Sunday, May 2, 2010
Last night I decided to brave the worst rain storm in recent history and go to my first Buffett show. The rain let up long enough for me to walk around amidst the grass skirts and flower shirts and find a ticket in the upper level. While I was making my way up the stairs and to my section, which Jimmy described as the "indoor lawn", I saw everything from guys in bikini tops to old ladies with Margaritaville t-shirts and fanny packs. There was one common theme that ran through the building though, everyone was hammered. I had heard that the parrot heads like to throw down but I guess I never imagined the range of ages and different walks of life that come together to celebrate sub-par beach tunes sung by a barefoot frat boy in the local hockey barn.
The high demand for booze stranded me in the beer line when the show started but I made it in to hear "License to Chill" and "Schoolboy Heart" as the man with the bartender's ear got the crowd going in the early stages with their beach balls and glow sticks. As the show went on, there were songs I recognized like "Cheeseburger In Paradise", "It's 5 O'clock Somewhere", and "Come Monday", which got a huge reaction from the crowd. It was also fun to hear songs I had never heard but seemed to be equally as popular like "Penciled In Mustache" and "If The Phone Doesn't Ring, It's Me", which was requested via beach ball. They did one song about Elvis, written by Gillian Welch, that just didn't really fit in with the rest of the set. It was a little too new-school country, as was the guitar player's cheesy "Back Where I Come From" ballad. The between song banter reminded me of having a drink on the beach with an old buddy, then would cleverly lead into the next song. He praised the Parrot Heads for their undying loyalty and made the atmosphere very laid back as he joked with my old friend, keyboard player and longest tenured Coral Reefer, Mike Utley. We were even treated to an island version of The Grateful Dead's "Scarlet Begonias" to "Bring the Parrot Heads and the Dead Heads together".
The Coral Reefer Band did a pretty good job backing the Bob Dylan of the beach. Everyone from the Randy Owens lookalike on guitar to the pedal steel player to the one man horn section got into the groove and played like they were at a little dive in the Keys. I have to say that the percussion player was a sorry, bush league, weak sauce display of the old "let's get some dude to stand back there and look like he's adding something" method of auxiliary drums. I'm tired of these acts, especially a so-called "island" Jimmy Buffett band, having inept percussionists whose drums can hardly be heard and whose contributions are slim to none. It looked like he was barely hitting the congas and completely out of time, but doing a good job of imitating a tourist from Topeka enjoying a Margarita on St. Pete beach. At least they knew better than to waste any time giving him a solo. The actual drummer was as good as he needed to be for this band. You know, no Dave Grohl, but I guess there's no need for that much power in this group. On the other side of the stage however, was the steel drum player and Mike Utley on keyboards. These two melded their instruments perfectly to create the trademark sound that we all know from the C.R.B.
The show came to an end with our favorite number, "Margaritaville", being sung by 20 thousand sloshed Parrots. Being that an ark-worthy storm was raging and I didn't want to be surrounded in traffic by an arena full of sponges, I left before the encore. I'm sure it was great. They usually have a formula that they follow and it's a integral part of the show but having already heard "M-ville", my Buffett glass was full and I was ready to get out of there.
It was a fun experience to see this show. I have always heard about the riot that ensues when Buffett comes to town, especially in the old Starwood Amphitheater days. The Parrot Heads were such hardcore fans, it had me asking "where are all these people for the other 364 days of the year?" I just don't know anyone who puts in Havana Daydreamin' on a road-trip or blasts A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean on the Hi-Fi at a party, or even rocks a Buffett t-shirt for that matter. I guess you're more of a fan of a way of life than actual music because if you think about it, the music is kind of silly but the attitude makes life a little easier to take. More power to Jimmy, a true American original who has carved out his niche and invented an entire culture. I guess it's going to take more than a hundred-year storm to keep these heads away, there were very few empty seats and you would have never known that a natural disaster was occurring just outside. But like he said, "At least it's not an erupting volcano".