It’s hard to believe but it actually happened: tonight Jimmy Buffett paid a surprise visit to one of his Margaritaville restaurants, making every Parrothead’s dream come true. Buffett and Mac McAnally began playing at the Margaritaville in Key West around 1Opm and kept going for about an hour and a half. The restaurant was completely packed, with a crowd waiting outside to get in. For once, Margaritaville was the coolest place in town — and in the entire state of Florida (sorry Miami).
It wasn’t advertised that Buffett and McAnally were going to be there — the only indication that something out of the ordinary might happen was a sign that said the restaurant was closing today at 5pm and would reopen at 9pm. Word got out and people started lining up around 7pm. Even after the restaurant was filled to capacity, fans waited outside both to listen to the music (the door was left open) and to try to get in — and most who were patient did. The staff manning the door couldn’t have been nicer and let people in whenever someone left. (I can’t imagine why anyone would leave while Buffett was singing, but they did — and that’s how I managed to see the second half of the performance.)
I was lucky enough to hear Buffett play “A Pirate Looks at Forty” and “Pencil Thin Moustache” among others. He also sang “Nautical Wheelers,” which he said was about a folk dance group from Key West. When Buffet introduced his song “Margaritaville”, he said “It’s a good thing I wrote this or we’d all be out of work.” (He was talking to the staff of Margaritaville and his entourage, I think.) Indeed, the recession seemed to be weighing heavily on his mind. Buffett played a new song — twice — called “We’ve Got a Lot to Drink About” that referenced madoff, subprime loans and Citigroup buying jets with bailout money. The refrain went: “Depression, recession, good God, CNN stop bumming me out.” The lyrics to that song may sound like a downer, but a suprise night with Buffett — that was totally free, no less — was anything but.