GALVESTON — A concert planned on East Beach next weekend has some business owners worried.
Promoters plan to hold a daylong concert Saturday featuring five different DJs playing electronic dance music. The concert will be from 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., which is not typical of events at the Park Board-managed beach.
The concert has some business owners worried their operations will be disrupted by traffic congestion that typically comes with large events at East Beach.
“When East Beach has such a large event and it’s not properly controlled with traffic and police enforcement, we tend to shut down the seawall to help with the amount of people (who) leave that beach,” Johnny Smecca, the president of the Galveston Restaurant Group, said.
During busy weekends, traffic traveling south from East Beach on Seawall Boulevard is diverted to Broadway. That strategy prevents traffic from reaching many seawall businesses, including those owned by Galveston Restaurant Group, such as Mario’s Seawall Italian Restaurant at 628 Seawall Blvd.
The coming weekend is especially important to local businesses because it’s the last before school starts, Smecca said.
Park Board officials said Saturday’s event is unusual for them in many ways.
“There was an extra level of diligence that went on for this event,” Executive Director Kelly de Schaun said.
The Park Board and the concert’s promoters, Highland Concerts, signed an agreement outlining precautions meant to protect concertgoers.
According to the agreement, the promoters are required to have Galveston police officers inside the event area, as well as its own private security. Highland was also required to submit a security plan with the Galveston Police Department and a medical plan with the county health district.
Because the event is being held at night, when there are not typically lifeguards on East Beach, the security will be tasked with preventing people from entering the ocean after 7:45 p.m.
According to the agreement, Highland is responsible to “any issues or problems” that occur with the festival area.
The Park Board will receive $7,000 from the promoters for the use of the event area, and will also collect revenues from people parking at East Beach.
De Schaun said that, even before a contract was signed to hold the concert, the Park Board completed due diligence on the promoters, checking with venues and law enforcement in Dallas, where Highland Concerts has held events before. The reviews the Park Board received were positive, de Schaun said.
She added that Saturday’s event would be a learning experience for the Park Board, which has generally limited events at East Beach to daytime hours.
“We’re trying to develop East Beach as a venue for large-scale events,” de Schaun said. “We have a certain level of diligence for what’s going on there, but they’re ultimately responsible for what it is.”
De Schaun said that she wasn’t aware of Smecca’s concern about traffic, but thought it was reasonable.
EDM concert issues
A similar Beach Blanket Bingo event was held in Wildwood, N.J., earlier this year. After that event, business owners complained about the use of profanity and of “inappropriate behavior” by concertgoers.
The complaints led the promoter to cancel two other events he’d planned to hold at the beach. It does not appear that the Dallas-based Highland Concerts organized the Wildwood concert, although both the Galveston and New Jersey events are advertised on the same website.
Electronic dance music concerts have seen a popular resurgence in recent years. In 2013, the electronic dance music industry was projected to be a $6.2 billion global industry, according to the Association for Electronic Music, a trade group. More than half of the industry’s worth comes from concerts and festivals.
With the increase in popularity has also come an increased focused on problems, particularly on recreational party drugs such as MDMA, that are commonly associated with electronic dance music concerts. MDMA is a psychedelic drug that is often referred as Ecstasy or Molly.
The guidelines for Galveston’s Beach Blanket Bingo event specifically prohibit illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia, as well as more unusual items that are often connected to electronic dance music concerts, such as personal massagers, pacifiers and glowsticks.
On the event’s website, the promoters say all attendees will be searched before entering the concert venue and have their identifications checked.
Emails sent to the owner of Highland Concerts were not returned. A publicly listed telephone number for the company was disconnected.
The main danger from drugs like MDMA is overheating, according to DanceSafe, a nonprofit organization that promotes healthy behavior of the electronic community. Energetic dancing, combined with the drug’s ability to inhibit body temperature regulation, can cause people to suffer heatstroke.
For that reason, Dance
Safe recommends that event promoters take a number of steps to keep attendees safe, including providing access to cool drinking water and “chill out rooms,” where people can relax and cool down comfortably if they begin to feel overheated.
That the city hasn’t announced any special precautions for next weekend isn’t unusual; it doesn’t do that at other large events like the annual AIA Sandcastle Competition.
Smecca said that, in the case of annual events, he thought Galvestonians are usually prepared for annual traffic headaches. But in the case of a new event, like the concert, Smecca said he thought that there should be more public awareness when large events are being held.
“The main important thing is that the city knows how big an event is going to be on East Beach,” Smecca said.
Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @johnwferguson.