Jimmy Buffett at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 05/29/2014
Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Jimmy Buffett Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion May 29, 2014
When I grow up, I want to be Jimmy Buffett.
Dude has everything. At 67, he runs around in bermuda shorts and worn old T-shirts, singing about the lives of sailors and beach bums while his adoring fans known as "Parrotheads" flock to his concerts in droves. They even coordinate their shark-themed dance moves to his music, and down Landsharks while doing so. It has got to be an awesome life.
At least it sure seemed to be last night at Cynthia Woods, when Buffett took the stage on the Houston stop of his annual tour. Surrounded by Hawaiian shirts and bouncing beach balls, he was as one has come to expect: all smiles, and all hits.
From the tiki palapa-covered set onstage to the barefoot backup singers and the beautiful -- and surprisingly not cheesy -- scenes of blue oceans and white-sand beaches rolling in behind him on the big screen, Buffett's show managed to turn the landlocked Woodlands into an insta-beach-party. It was pretty impressive, considering late May is usually quite swampy and not at all beachy, for the most part. But somehow, Buffett even talked the unseasonably tepid air into cooperating.
Those Hawaiian-shirt-clad Parrotheads sure cooperated too, which only added to the ambiance. As he rolled into radio hit "Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes" and a cover of Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" were in the first few songs, those hard-partyin' fans were in full effect, dancing in the aisles and shakin' their geriatric groove thangs. I've never seen so many silver foxes get stern reprimands from security, but apparently that's just how it goes at a Buffett concert.
That's the thing, though. When a Jimmy Buffett concert is in full effect, it's like nothing anyone outside that exclusive Parrothead tribe has ever seen. Beach balls are prevalent at most outdoor concerts, including Buffett's, but matching beach-themed attire, shark hats, and religious, day-long tailgates are not.
Rumor has it that those tailgating fools were out in the designated parking lot -- yes, there is indeed a designated area for some serious early-morning drinkin' and BBQ'in' -- were out there setting up shop at 8:30 a.m., which is impressive considering the likelihood of a tailgate pre-party the night before.
And every other person in the audience had on some funky version of either a) a shark hat, b) a shark fin hat, or c) a shark-shark fin-fruit-themed hat. To have the kind of pull as a musician that entices grown-ass folks to dress up like tourists in the Caribbean must be epic.
Not that Buffett uses that power for evil, mind you. He plays right into the beach-themed madness of his shows. Clad in full regalia -- in his case, flip-flops, neon yellow trunks, and pink T-shirt -- he's obviously amused at the naughty drunken antics taking place.
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Considering that he's been singing these same songs for the same diehard fans for decades now, it's refreshing to watch him still enjoy every moment of it. Unlike the shark and fruit hats, neither the haphazard but overly enthusiastic dancing nor the nearly passed-out Parrotheads have gotten old to him, it seems. He really still seems to like what he's doing up there.
And they seem to return that enjoyment in response to Buffett's music. As a musician, Buffett has basically created a genre -- an amalgam of Cajun/country/singer-songwriter/coastal styles -- that is completely unique to him. Many artists have followed suit in the years after him, but none have done it quite as well.
That being said, it's surprising that Buffett has done so much with only a handful of mainstream hits. His only number one hits: "It's 5 o'clock Somewhere," with Alan Jackson and "Knee Deep," with Zac Brown Band, have been duets with big country artists, and he makes sure to do them live. His best-known hit to date, "Margaritaville," is easily his worst song, despite its popularity.
It's unfortunate that those songs are what Buffett will be forever known for among folks outside that Parrothead circle because songs like "Come Monday" are not only better, they're simply great songs, tempering that coastal-themed chaos in a way that only good songs can do. I wish he'd managed to make more of a mainstream dent with them.
Not that it matters, mind you. Buffett has done just fine with his "Margaritaville" accolades, and if people outside of the inner circle realized just how damn good of an artist he really is, there would be no chance for anyone to land a ticket to his shows. It's hard enough as it is.
If Thursday night is any indicator, there's no doubt in my mind that this Buffett/Coral Reefers madness is going to slow down anytime soon. They're all aging, yes -- Buffett included, but those hardcore Parrothead fools will be out there tailgating in their walkers in a couple of decades, reminiscing over their cheeseburgers and daiquiris in paradise, and Buffett will be around to lead the way. It seems salty air, and salty songs, will do wonders for the soul.
Personal Bias: I grew up on a strong diet of Jimmy Buffett songs -- like for real, yo -- and snatched up my dad's complete discography because I'm secretly an old. I am all about that coastal life.
The Crowd: Silver-haired, inebriated and sporting expensive Hawaiian shirts, if there is such a thing.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Fins to the left, fins to the right..." and they all went the wrong direction, of course. Surely no one was sober enough to care.
Random Notebook Dump: A couple of things. These are important, y'all:
- To whomever had a few too many of those frozen concoctions in the first stall of the women's bathroom: while I appreciate you aiming for the potty, your frozen concoction goggles failed you in your bid to aim, my friend. My dress did not appreciate your rainbow-colored parting gift of whatever you drank. I spent the latter half of my night with a wet dress from rinsing out your upchuck, while trying not to get too close to anyone, since the faint smell of bile was not pleasant, nor was I terribly interested in explaining that I sat in puke.
- You Parrotheads can motherfuckin' party.
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