Jimmy Buffett surprises ‘Parrotheads’ in Portsmouth

Appearance at Sunset Cove kept a secret until the last minute

By Jim McGaw
Posted 7/3/23

PORTSMOUTH — Mike MacFarlane certainly knows how to throw himself a 50th birthday party.

The owner of Sunset Cove in Island Park had a few hundred people on his restaurant’s …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Register to post events


If you'd like to post an event to our calendar, you can create a free account by clicking here.

Note that free accounts do not have access to our subscriber-only content.

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.


Jimmy Buffett surprises ‘Parrotheads’ in Portsmouth

Appearance at Sunset Cove kept a secret until the last minute

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Mike MacFarlane certainly knows how to throw himself a 50th birthday party.

The owner of Sunset Cove in Island Park had a few hundred people on his restaurant’s back lawn late Sunday afternoon for a concert featuring Mac McAnally, the guitarist in Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band.

The “Parrotheads” got much more than they bargained for, however. Early on in his set, McAnally started playing “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere,” a song recorded by Buffett and Alan Jackson 20 years ago. As McAnally sang one of the key lines — “What would Jimmy Buffett Do?” — seemingly out of nowhere, Jimmy Buffett himself strolled onto the stage to the utter surprise and delight of concertgoers, who immediately jumped to their feet and cheered.

Sporting a light-blue, tropical print shirt, a “Navy Sailing” baseball cap and sunglasses, Buffett waved to the crowd, slung an acoustic guitar around his neck, and finished the line started by McAnally — except he changed it from “Pour me somethin’ tall an’ strong” to “I would play for you.”

Backed by McAnally and drummer Eric Darken, he played a generous set featuring some of his biggest hits, including “Volcano,” “Cheeseburger In Paradise,” “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” and of course, “Margaritaville.”

Buffett’s appearance at a local restaurant was notable for another reason: He's been generally out of commission since early May.

The 76-year-old was hospitalized for unspecified health issues in Boston shortly after performing in San Diego on May 6. Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band were scheduled to headline Summerfest in Milwaukee on Thursday, July 6, but that appearance was canceled late last month “due to circumstances out of our control,” according to the organizers.

On Sunday, however, Buffett looked fit and healthy as he sang and played guitar on the makeshift stage set up near the edge of Blue Bill Cove. Joking with the crowd between songs, he seemed genuinely happy to be back performing in front of an audience. The only issue he ran into was a “slippery guitar pick” that threatened “to fly out of my hand at any minute.”

After Buffett ducked out the back to let McAnally have the stage to himself again, MacFarlane explained just how in the heck he got Buffett to Sunset Cove.

“I met Mac years ago,” said MacFarlane, who besides owning three restaurants in Island Park, works for Peter Millar, a men’s apparel company. “We’ve been friends, so I met Jimmy through Mac a while back. Jimmy’s actually a Peter Millar fan, which is my full-time job, so we do some Peter Millar work together.

“Jimmy’s been down and out a little bit and is not on tour right now. He found out his friend Mac was doing a show here, and Mac told him it was actually my birthday. Jimmy said, ‘You know what, I’m on Long Island and we’re gonna come to Rhode Island and we’re gonna have a party for Mike and blow up this whole town.’”

Buffett flew in privately — “I had to go by Block Island to check the surf break,” he quipped to the crowd — and slipped into town unnoticed.

“I didn’t tell anybody,” MacFarlane said. 

That included his own mother, Sharon MacFarlane, a Buffett fan who posed for a photo with the musician backstage after the show.

“It was very last-minute, but through the help of the Portsmouth PD and a few other people and our staff here, we made it happen,” said MacFarlane.

Members of the restaurant staff, family and friends all wanted to throw him a surprise birthday party, he said.

“I didn’t want a surprise party. I wanted to surprise a bunch of people here.”

2024 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.