April in Glenwood: Life’s a beach in Margaritaville
Hang around the Aspen and Roaring Fork valleys long enough and fun stories about the free-spirited party days of the 1970s and 1980s are bound to surface.
The Eagles, Steve Martin and Jimmy Buffett are formidable institutions from Aspen’s early entertainment scene who emerged from the mountains to become household names. I’m a fan of them all, especially Martin in “The Jerk,” an Aspen Film Society production and one of my all-time favorite comedies. Buffett is also especially dear to my heart. Meaning I am a Parrothead, by definition.
Parrotheads are the Buffett-loving versions of Deadheads who don Hawaiian shirts instead of tie-dye. Shark-fin hats instead of dreadlocks. We know every word to the Parrothead anthem “Margaritaville” by heart. And we revel in the fact that when summer comes around each year, there’s an outdoor venue out there somewhere hosting a sold-out show. Collectively, I’m in the double digits for Buffett concerts. I’m wishing I would’ve kept count, but think I’m around 15.
This week, I continued the tradition by adding one more show to my list.
My Jimmy Buffett fandom truly reached its wuthering heights in the ’90s, in my early adulthood when I was better equipped to handle upside-down margaritas and hours of pre-concert tailgating in the sun. In our 20s, my friends and I took Buffett shows as seriously as a roadside sobriety test. There’s no worse buzz kill on the road to Margaritaville than mixing drinking and driving, so we always planned ahead to ensure a safe voyage. One year, my pregnant friend had the honor of being designated driver for a full mini van of colorfully dressed and exuberant fans. Her baby, whose first Buffett show was in the womb, is now a teenager.
The designated driver at a Buffett show is nothing short of a hero, considering the sea of partygoers who fill the parking lots leading up to the live music. We once chartered a coach bus with available features including bathrooms and TVs to play VHS videos — yes we still used those in the ’90s — for a comfortable ride in the air conditioning. Years before, we had rented a big yellow school bus to take us safely there. In the heat of summer, school buses can get pretty toasty, and I remember sticking our heads out the windows like dogs on a car ride for relief. I called a seat in the back of the bus so I could finally be one of the cool kids.
Another one of my cool memories of Buffett shows was during my college days when I was down in Daytona Beach for spring break. My friends and I had been at a local bar the night before and heard a rumor that Jimmy would be showing up at one of the hotels poolside for a secret show.
We made sure to get to the hotel venue early that day for a front-row spot. In the heat of the Florida sun, Jimmy appeared on stage like a mirage of mermaids a lonely castaway sees on a deserted island. I was in awe. I was the closest to him I’ll probably ever be, and remember vividly the good vibes he sent out to the crowd as he sang a few of his classics. Then he graciously stepped aside so the band he had recently signed to his Margaritaville Records label, The Iguanas, could play for the warmed-up beachfront crowd.
My favorite Buffett show, though, is one that made history. On Labor Day 2005, Jimmy became the first musician to use Wrigley Field as a concert venue, and my best friend Megan and I were there to witness the glory. I was living in Colorado then, and hadn’t seen Jimmy perform since I had decided to move cross-country and see his sold-out show at the well-known Indy outdoor venue formerly known as Deer Creek the night prior.
Megan is one of the biggest Cubs fans I know — I also pray for The Curse to be lifted every year — so we had to see his concert at Wrigley. We headed to Chicago and made sure to pre-game the concert at the famous Cubby Gear sports bar in Wrigleyville. The people-watching at the northside neighborhood was as much fun as the show, as Parrotheads invaded nearly every square inch of the area with Hawaiian shirts and leis, shark-fin hats, and coconut bras and hula skirts — the latter worn by guys as well as gals. Maybe a little like Aspen in its party heyday.
April E. Clark was ecstatic to see Huey Lewis and the News open for Jimmy Buffett on Thursday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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