Nothing quite says a return to normalcy like the flocking of Parrotheads across the country to see their patron saint Jimmy Buffett. The Mayor of Margaritaville has been a mainstay of summer outdoor venues since the ’80s and gracing every backyard barbecue since the ‘70s.
However, this year was clearly different as it seemed this year’s crowd was releasing months of stress and letting the “island escapism,” of Buffett take over. As this first-time island dweller entered into the equally important Buffett tailgate, I realized just how massive a scale that some fans take their tailgating to.
From the pick-up truck tailgate pools to the tiki bars made of PVC pipe and construction paper, fans made parking lots quite a spectacle at Coney Island and Riverbend Amphitheater Tuesday night. Starting as early as 8am fans descended upon the summer music venue and theme park, to set up and escape to their Havana Dream.
Like a cross between a college football tailgate and Shakedown Street at a Grateful Dead show, fans party until it’s time to go inside and hear the summer gospel.
The 74-year-old Buffett returned to the Riverbend stage for the first time in two years. A nearly sold-out crowd welcomed the singer-songwriter to a roar of applause as he went into “Down at the Lah De Dah.” Which he followed by a playing song that is synonymous with the artist’s aesthetic and backyard-playability, even though it was written by an Irish-Man in 1967. “Brown Eyed Girl,” felt somehow not cliche as it offered something the entire crowd could get behind and get them going.
Throughout the rest of the night, Buffett gave fans exactly what they wanted and had come to expect. Playing through staples of his catalog like, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Come Monday,” and even offering covers such as “Little Martha,” by the Allman Brothers.
However, Cincinnati has a special relationship with Jimmy Buffett. As one particular song has named checked the Queen City in every beach bar, backyard, and lake party for years, “Fins.” Much of the crowd was elated to see fins to the left and right of them for the first time in over a year.
Like any good showman, Buffett made sure to save the biggest sing-along for the end. Like, “Sweet Caroline,” at Fenway Park, fans were eager to shout, “Salt! Salt! Salt!” in response to the search for the lost shaker and salt. “Margaritaville,” may be the quintessential song for the Buffett cannon as it gave fans one last glimpse at the island escapism of the music.
Like a family reunion, Buffett and his fans at this point know what to expect and love that about each year. The familiarity gives fans the guaranteed experience, and if Jimmy Buffett is good at one thing it’s giving his fans an incredibly unique experience.