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A Galveston Gem

Have you ever been to the bandshell at Menard Park? It’s in front of the McGuire Dent Recreation Center (“rec center”) on 27th and Seawall. Right behind the painted big turtle is a stage with an acoustic shell-shaped wall wrapping around it. It was made for hosting concerts.

I’d been seeing it for years, asking what the story was on that place, but no one had anything to say except I heard, “We need some music here.” Or, “They should host a concert series in the park.” They should do this and that. There is no “they.” We are they.

About a year into this pandemic, I was tired of seeing the bandshell sitting there all sad and empty. Bums used it for shelter and a toilet. Kids vandalized it and broke whatever was breakable. The lack of live music or anything fun going on around town, or anywhere else in the world, was making me miss my friends and my community. I missed jamming out loud with our band, so one day I walked in the rec center and started asking around how to host a summer concert series in the bandshell. The first answer was all no. I was persistent however and eventually organized a zoom call with a panel from the city who agreed to let me to start small and host a concert if I paid for the permits and facility rental. If it went well, they’d let me host more. I spoke with a few musician friends who were in bands that were down to play, and started fundraising. Within a short time, enough donations came in to cover the city fees and I felt confident if I kept at it, I could find more money to pay the bands.

The first show was canceled due to rain, but that gave us a little more time to line up the band schedule and hang some flyers around town. Donations kept coming in and it looked like I was going to actually be able to pay the bands what I promised.

Come show time, the city came through by fixing the broken doors and giving the bandshell a much-needed paint job. They ran water lines to get the plumbing working in the dressing rooms and turned the lights on for us. Looking good.

The headlining and opening bands came out for soundcheck and with a few tweaks the park was sounding pretty good. Now, the big question…is anyone gonna show? Six o’clock and I was nervous, but sure enough, a little crowd started filling in with their blankets and lawn chairs. It’s working!

The bands crushed it and the audience loved it. Each week the crowd grew as word of mouth spread throughout town. Every Thursday we had different styles of music from country to reggae, punk, rock, folk, ska, cumbia, zydeco, and everything in between, and it was all good. Galveston Island Brewing brought pizzas and Topo Chico gave us all we could drink. You should’ve seen the kids running around, playing and dancing. The Gulf of Mexico never looked so pretty as it did behind the stage with the bands playing. The bandshell was there long before the rec center was and as the season progressed, I heard stories of the great bands who played there in the past. Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Clifton Chenier, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, and many more graced that stage from the fifties through the eighties. In the early nineties, there were some Battles of the Bands, but since then the shell had been abandoned. It needed some music. We all needed some music. It was too long locked down and afraid. We need fresh air. We need community. We need to smile and dance with our neighbors while we can; before we’re run out of town by the Air BnB’s.



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