Soft sands. Live bands. People coming together to make memories set to music, on warm summer evenings where nothing seems to matter but the strum of the guitar and the love of family and friends.
Not a bad idea.
At least that’s what Santa Rosa Island Authority Executive Director W.A. “Buck” Lee thought when he started the free beachside concert series back in 2006. Turns out, he was right. It’s been a sure bet for Tuesday nights out ever since.
Grab your beach chair, pack a cooler and get ready to dance in the sand at Bands on the Beach. This 22-week event showcases a talented lineup of regional bands covering most musical genres including Southern Rock, Country, Motown, Reggae, Rhythm and Blues, Jazz and Hippie Jam.
The music begins at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday in April through the last in October at the Gulfside Pavilion on Casino Beach Boardwalk. Dates, times and performers are subject to change, so check online at Visit Pensacola Beach before heading to the show.
Robbie Schrock of the SRIA says many bands come back year after year, but organizers do try to recruit a few new ones each season for variety.
One of the longstanding acts is The Modern Eldorados, founded by Tyron “Gretsch” Lyles in 1996. Their sound stays true to the roots of Americana, just as they have stayed true to Bands on the Beach. Their commitment to the concert is as authentic as their frontman’s voice, unwavering as he says: “To us, it’s a sentimental thing, a place where families and folks from all walks of life can come together and have a good time. We don’t take that lightly, the chance to perform for such an audience.”
The Modern Eldorados were founded on throwback tunes from a forgotten era when personal connection was still of great value. Gretsch says if he can help people forget about their bills or relationship struggles for two hours, get caught up in the moment and be free, then he’s done his job. He considers it a civic duty, and one he is proud to perform.
“I’ve found my place in this world through my guitar,” he says. “The guys in my band, and the people who come out to hear us play, are my family.”
Family is the focus at this free event, which certainly fosters togetherness. The span of white sand from the Gulfside Pavilion to the Gulf itself transforms into a sea of blankets and beach chairs, with people ages 9 to 90 kicking back or kicking up their heels to familiar, celebratory songs.
After all, there’s always a reason to celebrate when there’s music in the air and your toes in the sand.