Steve and Vicky Califf rolled up to the Coyote Drive-In Thursday afternoon in a minivan. They may not be hip kids anymore, but they still know how to have fun.
And their idea of a good time is a concert by Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band. Their 6-year-old daughter, Savannah, is named after Buffett’s 2002 hit Savannah Fare You Well.
And on Thursday, the Califfs, both 44, were among roughly 1,300 people at a rare, possibly unique event: a live concert at a drive-in theater.
The concert, which started after sundown, was transmitted by DirecTV and shown live at as many as 80 digitally equipped drive-ins across the United States.
Billed as “Live at the Drive-In,” the outdoor show offered Buffett’s fans, known as Parrotheads, a rare chance to see him in an intimate setting. But they also had an expansive view of downtown Fort Worth — the drive-in is just across the river on the near north side.
People pulled their vehicles into the parking spaces as if they were going to watch a movie. But to watch the concert, many stood in an open area in front of the stage. And there was limited VIP seating.
Some stayed at their vehicles, perched on hoods or standing in the beds of pickups.
“The effort put into this show is just great,” said Vicky Califf, who was catching a Buffett concert for the 20th time.
“It’s just nice to hang out, and everybody is pretty friendly,” said Steve Califf, who has seen the singer even more times than his wife.
“I’ve seen only two fights in almost 40 shows. We’ve seen him in a lot of places — Austin, Vegas, Niagara Falls. But this is special.”
In Fort Worth, only a lucky few — an estimated 1,100 people — were able to snatch up $125 tickets. Astonishingly, the event sold out in 10 seconds after the tickets were made available online in April.
The show drew plenty of young fans as well.
Tessa Hatley was celebrating her 25th birthday at the concert with friend Dani Vatcoskay, 19. The two women live at Eagle Mountain Lake and work at Summit Climbing Gym in Grapevine. But on Thursday night they put on colorful bikinis and grass skirts and danced their way across the drive-in’s gravel lot.
“I wanted to get her to dress up,” Hatley said of her friend. “She wears only black and white.”
Buffett took the stage barefoot about 8:45 p.m., playing Summertime Blues (Ain't no Cure) followed by Brown-Eyed Girl. Between the songs, he told the crowd, “We are glad to be back in Fort Worth, Texas — at the drive-in!”
He wore a pink T-shirt, blue sweat bands and blue shorts.
He told the crowd, including about 500 people in a standing-room-only area in front of the stage, that he had been working on the idea of playing at a drive-in theater for about 10 years.
Buffett then remarked that he smelled something that made him hungry and launched into I Will Play for Gumbo.
The concert was yet another bold step on the part of Fort Worth and Trinity River Vision Authority officials to redevelop the Panther Island area north of downtown. Other concerts and events are planned during the summer, although so far this is the only event scheduled at the Coyote Drive-In (other than the regular first-run movies).
Many of those who couldn’t get tickets for Thursday night’s show were expected to catch Buffett’s performance Saturday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco where the capacity is closer to 30,000.
The Coyote Drive-In show was conceived by owners Brady Wood and Brandt Wood and their company, Woodhouse, in conjunction with C3 Presents of Austin. The group has talked about organizing similar shows at other drive-ins nationwide.
Max and Sally Row, who live in the Ridglea area of west Fort Worth, arrived when the drive-in gates opened at 2 p.m. and secured a parking spot for their pickup at center stage in the second row. They opened up a folding table in the back of the pickup and practiced their blackjack while waiting for the show to begin.
“What a venue,” said Max Row, a consultant for hospital corporations. “I love that it’s going to be a small crowd.”
Sally Row, who works as a small-business accountant, said she saw Buffett only one other time — about 25 years ago.
The couple decided on a whim to try and get tickets online to the Coyote Drive-In show, and were successful.
“It’s going to be crazy,” she said.