Alyssa Morin

Buffett and his band storm Hermosa Beach

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Crowds up people watch Jimmy Buffet and his band perform at FinFest in Hermosa Beach.

Crowds up people watch Jimmy Buffet and his band perform at FinFest in Hermosa Beach. PHOTO COURTESY OF BO BRIDGES

After lots of rumors and a slew of leaks, Jimmy Buffett, legendary paradise crooner and Margaritaville mogul, hit Hermosa Beach on Saturday night to help kick off the Discovery Channel’s 27th annual Shark Week.

Shark Week, the popular summer television event, runs from August 10 through August 15 and features 13 hours of shark-themed programming. The Discovery Channel chose the sunny sands of Hermosa Beach to bring its first ever FinFest, a celebration of science, music and family fun to launch this year’s Shark Week.

“The concept of the festival is to help people understand sharks better,” said Laurie Goldberg, Senior Vice President of Public Relations at Discovery Communications.

The free, two-day weekend festival included a SEA lab touch tanks where kids got the chance to pet a shark, a giant robot named Sharkzilla who munched objects like lifeguard chairs and jet skis every hour and a booth where kids could not only get their faces painted but also get their hair colored and styled in a fin-like faux hawk.

Live music filled the weekend with acts like the North Mississippi Allstars, Matt Costa Band and Common Sense taking to a shark-mouth stage just south of the pier on the beach.

But the biggest attraction of the weekend was the special musical guest on Saturday: Mr. Parrothead, himself, Jimmy Buffett.

“We tried to keep it a secret because we wanted the loyal beach crowd to benefit from the free show,” said Goldberg.

The secret got out on Friday morning, with Facebook, Twitter and Buffett fan sites blasting about Buffett’s appearance. The turnout for the 6 p.m. show was extraordinary and included diehard beach folk and Buffett fans alike.

Robert Winthrop of Woodland Hills brought his six year old twins, Tyler and Jessica, to Hermosa on Saturday to see the show. It was the kids’ first Buffett concert and Winthrop’s 55th. Standing behind him in the second row was Manhattan Beach Mayor Wayne Powell.

A young couple from Marina Del Rey, Joe and Ricki Russell, also made it to the front of the crowd. Joe has been to 35 shows and his wife, 11. Joe’s wedding band even has a Buffett reference: engraved inside is the phrase “fins up.”

The Los Angeles Parrot Head Club was represented in the crowd, too. The club is 15 years old and boasts 175 members. They hold a monthly meeting called a “flocking” and it just so happened to be scheduled for Saturday. The club heard rumors of the Hermosa show on Thursday and planned a field trip instead.

“I’ve been to 20 shows,” Kris Salter of Canyon Country said. “I am so excited right now.”

Just after 6 p.m., Jimmy Buffett and his Margaritaville Coral Reefer Band took to the stage and ignited an already spirited crowd.

“Whoa, land sharks,” said Buffett when he got to the microphone, looking at the sea of audience members covering the beach. “Welcome to Fin Fest. It’s great to be in the neighborhood.”

The 67-year old musician seems no less animated than his younger self. At Saturday’s show he jumped, danced and cracked jokes throughout a 12 song set that included “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Fins” and, of course, “Margaritaville.”

“They said, ‘Hey, Jimmy, do you want to play Shark Week?” Buffett told the crowd in between songs. “And I said, ‘Duh!’”

The audience was massive but jovial and the event went on without incident.

“Everyone looks really happy,” Goldberg said during the performance. “And no one is paying for anything unless they want to buy a tee shirt.”

The Buffett concert was part of a weekend-long FinFest on Pier Plaza put on by The Discovery Channel to promote its Shark Week programing, which runs August 10 through August 15.

“The concept of the festival is to help people understand sharks better,” Goldberg said.

The festival included Redondo SEA lab touch tanks where kids got the chance to pet a shark; a giant robot named Sharkzilla who munched objects lifeguard chairs and jet skis every hour; and a booth where kids could get their faces painted and their hair colored and styled in a fin-like faux hawk.

FinFest was produced in partnership with the City of Hermosa Beach and Allen Sanford of Saint Rocke, who produces the Sunday evening Concerts on the Beach series. The Buffett and other FinFest performances streamed live on the iRocke website.

Sunday’s music lineup began at noon with Commons Sense, followed by the Matt Costa Band at 2 p.m., the John Butler Trio at 5:30 p.m.and a screening on the sand of the opening of Shark Week.

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