Sunday, June 14, 2009

Parrotheads and Sandlappers

So this is the thing. I have always been irritated by "Gulf and Western" singer Jimmy Buffett's broad stereotypes of the Caribbean. Palm trees and well-placed "yeah mon's" do not a culture make. Even though his music is acknowledged for its island escapism theme, the cheesy tropical rhythms and overly languid delivery just gets on my nerves. So it goes without saying that I never considered stepping foot in Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville restaurants. But there it was, the first item on my Myrtle Beach itinerary. It seems that Margaritaville is the anchor for the bustling Broadway on the Beach shopping district. And since the focus of my trip was family-friendly activities, Margaritaville apparently topped the list.

Here's the other thing. I love kitsch. Silly, tongue-in-cheek decor, childish and whimsical knick knacks, always make me smile. So when I was greeted by the swirling hurricane above (I thought it was a giant margarita since it was next to a giant blender) I knew I was bound for fun even if I had to listen to Jimmy Buffett tunes.

The place was packed with two- hour waits on a Monday night. And it wasn't tourists that jammed the spot, it was Sandlappers or native South Carolinians. Now what do Parrotheads (Jimmy Buffett fans) and Sandlappers have in common? It seems to be a love for a rowdy atmosphere and live music. The food at Margaritaville is mediocre at best, the real draw is the party theme.

There's a stage where groups perform pop classics, the hurricane that explodes with thunder and a forecast from the local meteorologist about a hurricane party warning and a giant screen that that flashes reggae videos and Jimmy Buffett performances.

I've never witnessed Parrothead behavior but when the video for "Margaritaville" played, I was granted the chance. It seems that the tune boasts rituals and accompaniments along the same line as Rocky Horror Picture Show. Women stand and wave for the "woman to blame" verse and the chorus of "searching for my lost shaker of salt" elicits deafening screams of "salt! salt! salt!"

My 12-year-old daughter was puzzled. The only thing she knew about Jimmy Buffett was that he sang "Caribbean Amphibian" (probably the only Buffett song I like) on Elmopalooza. She didn't get the Caribbean references that failed to connect with Buffett's Southern drawl and grizzly hippie appearance.
I don't either so I couldn't explain it to her.

What she most enjoyed were vintage Bob Marley videos of "One Love" and "Buffalo Soldier". She's heard the songs hundreds of times but never saw the footage of Bob singing them. Watching her eyes light up and sing along was worth all the corny Caribbean references and people wearing balloon parrot hats.


A Cuban In London said...

I have to confess that like you I like kitsch and yes, kitsch can be as high- or low-brow as you want, but for me it has to be good kitsch. Madonna's 'Vogue' video is good kitsch. It seems to me that this place (didn't know who the singer was, sorry :-D)) would not appeal to me. As someone born in the Caribbean, I, too, tire of the old cliches of sun, sea and sand and smiling people.

Thanks for this lovely and honest post.

Greetings from London.

Fly Girl said...

You are so right Cubano! No, I don't think you'd like Margaritaville and there's a good reason you haven't heard of Jimmy Buffett, lol!

marina villatoro said...

What a great place! I'm love cheesy decors, theme restaurants. I know they are totally touristy but they are fun, even though this place isn't, and I guess that's what makes this one even better. It's the regulars:)

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I've never heard of a Sandlapper. Another fab post.

Fly Girl said...

Marina, I think a chessey touristy hangout filled with locals says a lot about a place.

Jean-Luc, Sandlapper is a nickname for South Carolinians because the state is covered with sand and there used to be a rural practice of eating dirt in many southern states.

Donald said...

I appreciate the labour you have put in developing this blog. Nice and informative.

Fly Girl said...

Donald, thanks so much for your kind comments. I hope to visit India soon.

Amanda said...

I can't imagine waiting 2 hours in line to get a table at this place... then again, I have waited 2 hours to get a table at another fine chain establishment - called The Cheesecake Factory!

Fantastic Blog!

Fly Girl said...

Amanda, thanks. I don't mind waiting for the cheescake factory, the food is worth it. I was totally unprepared for the wait at Margaritaville and we had reservations!