Cloudy skies and lots of rain. That usually spells disaster for your average outdoor party. But this wasn’t just any party – it was a Jimmy Buffett concert – and a little rain wasn’t going to stop anybody’s good time.
Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band came to Camden’s waterfront concert venue (which is probably changing its name as I write this), as part of their annual summer tour. While the show was amazing – one big party of college-aged kids, 50-something moms and dads, and everybody in between, singing along to songs about beaches and bars – the tailgate was the real party. Of course it was. Nowhere does a parking lot feel more like a backyard than at a Jimmy Buffett concert. Or, more accurately, nowhere does a parking lot feel more like a thousand backyards, all geared up for their biggest BBQ of the summer!
The Parrotheads, Jimmy Buffett’s huge following, are known for some of the best tailgating of any audience. There are always Corona and limes, flip flops and bathing suits, great smelling grills and ice-filled coolers, not to mention hundreds of decked-out RVs and the most leis, parrots, and pirate flags this side of the Caribbean.
The easygoing vibe of the music probably plays a part in the great tailgating scene, along with the songs romanticizing beach bums and pirates. It also probably has a little to do with the disposable income of many of Buffett’s fans, who tend to be a little more gainfully employed than your average Phish or Grateful Dead fan.
One thing Parrotheads definitely have is passion, something very evident on this “summer” day. Rain was all over the forecast, and everything was basically windy and wet. But nobody complained. Moms and dads pulled out the ponchos they had brought for just this occasion, while college kids and other poor planners cut holes in the black garbage bags they had brought. Some camps had sturdy tents established and spent the periods of rain relaxing as if they were home on their front porch, while others struggled trying to fasten lines and secure knots (ahem, nobody you know). Others had huge RVs with built-in roofs, and some just sucked it up and walked in the rain, usually in just a bathing suit.
The point is nobody was ready to pack it in and go home. And everyone’s perseverance was eventually rewarded. As it got closer to show time, the rain stopped and the sky cleared up. I was able to walk around and get a good feel for the concert. One of the things I love about tailgating is the creativity and attention to detail fans show. Seeing a guy flying around on a motorized cooler is always fun. When that same guy has a beach umbrella propped up, shielding him from the rain, it becomes awesome. There were some amazing cornhole sets; hand-painted with the same themes I was seeing over and over again – parrots, pirates, beaches, and boats. One of the more impressive features I saw was a Buffett-themed tiki bar. I never realized how important a tiki bar could be to a tailgate, but it really took things up a notch (I guess it doesn’t hurt when that tiki bar has a bowl full of fresh shrimp resting on it and ice cold Coronas underneath).
Along with the passion and creativity, one of the best parts of any tailgate is the camaraderie between tailgaters. Buffett concerts really have that camaraderie on full display. For one thing, it is a total family affair, which means you will see a group hanging out with little kids running around, dads grilling, and even grandparents relaxing in beach chairs. It tends to make people act more like they are at a BBQ than a bar or club. The sharing was pretty awesome, too. I couldn’t keep track of how many margaritas I was offered. It was also pretty easy to get in a game of cornhole or washers, as everybody was willing to make friends with strangers.
When the concert started and everybody walked in to the venue, I found myself on the grass lawn, surrounded by thousands of my newest friends. We had great music playing, blankets set up, and a fantastic view of the Philadelphia skyline across the river. The weather had finally cleared and we were all grooving along to the music. Good times, all around. The only thing that could have been better? Maybe if we were all still hanging out in the parking lot!
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