Buffett unites young and old for a massive boozefest.
âYour gonna wear that?â my buddy Buck asked the second after I hopped into his truck. âIt looks like some Members Only jacket from the 1980s. What, did you borrow that from your dad?â
Buck tugged at my windbreaker and chuckled.
âWhatâs it matter?â I replied. âWeâre going to a Jimmy Buffett show. Itâs gonna be nothing but old people there.â
âAre you fucking serious?â Buck fired back. âIâve been to a Buffett show, my friend. And trust me, as a single man you donât want to be wearing that.â
When we got to Ford Amphitheater, I saw that Buck was right, and opted to leave the jacket in the truck. We arrived around 7 p.m. Friday, an hour before Buffett was scheduled to take the stage, and the parking lot resembled what one might find outside a Bucs football game: people of all ages, many of them tailgating, most of them looking like they had started drinking around noon, especially the throngs of college-aged students who nearly matched the baby boomers in number.
As the wind whipped through my short-sleeve shirt, I told Buck maybe I shouldâve worn the jacket, fashion be damned.
âWe were just talking about the same thing,â said the gorgeous young woman walking in front of us. And then she giggled mischievously. âI was just saying how maybe I shouldâve worn a bra!â
I tried to think of a witty comeback â¦ but came up empty.
I turned my attention from a minivan with âBuffett or bustâ written on the back window to a massive party across the way with three or four tables, multiple tents, kegs and various liquor bottles. Everyone there appeared to be in their early 20s â or younger. They were holding up plastic cups and chanting a drinking cheer I couldnât quite decipher. Something about âbeesâ and âkneesâ and âJesus.â They slammed their drinks and grimaced.
Closer to the main entrance there was a pirate ship, temporary tattoo parlor and tiki bar. Buck had already plowed through his half of our pre-show six-pack and ordered a draft. We waited for our friends Justin and his girlfriend Mandy and watched the crowd: Middle-aged Parrotheads with the goofy hats, a young couple carrying an inflatable shark, couples in leather Harley Davidson gear, a man in a pirate costume, a woman who looked to be about 70 drinking from one of those mini Sutter Home wine bottles. Oh yeah, and there were scads of beautiful women wearing bikini tops, leis, sandals and grass hula skirts. One galâs bikini top even had electric blinking lights.
âYou donât see that every day,â Buck said.
We entered the packed Amphitheater at 8 p.m. and stood in one of the monster cocktail lines, where every other person, including Mandy, ordered, you guessed it, a margarita. While we waited, Buffett took the stage. Beverages in hand, the four of us found our seats around 8:30 while Buffett and his Coral Reefer band, which numbered about a dozen, played a corny but agreeable song about having a âLicense to Chill.â
Four or five beach balls bounced around the entire show. Buck was dead set on getting his hands on one, but kept missing. Justin or Mandy finally snagged one and handed it to him. Buck spiked it, and during his follow-through caught the hair of the woman in front of us, nearly yanking her to the ground. Now, at most rock concerts this is the type of incident that might well lead to a brawl.
âIâm so sorry,â Buck said. âNo more beach ball action for me.â
âNo worries,â said her boyfriend.
And that was that. Later in the evening, somewhere between âSon of a son of a Sailorâ and âA Pirate Looks at 40,â Buck and I were walking down the aisle and passed a bunch of frat-boy types smoking a joint.
âHey, let me hit that,â Buck said.
And they obliged him.
Buffett performed all his fan faves and a couple tunes I didnât recognize. The two huge screens that flanked the stage showed clips of the singer-turned-business-mogul surfing, sailing, flying his plane, visiting ancient ruins and a bunch of other stuff that made us conclude that heâs probably the happiest person in the history of humanity.
Of course, that shouldnât give him the right to cover Van Morrisonâs âBrown Eyed Girl,â a song thatâs been played a zillion times by a zillion bands and that Buffett basically rips off every time he writes an original. It was during âBrown Eyed Girlâ that I made my lone complaint of the night.
âYâknow,â I said. âWe could hear this same song, done just as well, by any bar band in town.â
âYeah,â Buck said. âBut here you get to hear it at a party with 20,000 people.â
Jimmy Buffett performs again Saturday at Ford Amphitheater in Tampa.