Lead guitarist of the Dixie Chicks
Yet you put them all together, and they made one hell of a country band.
(Turns out my camera sucks at taking night shots. Most of them were so blurry it looked like I had palsy.)
Yes, that really is the official insignia of NAS Pensacola.
The designer thought the flight students in their sea planes landed like ducks so he created the mascot, Jay Gosling.
Hey, at least someone had a sense of humor.
If you'd like to read more about the Pensacola music scene, check out "The Sounds of Pensacola: The Seductive Stylings of Songstress Holly Shelton" or "The Sounds of Pensacola: Sunsets at Plaza de Luna." For more country music, see the two part "Summer Country Jam."
To get a look at the Blue Angels, read "Red, White and Blues: The Pensacola Beach Airshow Featuring the Blue Angels."
Please take a moment to look around the Archive.