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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Jimmy Buffett!!!!! the good, the bad and the ugly ...

I've been writing a lot about Jones Beach, the crown jewel in the state parks system here on Long Island. 

Jones Beach is located on a sandbar.  The southern side of the sandbar faces the ocean -- sandy beaches serviced by several bathhouses, all connected by a boardwalk.  There are numerous parking fields, each associated with a bathhouse.  You've seen the photos from my walks along the boardwalk.  The north side of the sandbar faces back to Long Island, and features a fishing pier, marina, etc.  Bay Parkway runs along the north side of the sandbar, Ocean Parkway runs along the south side.

One of the nice features of the park is the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, a 15,000 seat amphitheater, which serves as an incredible concert venue.   It's located on Zach's Bay, an inlet on the north side of the sandbar.  When I say it's on Zach's Bay, I mean that quite literally. The stage is located in the bay, the stands are on land and look out at the bay. When the theater was first built, in the 1950's, a moat separated the stage from the seats.  Guy Lombardo, who was in charge of the theatrical productions presented at the time (shows like South Pacific and Sound of Music) would arrive via boat from his home in Freeport, across the bay.  Drew and I usually see 2-4 concerts at Jones Beach each summer, it's a great venue for a concert. 

There's a small  VIP parking lot immediately adjacent to the theater, but most concertgoers will park in Parking Field 5.  This is a huge lot that sits between Bay Parkway and Ocean Parkway.  It serves the beach and bathhouse located on Zach's Bay, and if you walk through the tunnel under Ocean Parkway you can access the oceanfront beach and boardwalk.  Even on a hot day, most beach patrons leave before the concert goers arrive, so parking for a concert isn't really an issue.

Until Jimmy Buffett comes to town.

Parrotheads like to tailgate.  They arrive at a concert venue early in the morning, set up camp and party all day.    Even at Jones Beach, which has a beautiful, sandy beach, they set up camp in the parking lot. 

On a normal day, you must park in a marked stall, one stall per vehicle.  On a normal day, you must not bring alcohol to the beach.  On a normal day, you cannot light a cooking fire anywhere except in the designated picnic areas.  None of these rules are enforced during a Jimmy Buffett tailgate. 

The first time Drew and I saw Buffett in concert was in November 2009, at Madison Square Garden.  Obviously tailgating wasn't happening at that venue, there are no parking lots at the Garden.  I'd won the tickets.  Floor seats!  An amazing show.  That was just before our first Caribbean cruise, and it really fit our mood.

So when tickets went on sale for his Jones Beach concert in 2010, we went.  And with the exception of 2013 (when we were on a Caribbean cruise) we've gone to see him every summer since.  We don't do the tailgating, but that first year we walked around the parking lot in amazement at how elaborate some of the camps were.

Each year, the tailgating gets crazier and crazier.  Fun for the tailgaters, not so much fun for the rest of us.  One year, we wound up parking at the East Bathhouse, about a mile away from the theater.  The walk to the theater was OK, the walk back -- on Ocean Parkway in total darkness -- was horrible.  The following year, I sprung for the VIP parking pass....

When Drew and I looked at the Jones Beach concert schedule for 2015, we were very disappointed.  There weren't any concerts we really wanted to see.  We weren't even sure we wanted to see Buffett, after last summer.  Except that...well, Huey Lewis and the News were scheduled to open for Buffett.    I bought my tickets directly from Live Nation -- horrible seats at the very top of the amphitheater -- because that's the only way I could secure a parking pass for the VIP lot.  I usually buy more expensive seats on Stub Hub ands sell my original tickets, but I never got around to doing that this year.

So we ventured out Tuesday afternoon, secure in the knowledge that we could bypass the tailgaters and could park at the theater.    Except that we're in the middle of a heat wave, which meant many, many ordinary beach patrons in addition to the tailgating Parrotheads.  Which meant that most of the parking lots were full at 4:00 in the afternoon.  We spent a frustrating 45 minutes trying to get from Ocean Parkway to Bay Parkway and the VIP lot, until some very frazzled but very nice park employee allowed us to cut through Field 5. 

The show was scheduled to start at 7:00, which meant the gates opened at 6.  Drew and I always like to get to a concert when the gates open, it gives us time to visit the concession stand, browse through the t-shirts and souvenirs, and settle into our seats long before the show begins.

We grabbed some burgers from a new concession stand -- one operated under the name of Guy Fieri.   We were very pleased to see Fieri at Jones Beach; last year the concessions stands were so bad that we wound up bringing sandwiches and eating in the parking lot (I guess that does make us tailgaters after all).    Fieri's burgers are expensive -- all the food at Jones Beach is outrageously priced -- but yes, he does make a great burger.   Huge burger, brioche bun, lots of lettuce and tomato, dripping with sauce.  What could be bad?

So our seats, as I said, were in nosebleed territory.  The very last row of the amphitheater, we took the elevator to get there.  A great view of the park, I must say, but so high up that we felt a bit disconnected from the concert. 

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We started to make our way to our seats at about 6:50, only to find out that Huey Lewis had already taken the stage and begun to perform!  Can you believe that?  According to the set list I saw posted on Wednesday morning, we were seated during his second song.  Yes, we missed "Heart of Rock and Roll".

I wasn't overly impressed with Huey Lewis.  Maybe it was that I was already annoyed when I sat down.  Maybe it was the disconnect, or that he was playing to a half empty stadium.  But while he wasn't bad, he wasn't captivating either. 

And then there was Jimmy.  A great set list. I loved how during "Margaritaville" he included a reference to his cameo in Jurassic World  -- yes, he did save the margaritas from those wild animals.  I laughed at his jokes, danced and sang.  The people up the  cheap seats were, for the most part, better behaved than the losers we sat with in the orchestra last year. 

But Drew was grumpy and frazzled and moody, and complained he felt sick after someone 2-3 seats away from us smoked a cigarette.

Next year I think we will tailgate in Drew's back yard and stream the concert on Margaritaville TV.

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