A Long-Time Parrothead Recalls His Single Greatest Moment at A Buffett Show
The Santa Barbara Bowl is an intimate venue. Its capacity is a mere 4.562 and although it’s only a few minutes from town and the harbor, it’s fairly high up in the hills, so the surrounding scene is spectacular. It truly is a bowl. And it’s a perfect place to see Buffett.
I had somehow managed to score seats on the floor. In the 19th row! I felt like I could have reached up and played the conga drums if I so desired.
We arrived a few minutes late and Jimmy was already into his set. This was a time when there were not 30 people in the Coral Reefer Band. It was more like a more modest 10 or so as I recall. Jimmy must have been feeling a little reflective that night because he kept the songs as intimate as the venue. He played his acoustic guitar a lot and most of the night sat on a bar stool.
I got chills up my spine the minute I arrived because I could tell this was a very special show. I was in the company of someone who, after that night, became my girlfriend for the next year (more on that later) and I welcomed this Buffett virgin to the ways of The Man the way a muti-show veteran does to rookies: I made her a strong rum drink! It must have been near Luay Larry strength because the people behind us recoiled a bit as took our first sips.
Shelly was paying far more attention to me than Buffett – I later learned she was quite taken by me, though being a guy I pretty much had to be hit on the head with a rubber mallet to realize it – and I was transfixed by what was happening on stage.
This was no standard “Fins,” “Margaritaville” “Cheeseburger,” “Volcano” show. It was one of more reflective melodies: “Changes In Attitudes,” “Manana,””Captain and the Kid,” etc.
Just when things were as good as I thought they could get, Jimmy turned to the Coral Reefers and said, “Okay, everybody get off the stage.” At first, I thought maybe the concert was over and that I had missed about half of it. The Coral Reefers hesitated a bit and Jimmy said, “I mean it, I’m kicking you off the stage.” I distinctly remember the words “kicking you off the stage,” as if the band had done something terribly wrong.
They exited, all except for Mac McAnally. “Oh, they are doing a duet,” I surmised. Except Jimmy looked at Mac and said, “You too!”
If this was staged, then Buffett should get an Academy Award because it sure seemed real. He then turned to the audience, just him and his acoustic guitar and sitting on a bar stool, and took us on a solo musical sailing tour of the Caribbean. He combined all those songs into a medley that was so perfect, so ideal, that I could feel one of those “life moments” overwhelming my soul.
He did “Banana Republic”, “Coconut Telegraph,” Havana Daydreamin,’ ” “Coast of Marseilles” and “Cowboy in the Jungle,” all blended together better than any frozen concoction. It was, without question, the Single Greatest Moment at a Buffett Show in my life.
Whatever happened after that, I don’t really recall, except the Coral Reefers eventually came back on stage and the show went on for a few more songs. Shelly, of course, had no idea what had just transpired and there was no way I could ever convey it to her.
How Shelly came to be there with me – and how I learned of the show to begin with – is a bit of an interesting story. That morning, I got a call from a girl informing me she just heard on the radio that Buffett was doing something of a surprise show in Santa Barbara and if I hurried to the record store (that’s the way we did these things in the pre-Internet ’90s) that I might get tickets.
I bolted for the record store and managed to score those 19th row tickets. When the girl called me back I told her yes I got them and thank you for telling me. That’s when things got a bit sticky.
“So, when do we leave,” she asked excitedly.
“We?” I asked. I had no intention of going with her. We had gone out a couple of weeks earlier and upon my arrival at her apartment, she kept me waiting for an hour while she chatted on the phone in her bedroom. The only reason I waited was that her roommate was doing a very nice job of entertaining me. The girl looked – and acted – like Sarah Jessica Parker in LA Story, and I would have no part of her anymore. So after getting the tickets, I called Shelly, who eagerly accepted my invitation.
“We,” I continued, “are not going.”
“Then why did you think I called you!?”
“Well, you know I like Buffett and I thought you were just being nice.”
Had “SanDeE” not been so rude to me when I went to take her out on a date then she, too, could have experienced that great moment at one of my best Buffett shows.
Nothing, in dozens and dozens of Buffett concerts since (and that includes organizing party buses to Irvine almost every year since) has ever surpassed that experience at the Santa Barbara Bowl.