For my husband’s 35th birthday, I bought him tickets for one of his bucket list concerts: Jimmy Buffett. We’re a bit fussier about venues as we get older. Our social phobia, claustrophobia, and agoraphobia seem to deepen with time, so to go out for a show, it must really be worth it.
I’ve always imagined Jimmy Buffett a party concert. A scene would be full of drunken revellers, all part of one great backyard blowout, which then incidentally also had this good time rock & roller. I realize nowadays, to call him a rocker isn’t really accurate. Since “It’s 5:00 somewhere” came out, he’s been more closely aligned with the modern country music scene, where musicians like Alan Jackson and that other guy with the cowboy hat, and that other guy with the cowboy hat, have seen the wisdom in the profit he makes by aligning himself with a marketable fanbase with pocket money.
The show itself was held Labor Day weekend at Hershey Park, about two hours away. The plan was to head up Saturday afternoon, then stay overnight in Harrisburg, since it would be too late to drive home. We didn’t end up leaving until almost 3:00, by the time our sitter arrived. We drove straight to the park, and planned to check-in to the hotel after.
The drive was pretty, through Lancaster Amish country, towns like Intercourse, Bird-in-Hand, and Smoketown, as horse drawn buggies hugged the side of the road and smattering of horse droppings dotted the roadside. Arriving at the concert, the place was totally jammed. Not only was their concert traffic to deal with, but the full freight of a sunny Saturday afternoon at a major amusement park.
Everywhere you looked, there were tailgaters, all clad in varying degree of unintentional cosplay. Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, shark hats, flower leis, like we all just accidentally stepped off a plane in some random tropical island. I’ve never seen so many stereotypical white folks in one place at once. And people were just so unapologetically wasted, staggering around, yelling into their cell phones, and not a single person got 86’ed for drinking too much.
The show itself didn’t begin until 8:30, so we had some time to kill. The venue had gourmet food trucks, standard state fair style concessions, along with a few beer tents. Of course, it was all highway robbery, but this crowd could handle the milking, sopping up PBR and Sierra Nevada for $9 a cup.
With an hour to kill before the main act started, people had nothing to do but drink and stagger around, trying to interact with other drunk people. Most of them had success, but we got cornered in the beer line by a man who had to have been at least in his late 60’s who was so drunk we couldn’t understand a word of what he’s saying. Which I told him, and then was so not interested in communicating with him, that I made up an excuse to leave the line.
When it was time, we made our way into the stadium, which was absolutely jammed with people, humming excitedly with anticipation. Our seats were near the stage, but up high. The sun had set by now, and the cool breeze was lovely in the warm summer air. The day had threatened to rain, but the sky was clear and true now. From our vantage point, we could see the golf cart bringing Mr. Buffett to the staging areas. He realized this quickly, as the crowd recognized him and began to cheer. He cast a friendly wave, like a cool uncle at a summer barbeque.
I must give the man credit. His live sets are fantastic. His band is tight, he mixes up a fun, expected set of hits and unexpected pieces, including Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, which was reproduced in flawless homage to the original. We left the venue a bit early, hoping to beat out the traffic, but were thwarted by a complete log jam of poor traffic police management. At one point, we put the car in park and turned off the engine because we hadn’t moved in so long.
By the time we got to our hotel, it was well past midnight. My husband’s diamond level status with Hilton failed us though, as the room had been given away. The night manager had little to say, other than you can try the Clarion hotel down the street. We were so disgusted that we ended up driving through the night back home, and took it up with customer relations the next day. Eventually, they worked out the details, but our great concert experience was unfortunately forever tainted by the bullshit nonsense we had to endure at the end.