Jimmy Buffett & the Coral Reefer Band Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion May 5, 2011
See more changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes in our slideshow.
Blowing through the jasmine of our mind, Aftermath once got it in our head somehow that Jimmy Buffett wrote "Margaritaville" not about some low-rent Gulf-shores resort but our own state capital of Austin. We were hoping he might shed some light on the beach-bum anthem's mysterious origins at our first-ever trip inside Parrothead Nation Thursday night at The Woodlands.
He didn't, only introducing "Margaritaville" as a "Cinco de Mayo surprise" (heh), but he clued in a lot of the younger Parrotheads on hand about their own potential origins before "Come Monday." First calling it his "Date Night" song, he immediately Autocorrected to "a little sneakin' to the back of the lawn and makin' out kind of song."
By "makin' out," he meant the kind of makin' out people do when they're nekkid: "This could be part of your heritage."
Aftermath has no idea how many lawn babies were among the sold-out crowd Thursday, nor how many new lawn babies might have been conceived during the Coral Reefer Band's two-hour set. None of our business anyway. But it was obvious that however much he may or may not have influenced the birth rate of the Upper Texas Coast, Buffett has a real soft spot for the region.
He even played a song either written especially for or adapted to the occasion, the mariachi-inflected "Cinco de Mayo In Houston." In those lyrics and elsewhere, he shouted out Liberty Hall, Gilley's, the Ship Channel, Galveston, Ninfa's enchiladas (in Spanish) and Freddy Fender.
Buffett gave a special welcome to the Parrotheads who had made the drive from Beaumont and Corpus Christi, and pictures and/or video of Earl Campbell, Nolan Ryan, the Rockets' 1994 NBA championship and the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo flashed on the video screens during "In the City."
And instead of introducing another date-night song, "A Pirate Looks at Forty," as such, he called it a reminder of the "lean days when I was living in Florida and making a living in Texas" with genuine gratitude.
As lighthearted as he was laid-back, the 64-year-old Buffett also brought up his tumble offstage back in January several times. After a typically sunny cover of "Brown Eyed Girl," he said. "I had this little problem in Australia a couple of months ago. What can I say? Shit happens."
Funniest, though, was the rap he inserted into "Off To See the Lizard": "Had an ass like Kim Kardashian but at least I'm still alive."
On our maiden voyage to "Finland," Aftermath was both bemused and bewildered by the throngs of Parrotheads around us, who wore their leis and "fin-breros" with pride and batted around a barrage of beach balls all evening. It's not quite the Masons (we assume), but they definitely have their own costumes, rituals and incantations, like the "Salt! Salt! Salt!" echo during "Margaritaville" and the completely confounding shark-fin mass undulation during "Fins."
Some of them tailgated all day - as screened in a slideshow during "Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes" - and some of them paid a lot of money to act that casual (Aftermath's comp tickets were priced $136 apiece). But every last one displayed a degree of devotion to both Buffett and his Peter Pan philosophy we couldn't help but admire.
From opener "The Wino & I Know" on, the Pavilion radiated a warm psychic glow that may have even surpassed Arcade Fire 24 hours earlier. Aftermath says that as perhaps the only person in Southeast Texas to have seen both with our own nekkid eyeballs.
And as much as we may marvel that someone would put a foam shark fin on their head, let alone wear it out in public, Buffett's appeal is not perplexing at all. Almost to a one, his songs are about simple truths and simple pleasures.
There's cheesburgers, girls and booze, of course, but also trying to make your way in the world ("The Wino & I Know"); believing in yourself ("Off To See the Lizard"); family and tradition ("Son of a Son of a Sailor"); and taking pride in your work whether it sucks ("It's My Job"; "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere") or doesn't suck ("Makin' Music for Money").
Of course, it helps when you've got an 11-piece band that can expertly navigate from the steel-drum island breezes of "Cheeseburger In Paradise," and "Havana Daydreamin'" to the countrypolitan swing of "Door Number Three" ("Let's play like we're in Gilley's") to the brassy Stones/Little Feat roots-rock of "Makin' Music for Money" and Crosby Stills & Nash's "Southern Cross." That one, which closed the main set, wasn't quite the James Gang, but we'd wager it had at least as much kick as Buffett's Margaritaville tequila.
With copilot Mac McAnally, who played Alan Jackson on "5 O'Clock" and Jerry Jeff Walker on "Railroad Lady," and the Reeferettes, who spelled their boss halfway through with a simmering cover of Bill Withers' "Use Me," on board, we'd even go so far to say Buffett could probably get along just fine without that frozen concoction that helps him hang on.
OK, maybe not. But Buffett gave every impression Thursday that he may be one of the few people on the planet who has legitimately never had a bad day in his life. Just as long as he watches his step.
Personal Bias: We are not immune to the charms of "Margaritaville," and love "Railroad Lady," but honestly the main reason we wanted to review this show is because our dad is a big fan and had never seen Buffett before.
The Crowd: Five or six generations of Parrotheads. Did we mention there's a slideshow? Curiously, we smelled more pot - and better pot - at Arcade Fire.
Seen In the Crowd: A guy in front of us had a picture of a lighter on his iPhone - flickering flame and all - like the Yule Logs on TV every Christmastime. Oh, the humanity.
Random Notebook Dump: It's a little hard to relax, or take notes, when you could be clocked by a beach ball at any second.
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The Wino & I Know Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison Cover) Off To See the Lizard Havana Daydreamin' It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes Life Is Just a Tire Swing Come Monday Cinco de Mayo In Houston Son Of a Son Of a Sailor It's My Job Cheeseburger In Paradise One Particular Harbor Use Me (Coral Reeferettes; Bill Withers cover) Railroad Lady Door Number Three Makin' Music for Money School Boy Heart Volcano Margaritaville A Pirate Looks at Forty In the City Fins Southern Cross (Crosby, Stills & Nash cover)