PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) — Sunset Cove owner Mike MacFarlane’s 50th birthday was one for the books.
When MacFarlane asked his longtime friend Mac McAnally to perform at his Portsmouth restaurant on July 2, he never expected to be asked if legendary singer Jimmy Buffett could “crash the party.”
“You can’t put a price on that,” MacFarlane, who’s a Parrothead himself, recalled.
Fans were singing along to McAnally’s own rendition of “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere,” not knowing who was waiting in the wings. It wasn’t until he reached the famous line, “At a moment like this, I can’t help but wonder what would Jimmy Buffett do?” that the “Margaritaville” singer made his impromptu appearance on stage.
“The wow factor was as good as you’d expect,” Macfarlane said, adding that the crowd was surprised and shocked by Buffett’s surprise performance. “They went crazy.”
Buffett picked up a guitar and performed for nearly an hour alongside McAnally and his band the Coral Reefers.
“He knew his audience and he knew where he was,” MacFarlane said. “He was so excited to be here.”
What MacFarlane didn’t know at the time, was that Buffett’s surprise performance at Sunset Cove would be his last. Buffett passed away over the weekend following a four-year fight with a rare form of skin cancer.
MacFarlane said it’s surreal to think that Buffett sang “Margaritaville” live for the last time at his restaurant.
“His last performance was in the Ocean State,” he said. “You can’t make it up.”
There’s now a memorial growing on the stage Buffett graced with his iconic Hawaiian shirt and flip flops nearly two months ago. The memorial not only includes framed photos from Buffett’s final performance, but also mementos that pay tribute to the singer’s laid-back lifestyle, such as Tequila and coconut water.
“It’s just nice to pay tribute to someone so special,” MacFarlane said.
MacFarlane said Buffett’s memory will forever live on at Sunset Cove, where it will always be “Five O’clock Somewhere.”
“If anyone said, ‘Mike, for your 50th birthday, what do you want to do to celebrate?’ It would’ve been to have Jimmy Buffett play at my birthday party, and he did,” MacFarlane said. “He surprised [hundreds] of fans and did it in a way that you can’t write a check for.”
“I think that will forever live in our memories,” he continued. “We’re thankful for all of his songs and he’ll live on with us forever.”
MacFarlane is in the process of having T-shirts made to commemorate the memorable performance. The T-shirts will feature a drawing of Buffett and McAnally from that night, along with the Sunset Cove logo. The proceeds from the T-shirts will be donated to charity.