Arriving in everything from beat-up old cars dressed in Hawaiian leis and painted with slogans like "fins up" to limousines, thousands of Parrotheads came to the First Niagara Pavilion Thursday to see Jimmy Buffett and The Coral Reefer Band's annual visit to the Steel City.
And make no mistake, the fans were as rowdy as if Buffett had steered clear of Pittsburgh his whole career, outlasting a short series of sun showers to take a brief vacation with the aging musician.
Two days before the show, First Niagara Pavilion and Live Nation issued rules for those planning to tailgate before Buffett took to the stage. Just like when Kenny Chesney, a friend of Buffett's, came to town late last month, fans pushed the limits. Luckily, most of the rules pertained to car parking, rather than drinking.
And just like the pricey parking fee charged at Heinz Field for Chesney's most recent show, parking at Buffett's show wasn't cheap -- in fact, according to multiple parking attendants, Buffett's shows are the only performances when First Niagara Pavilion charges separately for parking. Parking for all other shows at the venue is included in the cost of the ticket.
The day of the concert, tickets for the pit could be found for as much as $6,825 on BigStub.com -- or a more wallet-friendly $21 for lawn seats on TicketMaster.com
Loyal fans didn't seem to care, transforming the grass field-turned-parking lot into a Hawaiian-themed party. Some even tailgated for the show on the side of state Route 18 outside the venue.
"I have some people in Pittsburgh tell me they got their master's from tailgate university!" Buffett joked with the crowd.
For their efforts, they were treated to the musician's latest tunes.
Buffett's longtime supporters are used to classics like "Cheeseburger in Paradise" and "Margaritaville," but the 66-year-old also introduced the crowd to tracks off his 29th studio album, "Songs from Saint Elsewhere," his first studio release since 2009's "Buffett Hotel."
The album, which also serves as the name for this year's tour, is set for release on Aug. 20, according to BuffettWorld.com.
With a big high-definition projection screen behind him often posting images of far away tropical islands, Buffett rocked out with other musicians who manned a wide range of instruments including a ukulele, a keyboard, bongo drums, a string bass, claves, steel drums, a trumpet, a standard drum set, an acoustic guitar and two backup singers. Over the course of the performance, almost every one of the instrumentalists got a chance to perform a solo.
"Son of a Sailor" saw a brief steel drum solo accompanying a backdrop of Buffett commanding a large yacht. "Too Drunk to Karaoke" saw graphics that matched the lyrics, at times projecting the lyrics themselves. "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" featured footage of the tailgate in Pittsburgh from just hours before as the crowd cheered, sung along, danced and tossed beach balls in the air.
Unlike many shows where fans are asked to raise their hands in the air or clap to the beat, Buffett allowed the crowd to put on a performance of their own for the majority of the show, as each fan reacted in their own way to each song. Interpretations varied, with the most popular being a seemingly out of control series of movements. A more collected sway of the hips came in a close second.
Much like the styles of dancing, age also had little restriction.
"Does this feel like a Saturday night or what?" Buffett asked the crowd.
As darkness blanketed the crowd, the lights from Buffett's stage shone brighter, illuminating his fans who refused to stop moving for the duration of the show. When Buffett and the band started playing "Fins," the crowd instinctively raised their arms high above their heads to make a mock fin, roaring in anticipation. The band matched their energy, dancing as they performed, and the short guitar solo that ended the song brought more cheers.
For those who may be forced to struggle through work tomorrow, Buffett had some advice: "Tell your boss to call me."
Andrew Gretchko: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Andrew_Gretchko.