Jimmy Buffett Rides The Tide At The Woodlands

This man's Hawaiian shirt game is strong.
This man's Hawaiian shirt game is strong. Photo by Pete Vonder Haar
Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band
Cynhia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
June 1, 2019

Jimmy Buffett's enduring popularity demonstrates both that people are always in need of taking a mental beach vacation, and that those who can provide such escape will never go hungry.

Spending a few (probably) inebriated hours with a few thousand fellow virtual tourists, lobbing beach balls and singing along to songs they know by heart, is obviously an attractive option for a lot of Houstonians. At least, a lot of older white (*cough*) Houstonians with extensive collections of Hawaiian shirts and straw hats.

Buffett's "Margaritaville" evolved from mere song into a lifestyle brand decades ago. You can now dine at Margaritaville restaurants from Key West to Sydney, eat Margaritaville brand chips and salsa, or ride a Margaritaville beach bike while listening to Radio Margaritaville on Sirius XM.
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Like M*A*S*H with even more booze.
Photo by Pete Vonder Haar

Which, taken at face value, is meaningless. But for someone who sings almost exclusively (and effortlessly) about the vagabond life, Buffett is only slightlessly less astute a businessman than his brother Warren. And actually, one could argue he got the better deal. After all, when was the last time you saw Warren barefoot with a drink in his hand (or his toes in the sand)?

All the favorites were there for the Houston stop of Buffett's [deep breath] "Son Of A Son Of A Sailor High Tide Tour": that margarita song, "Cheeseburger in Paradise," "Volcano" (complete with new blink and you'll miss it "don't wanna land in no Mar-A-Lago" verse), "Fins," an acoustic mid-set showcase featuring "Pencil-Thin Mustache," and the usual covers. Last night's show included CSN's "Southern Cross" and Rodney Crowell's Gulf Coast tribute, "Stars on the Water."

But a Jimmy Buffett concert experience starts well before the show itself. As a newbie to the experience (certainly there's a term for a Buffett virgin ... Celibate in Paradise? God's Own Punk?), I was pleasantly surprised to find a tailgate extravaganza just down the road from the Pavilion, with folks from everywhere from Fort Worth to Mississippi offering free libations.

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Alan from Tuscaloosa mixes a mean margarita.
Photo by Pete Vonder Haar
The show itself presents an amazing panoply of island shirts, pirate hats, and coconut bikini tops, almost exclusively sported by dudes. If you have the means, as Ferris Bueller once said, I recommend getting a spot to watch the parade of humanity entering the show. It is so choice.

As the man said last night, he's been doing this for 52 years, and it shows (in a good way). The set list varies little from show to show, but the current incarnation of the Coral Reefer band handled the transitions ably. The lineup has mutated frequently over the decades (seriously, check out some of the past members) but crowd faves included guitarist Mac McAnally, steel drummer Robert Greenidge, and Lubbock-born pedal steel player Doyle Grisham.

Buffett reasoned that Lubbock counts as the coast because the North Fork of the Brazos River eventually empties into the Gulf. Okay.

And as hard as it is to gauge a sellout at the Pavilion, it was about as full as I've ever seen it. The lawn was packed, but exuberant. A rising tide lifts all boats, and a Jimmy Buffett concert certainly elevates the spirit.

Maybe take it easy with the beach balls next time though.

Personal Bias: Never a fan in the "tropical bird cranium" sense, but last night was well appreciated after a hell of a week.

The Crowd: Your basic Tommy Bahama display floor.

Overheard In The Crowd: "Ah, she can find her way back to the hotel."

Random Notebook Dump: "I'm not drunk enough to figure out the beach ball logistics."
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar