Concert causes teardrops in paradiseSeptember 14, 2021
By SCOTT SAALMAN
Opening the Corolla’s door, I hesitated before planting my flip-flopped feet firmly onto the backlot of Ruoff Music Center — or, as the native’s fondly call it, “Deer Creek.” What once had been a Noblesville farmer’s field was now a parking lot setting tinged with a salty sense of the lower latitudes as ganja permeated the air and a feeding frenzy of pre-show Parrot Head activity ensued.
Jimmy Buffett fans were decked out in Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, and coconut bras (as usual, more men than women donned the latter), diehard, tropical-minded tailgaters with shark inflatables in tow, sucking down frozen boat drinks and beers while stereos blared the Mogul of Margaritaville’s rum-soaked songs that have served as musical travel brochures of the mind for back-to-back centuries. Thousands of fans, flip-flop to flip-flop, patiently stood in a quarter-mile, loopy line and awaited ticket-takers to open the gates to our party paradise and promises of better days ahead.
There were no face masks in sight. Apparently, Parrot Heads consist of a more enlightened bunch, not a vexing anti-vaxxer amongst us. Wishful thinking. I was excited to finally see a live show again, but I also wanted to stay alive. Hence, my hesitancy to leave my car. Concerts in the time of COVID.
For my wife Brynne and I, attending live shows is our thing. She lives five minutes from the amphitheater. “That’s why I married her,” I often joke. Seventeen months had passed since our last concert fix.
In the car, I reminded myself that I possessed the proud distinction of being double vaccinated. My shots had provided a sense of 100% invulnerability in the face of the viperous virus still ravaging our beat-up, big, round, ball that is our planet. Finally, the sounds of summer had returned. The horizon of normalcy now spotted through our spyglass. Still, it took less time for Neil Armstrong to muster up enough mettle to step onto an alien moon than for me to exit my Toyota. To lift a lyric from a mid-1980’s Buffett song, “First Look,” I had to dig deep within myself to determine if I really was “brave enough to repeat the whole crazy scene.” True, in that song, Buffett pondered his willingness to return to the sheer craziness of Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival, but his lyrics also seemed applicable to my current situation since a JB concert clearly shares a bloodline with Carnival.
Twenty-one years had passed since I last saw Buffett — also at Deer Creek. After 16 consecutive months of pandemical paralysis, the July 10 show seemed like the perfect first concert to attend since the social distancing shutdown. At the start of the summer, had you told me that people would be allowed to attend shows of this magnitude (25,000 ticketholders), I would have considered you crazy. I desperately needed the escapism that a Buffett concert provided. Finally, I exited my car. “That's one small step for a Parrot Head. One giant leap for Parrot Head kind.”
It marked my eighth Buffett show overall and the first for Brynne, my daughter, Delaney, and son-in-law, Max. I felt like a tour guide this time around. In Buffett’s perfect, late-1970’s song, “Manana,” he advises, “Don’t try to describe a Kiss concert if you’ve never seen it.” The same can be said for a Buffett concert. Finally, my trio of relatives in tow would get to experience it firsthand. Leading them to our pavilion seats was akin to being bestowed a Parrot Head badge of honor.
Here are two highlights:
• I knew it was going to be an emotional evening. I wasn’t surprised to feel salty rivulets streaming down my face when the setlist’s second song, a cover of “Brown Eyed Girl,” was performed. It was hearing all those “sha-la-las” simultaneously sung by a chorus of 25,000 strong that undammed my emotional buildup and ultimately dampened the collar of my parrot and palm-tree print shirt. A soothing sense of public togetherness, absent for too long, had returned. Of course, Delaney captured her pop’s vulnerability via iPhone, texting a freeze frame of my sodden face with the words, “He Cried.” Later, she touchingly stated, “You are a concert crier like me.”
• Sixteen numbers in, Buffett sang “Delaney Talks To Statues,” a sweet surprise since the 1994 song served as my daughter’s namesake. Delaney expressed hope that it would be sung that night. For us, it was a father-daughter magical moment. This time, I videoed her teary-eyed sway.
The concert served its purpose: momentary escapism from the landlocked Midwest. Despite the crowd, I didn’t think about the pandemic at all, except when Buffett praised those of us who were properly inoculated. He announced that without vaccinations it would not have been possible for the Parrot Head flock to relive a live moment like this, something so easily taken for granted before. That night, my family bonded through Buffett. We were overjoyed from a sense of normalcy. It was satisfying, as if we’d found the proverbial “lost shaker of salt.” Even the post-concert hour spent exiting the parking lot for the mere two-mile drive back home felt like a privilege.
Unfortunately, since our night of Margaritaville magic, uncertainty has returned via coronavirus variants. Am I “brave enough to repeat that whole crazy scene” now? Sadly, my answer is no, for I don’t feel safe among the still unvaccinated.
At least we’ll always have Noblesville.
More on DuboisCountyHerald.com
Renovation plans for the Southwest Dubois County School Corporation, including a new athletic...
A recommended route for the Mid-States Corridor project is still on track to be identified by...
The construction of a multi-million dollar aquatic center in Jasper is still a long ways away,...
The Holland Community Festival returns this weekend with a new theme that’s so straightforward...
The 2021 Huntingburg Herbstfest Miss and Pre-Teen Miss Queen Pageants are set for Sunday, Sept....
Country legend John Conlee (Mr. Rose Colored Glasses), a regular performer at the Grand Ole Opry...
Twenty years ago today, our nation was transformed forever.