For over a decade, blues fanatics have organized 3 Summer concerts at McKelvey Park in Harlingen, Texas called Blues on the Hill. With the support of the city and sponsors this event has thrived albeit the challenges of inclement weather, lack of sponsors and support. The first concert of the season is held during Mother’s Day weekend. The second is on Father’s Day weekend and the third and last is on the third weekend in August. Yes, August outside at the park under the stars. And I tell you it is wonderful thanks to the Valley’s gulf breeze. Our evenings are pleasant considering the heat, for the Valley fares much better that most cities in Texas when it comes to heat. This past Saturday we had a pleasant cool breeze.
Anyway, back to the concert. McKelvey is within walking distance from our home, so lawn chairs in hand we headed out there. Sometimes we opt to stay at home and listen to the music from our backyard. But there is nothing like the personal experience. Like with most events, people watching is the best. And in this case so is the food and the ice-cold beer available for sale. Pizza, popcorn, funnel cakes, snow cones, fried onions and so much more!
Our son and his wife who came to visit from Corpus Christi and some friends from Matamoros were with us this time. It was the first time for most of them, and they were thrilled for they’d heard about Blues on the Hill for a while. The event started a little bit after 7 p.m. with the John Cortez band from Corpus Christi . Pretty good guitarist who delighted us with a rendition of Santana’s Black Magic Woman and some original songs. Pretty cool. Then came a group of teenagers – yes you heard right – teenagers from the upper Valley. The Riverside Boys. My 26-year-old-drummer son thought they were pretty good. And so did we, especially their harmonica player. The enthusiasm of the lead singer was contagious and entertaining. One of those times I felt old as time, but in a good way. Not even my kids are that young anymore! It was fun.
In the meantime the breeze got cooler, and just a quick glance up above opened the starry dark sky that surrounded me. People of all ages strolled by. Some with the cutest dogs, some with the cutest little boys and girls. Older couples, younger couples, sexy outfits and others not so sexy. From western outfits, to rock-n-roll themed t-shirts to whatever I found first style; there is no dress code. For the most part participants just sit and enjoy the music. A cold beer helps, and so does the sugary smell of fresh baked funnel cakes. In the distance the laughter of kids at the playground fill the air, but never drowning the sounds of the music, for the speakers work pretty well. For conversation purposes some people prefer to “set up camp” further away while others want front row seats. Either way it works.
The event was moved from 6-10 p.m. a few years ago to 7 to 11 p.m. There is only one problem (in my opinion) with this. The main band or the lead band is scheduled to begin at about 9:30p.m. – unfortunately not everybody stays that late especially – I noticed – those who arrive before 7 p.m. In this case, headliner Jarekus Singleton barely arrived in time to perform after an 11 hour drive, so there was no way he could have performed earlier.
What I am trying to say is that the crowd of hundreds (not sure of the exact number) is at its liveliest at about 8:30 p.m. and while it is nice to listen to a local band of very talented teenagers, I think the headliner should be scheduled for this hour. These are what draw people to the event and those who just attend for the fun of spending time outside and not the bands, get to listen to an amazing blues performer. Chris Maley – KMBH radio personality and host of jazz and blues daily shows – is the best at securing the best bands for these concerts.
I know some say that it is better to leave the best for last, but I am not sure it works here. Yes, there is a lot of us that stay for the best, but a good number do leave and that is unfortunate. I also think that an amazing second band will encourage folks to stay to the end because we would be all wired up. If the first and second band fail to shake things up, people opt to pack their chairs and head back home. Just my two cents. I highly recommend this event. It is different and fun for the entire family.
A great excuse to leave the house and not spend much. Admission is free.
Featured photo of Jarekus Singleton during his performance at Blues on the Hill.