Jimmy Buffett’s Welcome to Fin Land 2011 Tour kicked off this past weekend with a concert in Tampa, Fla., and my friends and I were lucky enough to attend. If you’ve never been to one of Jimmy’s concerts, you need to understand it’s not just a concert and you’d better be good at packing.
Prior to every Jimmy Buffett concert is an event that you have to see and experience for yourself. It’s a gathering of concert and non-concert goers aka Parrot Heads and Parakeets that literally starts 10 hours prior to the actual concert when the gates open to the venue parking lot. (The 1-800-Ask Gary Amphitheatre opened its gates at 10 a.m. and Jimmy started at 8 p.m.) It’s a pre-concert warm-up party that takes place in the parking lot where Jimmy’s fans gather to play his music, eat, drink, and, in general, be merry. But days before this pre-concert party begins you’re going to need to organize, plan, pack, and double-check your “To Do” lists. You’ll also need to clear your car of any items that take up superfluous space. You know…jumper cables, tire jack, spare tire, extra sunglasses, 7-11 Slurpee refill cups, instruction manual, and so forth. Trust me you’re going to need that space.
Think of the pre-concert event as a Luau kicked up about 100 notches and you begin to get the idea of what it’s all about and what you’ll need to pack. If it’s tropical, brightly colored, or has a parrot on it, you need to pack it. Have any extra hula skirts? Pack those. Have a kiddie pool…pack it. What about a blow-up life-sized doll? Dress it up and pack it. Beach chairs…pack enough for those in your party and a few extra for friends or new acquaintances. Or just throw your sofa in the back of your truck (a blow-up one will work if you don’t have a truck). Pack up your bar…and I’m not talking just the items in the bar, I am talking about the actual bar itself along with all of the alcohol, margarita glasses, shot glasses, stirrers, coasters, napkins and so forth. Got a boat…decorate it and hitch it up to your car. Own a golf cart? It’s a definite must-take if you own one. Be sure to charge it up and deck it out with palm fronds, a surfboard, or large shark fin and get it ready to go. Lucky enough to own an RV? Be sure to decorate it and stock it with plenty of toilet paper for all the new friends you’ll make wanting to use your bathroom.
In addition, you should pack coconut bras, blenders, tables, tents, table cloths, ice, appetizers, hamburger meat, cheese, condiments, eating utensils, rugs, party lights, multiple coolers, munchies, sunscreen, Segway, lifeguard tower, beach balls, blow-up beach toys, white sand (enough to create your own beach), palm trees, keg, yard games, smoker, charcoal, picnic table, bubble machine, sidewalk chalk, hammocks, pirate flags, key lime pies, Juicy Fruit gum, artwork, Piñatas, squirt guns, flip-flops, marinated chicken wings, cameras, lip balm, generator, stereo system with speakers, Jimmy Buffett CD collection (or fully loaded Ipod), cool sunglasses, shot glasses, temporary tattoos (if you don’t have the real thing), wooden deck, barbecue utensils, beach blankets and towels, shot luge ice sculpture, leis, kites, Tiki torches, beads, Karaoke machine, light sticks, skateboards, pogo stick, bicycles (two-wheeled, unicycle, or built-for-two), limes, outdoor fireplace, knife, rope, zip-ties, a port-a-potty, toilet paper, stakes, flashlights, duct tape, scissors, and, last but not least, coconut-scented candles. This list is, of course, not all-inclusive, however, it does include items that I’ve personally packed or actually witnessed at Jimmy Buffett concerts.
And don’t forget your hats. Decorated, colorful hats are big for this event…so big you’d think there was a Royal Wedding (possibly Hawaiian as opposed to English) about to take place. However these are not refined hats…anything but. Concert goers sport an amazing array of parrot hats complete with beaks and feathers, straw hats with a colorful array of tropical items attached, sombreros with the “moat” decorated like an ocean, shark fin hats, and colorful Panama hats.
We had seven in our packing group including myself and my boyfriend Don – a Jimmy Buffett concert virgin; a long-time friend from junior high school, Scott (he’s a great attorney if anyone is ever in need of one); my high school friend Rex and his wife Debi; and a Fraternity brother of Scott’s named John and his girlfriend Erin (another Jimmy Buffett concert virgin). Once on site, our group swelled by two with the addition of Erin’s cousin and her friend.
Rex and Debi flew in from New Orleans just to attend the concert and yes, their suitcases were jam-packed right up to the 50 lb. weight limit…not so much with clothes, but with items for the concert. We all gathered the night before in Cross-Eyed Mary’s Cantina, an actual bar in my friend Scott’s house, to review what we’d brought along and what we’d need to purchase before we headed to the concert. We mounded all our items together and the discussion quickly turned to what items were missing and whether or not we could transport it to the concert in only two vehicles, with us included.
Packing of the vehicles began early the next morning and virtually every cubby possible got stuffed with concert items. After a quick stop at Publix and a liquor store for additional supplies that necessitated repacking of a few items, we were finally headed to the concert grounds worried that we might have possibly forgotten to pack some necessary item. Now those of you that have ever taken children to the beach may think that you know what this sort of packing and unpacking is all about. But sorry…it just doesn’t compare. No arguments on this topic please.
After selecting the perfect spot to park and hang out for the day, we began the chore of unpacking the vehicles and setting up our site. Everyone’s goal is to achieve the perfect tropical setting in the grassy spots of a parking lot while securing as much shade as possible. Once set up, drinks were quickly blended and we took the time to relax and chill out after all of the exertion from packing and unpacking.
At some point throughout the day, it is crucial that you cruise around the parking lot (by whatever means you have packed to make this possible) to check out and gape in amazement at all the stuff everyone else has packed and set up for this event. This is very important as it is not only how you make new friends, but it’s how you start your expanded packing list for next year’s concert.
Amazingly, there are people who attend the pre-concert event that do not have tickets for the actual concert and who never even planned on attending it. They are there just for the pre-concert activities. You can readily identify these people as they are not hurriedly packing up when it comes time to head into the concert. They are idly sitting by, relaxed with drinks in hand, watching the parade of concert goers file by on their way to the amphitheatre.
The concert was fun, the weather was perfect and breezy, and the moon arose bright and full over the amphitheater. And, thankfully, we’d packed enough and then some for all of our needs (and were able to borrow from our neighbors the few items that we’d forgotten). We enjoyed the nearly three hours that Jimmy played on stage and sang along with our friends – the multitude of other concert goers – who had shared the packing and unpacking ordeal themselves. We let the music and accompanying videos and photos carry us away to tropical destinations as somewhere in the back of our minds we wondered how we could pack a hot tub to set up at next year’s event.