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Park and Party

For fans, a Jimmy Buffett concert is an adventure in paradise before it even begins.


There usually are sparkling swimming pools, sand spread out to make beaches and palm fronds swaying in the breeze. In this small slice of paradise, partyers dressed in Hawaiian shirts and/or grass skirts roam freely among a laid-back crowd. And everywhere, there's the smell of cheeseburgers grilling.

Club Med in Cabo? Nope. It's the parking lot at a Jimmy Buffett concert.

Friday and Sunday, Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band will play sold-out shows at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre. That means his dedicated fans, known as parrotheads, will try to turn glum, gray asphalt into a tropical island as they do every year.

Irvine Meadows officials know what parrotheads are like. This year, for the first time, they're seriously cracking down. For starters, the venue and the lot will open simultaneously, and fans will be encouraged to go in as soon as they park.

Amphitheater officials on Wednesday also issued a laundry list of don'ts: no towed barbecues or other vehicles, no boats, no semi or flatbed trucks, no sand, no hot tubs or palm trees. And absolutely no fire engines.

"Leave your volcanoes, Jacuzzis, sand, bars and anything else you brought in the past at home," warns a stern voice on the Irvine Meadows hotline ([949] 855-6111). "If we don't like what we see, it's not coming in."

The reason, they say, is that parking is at a premium for the sold-out shows, so vehicles will be restricted to a single space.

Still, officials are prepared for the party. The lot is scheduled to open at 3 p.m. on Friday and noon Sunday, hours before the shows. Friday's show begins at 8 p.m., Sunday's at 4 p.m. Police will be present, and signs stating the no-alcohol policy will be posted.

Other than that, the good times will roll.

For the uninitiated, the preconcert party can be overwhelming. Here are some suggestions for first-timers, but remember, this is only a rough guide--when in doubt, parrot the parrotheads.

What to Wear

Hawaiian shirts are the most common sight at a Buffett concert, followed closely by T-shirts of past Buffett concerts. Most wear shorts during the day, although many bring sweatpants for the show, by which time it can get chilly on the hill. Leis are always appropriate.

Those wanting to jump into the tropical theme with both feet wear grass skirts and coconut bras. Women also sometimes wear these but more often are seen tastefully attired in Hawaiian-style dresses.

For headgear, straw hats are the order of the day, although the occasional Carmen Miranda fruit stack (a reference to a Buffett song) can also be seen.

What to Eat

The most popular food, by far, at a Buffett concert is the cheeseburger--a reference to the song "Cheeseburger in Paradise," a parrothead favorite. Although the song specifies lettuce, tomato, Heinz 57 sauce and other condiments, they can be prepared almost any way imaginable.

To make all these cheeseburgers, most parrotheads have brought barbecue grills, from big propane models to small throwaways. The management will be selling cheeseburgers inside. But Matt Curto, vice president of operations at Irvine Meadows, concedes that they can do little about people who do it in their RVs or camper vans.

Of course, if you forget something, there's usually a friendly parrothead nearby who's glad to share. It's a good way to make friends.

What to Drink

As we mentioned before, the consumption of alcoholic beverages is officially prohibited in the parking lot, according to an Irvine city ordinance, and there will be police in the lot enforcing this. However, some parrotheads traditionally ignore this rule, as they do most others at a concert. Don't be a birdbrain: If you get caught, you could be arrested or kept out of the concert.

It is cool, however, to order alcoholic beverages at concession stands at the concert, so, it's a good idea to bring a designated driver. Usually one can be bribed with a ticket and all the soda he or she wants. No one wants a fun evening to turn tragic, and there are usually police checkpoints just outside the parking lot.

On to the fun part. The drink most associated with Jimmy Buffett is the margarita, after the song "Margaritaville." They'll be for sale at the concert, but naughty, budget-minded parrotheads often make them in advance and keep them in a cooler. Those wanting the true experience make them fresh, in a blender. Remember, make those virgin 'ritas if you want to stay outta trouble in the parking lot.

For the dedicated parrothead, historically, there's been no challenge too great. Some use battery-operated blenders, although these often don't have the power to chop ice. Others bring blenders from home and plug them into gasoline-powered generators.

The beauty of the generators was that they could power other appliances, including microwave ovens and televisions. The downside, besides the cost, is that they're noisy and might disturb the neighbors. This problem was often be solved by sharing the margaritas.

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