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When sun-baked rock star Jimmy Buffett announced his first live performances in more than a year would take place next week on Delray Beach’s Old School Square, the Jimmy-sphere went coconuts.
The full allotment of 3,552 seats for his four outdoor concerts on May 13-14, 17-18, sold in four-person pods that started at $450 each, were gone in 10 minutes. Soon, a handful of tickets were ricocheting around internet resale sites, including a pod reportedly priced at more than $10,000.
The buzz quickly went nationwide — one pod will reunite four Parrotheads from Idaho, Indiana, Ohio and New York, who have combined to see more than 500 Buffet concerts — and then global, with media requests from as far away as Australia. The local effect will be obvious at nearby Atlantic Avenue hot spots gearing up with Jimmy-themed parties and shows.
Longtime South Florida fans are not surprised that a personal serving of Buffett’s carefree elixir is in high demand.
Jimmy Stowe, a Margate fan who also happens to have opened for Buffett a dozen times with his own band, the Stowaways, says the music offers a much-needed shot of escapism. He calls Buffett “an American treasure.”
“The human condition is thirsty for freedom and expression and to be able to just let go and have fun and get the joy out of the music and the concert setting,” Stowe says.
Jackie Smith, of Coral Springs, says she was “too disorganized” to try to buy tickets, but plans to be at the Friday-night concert anyway, seeking out a piece of swale or sidewalk, lawn chair in hand.
“If I can just hear the songs and hear him talking and joking … that’ll be all I need. It’ll be like a breath of fresh air,” Smith says.
The explanation for why Buffett’s comeback shows are happening in Delray Beach is not something the singer was willing to discuss directly, and his management team declined requests for a statement. But in many ways it’s no mystery at all.
What Sinatra is to New York and the Eagles are to California, Buffett is to Florida, the embodiment of an attitude and a lifestyle reflected in his accessible lyrics and an unending parade of turquoise beaches, surf breaks, bars and bonefishing on his Instagram.
And as a longtime resident of Palm Beach, it’s an easy commute.
Based on years of interacting with Buffett onstage and off, Stowe believes the singer was looking for a smaller venue to rekindle his relationship with fans.
“I think he really does appreciate the intimacy of this kind of performance. He’s still an old-school, Key West tiki bar kind of personality. I’m certain he misses that,” Stowe says.
Another consideration was this specific venue, which was among the first South Florida stages to reopen to live concerts in late 2020. Concertgoers at Old School Square are seated in groups of four, each so-called pod distanced from strangers by a network of steel gates.
Its approach to seating and sanitation proved to be a successful template for other venues and quickly earned positive buzz in the tour industry, OSS representative Carli Brinkman says.
The Pavilion returned to live shows Nov. 24 with soul-rocker G. Love leading a steady stream of national acts including, last month, New Found Glory, pride of Coral Springs.
The upcoming schedule has Old Crow Medicine Show on May 20, St. Paul & the Broken Bones on May 21, Martin Sexton on May 27, the Allman Betts Band on June 3 and Hot Tuna on June 6.
“Old School Square has been very progressive in their ability to have outdoor live events and do it safely and securely,” Brinkman says. “They were a pioneering venue in creating this pod system, where people could enjoy the company of their friends and family without wearing a mask because they’re socially distanced from the group next to them.”
The effect of Buffett’s performances will spill beyond Old School Square, surrounded by restaurants, bars and other businesses in downtown Delray Beach.
Across the street, the music-minded restaurant Tin Roof will have several days of Buffett-friendly bands and brunches, including a pre-Jimmy show by the Stowaways from 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 18.
A few doors down, at 38 E. Atlantic Ave., DeBilzan Galleries will host a performance of Buffett’s music by singer-guitarist Ryan Berner, 2-5 p.m. Friday, May 14.
An Indianapolis resident, Berner recently performed a living-room concert on Facebook to raise money for the airfare to attend Buffett’s Thursday and Friday concerts. He has seen Buffett more than 50 times — but that doesn’t impress the friends with whom he’ll share an Old School Square pod, each with his own level of fame in the touring Parrothead community.
His friend Mike, a Toledo resident with flowing blond locks who goes by Hollywood, has been to more than 200 Buffett concerts; Craig, a former Marine from Rochester, N.Y., known as Private, has seen 150; and Parrothead Red, from Montpelier, Idaho, and named for a signature red clown wig, has done 120.
“Anyone who has been to many [Jimmy Buffett] shows has seen Red,” Berner says.
While he’s here, Berner will stay on a boat owned by another Buffett fan who is sailing from Bimini for the concerts.
Why go to all the expense of time and money? Berner borrows a lyric from Buffett’s “A1A” album.
“For the stories I can tell,” he says. “Years from now, when there’s no more Buffett shows and I can look back on the memories that I’ve made with all my friends, with Buffett’s music as the background, those will last a lifetime for me.”
Fans have been huddled at home through the pandemic wondering if the last time they saw the 74-year-old Buffett perform would be the last time they’d ever see him perform, Berner says.
“And now Buffett’s playing a live show again. It’s inspiring. It’s rejuvenating, that things are starting to look up,” says Berner, 34. “Hopefully before too long we’ll actually have live, full-capacity amphitheater shows again, and this is just a little tease leading to that.”
Old School Square’s Brinkman says the venue and Buffett were disappointed to see some tickets turn up on online reselling sites, including industry powerhouse Vivid Seats. She notes that they comprised less than one-half of 1 percent of tickets sold.
“We knew the demand would be overwhelming and that people would be attempting to do this. We were certainly proactive,” Brinkman says. “From Jimmy’s perspective, it was important that this show be affordable and accessible.”
Preventative measures were in place to discourage brokers from grabbing blocks of seats: Tickets could be purchased only through a single vendor (Eventbrite); each purchase was limited to a single, entire four-person pod; and the tickets were nontransferable, with guests admitted only with an ID associated with the purchase.
Brinkman estimates about 30 out of 888 total four-person pods available for the four shows may have ended up with resellers, including the infamous $10,000 pod. Some seats also were being sold as singles and pairs, counter to the venue’s policy against seating strangers in the same pod.
Brinkman says people without IDs matching their third-party tickets — be it from a reseller or an uncle as a birthday gift — will not automatically be turned away at the gate. Since the sale, the venue has been working with “a handful” of fans with third-party tickets and there will be a dedicated area at each concert where ticket discrepancies will be handled.
“It’s important to Jimmy Buffett, too, that people aren’t getting scammed and ripped off. He wants to make sure that we are doing our best to help and to mitigate it,” Brinkman says.
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According to Florida law, ticket resellers must provide a full refund if a ticket buyer is denied admission to an event. That’s a small consolation, which Old School Square is trying to avoid, Brinkman says.
“We don’t want people showing up from across the country and finding out they can’t get in. That sucks. But, at the end of the day, nobody’s going to be out 10 grand,” she says.
Jimmy Buffett with the Coral Reefer Friends perform 8 p.m. May 13-14, 17-18 at the Pavilion at Old School Square, 51 N Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Tickets are sold out. Call 561-243-7922 or visit OldSchoolSquare.org.