Words and Photos by Eric Greene
My friend Dave is in town from Australia for a couple weeks. We’ve mainly been riding our bicycles around Brooklyn, drinking beers and eating Mexican food. We haven’t done much else because it’s been so damn hot and we’re too busy maximizing summer to worry about getting any real life stuff done.
The other night we went to a Mets baseball game in Queens. I like baseball, but Dave doesn’t because he lives in Australia. We bought some shitty and wildly expensive light beers before sneaking into some decent seats near the field because our seats were terribly. A couple slow innings passed and we got to talking with the middle-aged ladies beside us. One of them had a bottle of vodka in her sock and told us she was from Long Island. She asked where we from and we answered with Australia and Canada, and I’m not sure if she knew of either place, but she was very nice. She told us a bunch of cool stories about the Mets and Long Island, then asked if we were Jimmy Buffett fans. We most certainly are not, but we were polite about it because she was very excited, telling us that Jimmy Buffett was playing a show on Long Island in two days and there would be a massive tailgate party before the show. She said we should totally go, gave us her digits, and directions to Jones Beach. The Mets lost and we said, “See you next Tuesday.”
A quick online search later that night informed me that a Jimmy Buffett tailgate affair is a serious ordeal. Buffett fans are called “Parrotheads” and are known for their tailgating enthusiasm leading into the concerts. There’s also a suggested dress code for attendees: Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. On Tuesday morning, we took our bicycles on the train to Long Island and rode them out to Jones Beach, where we encountered the craziest party I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve been to a lot of parties in my day—tons of ‘em—but the Jimmy Buffett tailgate party was like nothing else. There were thousands of people in a giant parking lot, treating it like a real life Margaritaville.
The Parrotheads arrive at the parking lot sometime during the night before the concert day. They drive RV’s and big trucks, towing in homemade tiki bars, swimming pools, and lots and lots of BBQ equipment to the venue. They then set up stages and sound equipment for the live music that goes on all day. They bring drinking games and costumes and enough alcohol to kill a herd of elephants. And they bring bright-colored flags and palm trees and hundreds of signs that read, “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere.” And us? We didn’t bring anything. We had our bicycles and a camera—No food or water or sunscreen or anything. Luckily, we had the number for our friend from the Mets game, so we texted her: “We’re at the party! Can you bring us a six pack and we’ll pay you back?”
Twenty minutes later she arrived with six 24oz. cans of Budweiser and invited us to hang out at her friend’s RV, where there was Astroturf and palm trees and they were grilling cheeseburgers and passing out margaritas. Everyone had cool accents from Long Island and they all wore Hawaiian shirts and were the happiest people that have ever existed in New York. It only took two 24oz. Budweisers before I really got into it. I danced to a Jimmy Buffett cover band, mingled with drunk Long Islanders, downed shots of Fireball from an ice sculpture slide, cooled my dogs off in a kiddie pool, threw beanbags into holes, played beer pong with frat boys, and ate a lot of grilled food that strangers gave me. Dave and I also took a bunch of photos. We didn’t see a single other person taking photos, which seemed odd considering the visual stimulation that was going on everywhere in the parking lot.
By the time the sun started to dip towards the horizon, everyone in the place was cross-eyed shit-faced drunk and lobster red from the sun and heat, but they all seemed the happiest they’d ever been and the real Jimmy Buffett show hadn’t even started yet. The herd of thousands of Hawaiian shirts started to drift toward the concert arena and we made a move for our bicycles to get the hell out of there. Jimmy Buffett, man. We didn’t even go to the concert, but that guy can throw one hell of a tailgate party. It sure was lucky that we poached those seats at the Mets game and found out about such a crazy place to be. Three days later and I still can’t be in the sun or even look at a margarita. Me and Dave and our bikes and Hawaiian shirts will definitely be back in the Jones Beach parking lot again next summer.