The Hippo


May 26, 2020








Steve Kareta. Courtesy photo.

Changes in Latitudes 

When: Friday, Jan. 5, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
Tickets: $25 at

Cabin fever cure
Buffett tribute band plays Palace


 Music fans looking to shake the winter chill will welcome the return of Jimmy Buffett tribute act Changes in Latitudes to Manchester’s Palace Theatre on Friday, Jan. 5. The popular show includes hits like “Margaritaville,” “Come Monday” and “A Pirate Looks at 40,” along with some deep cuts that may surprise some fans.

“That’s what keeps us sane,” bandleader Steve Kareta said recently. “If we played the same old things year in and year out, we’d all go crazy.”
“Ringling, Ringling” and “Woman Gone Crazy” and the newer “Only Time Will Tell” are examples of the nuggets his now 16-year-old band will perform. 
“I like to kick out the really oddball tunes, so we can prove to the Parrotheads that we’re more,” Kareta said. “There’s some depth to what we do.”
He found his calling as a Buffett-alike by accident in the early 2000s. A friend got married in Hawaii, and the guitars came out for the afterparty. Once a full-time musician before real life forced him to take a job with US Airways, Kareta played a few Buffett songs. His friend noticed a striking similarity.
“He kind of leered at me and said, in his tequila drunk wisdom state, ‘You know, you kind of look like Buffett, and you kind of sound like him,’” Kareta recalled. “The idea was born.”
Kareta was already a fan, often taking advantage of free flights to see Buffett in concert at different venues across the country. Then 9/11 happened. 
“The airlines were a really ugly place to be, so I started doing shows,” Kareta said. “I figured what the heck, let’s see what happens.” 
Soon he was making more money from the band than his job, and 16 years later he hasn’t looked back.
Kareta claims a kinship that goes beyond music. 
“There are similarities between Buffett’s style of life and mine,” he said. “He’s a boater and a pilot; I boat and fly, so when I get up and talk about that, it’s genuine. I’m not reading from a script or making it up. ... I can do it with some sense of sincerity and realism.”
When Kareta bops on stage barefoot and smiling, the audience responds in kind. The Manchester crowd is a particular favorite. The band shot a promotional video at the Palace a few years back, and is bringing a photographer and film crew for the upcoming show to capture material for a website upgrade. 
Wintertime shows like the Palace have a special energy, Kareta said. 
“There’s a more crazy attitude,” he said. “They’ve got cabin fever going on, and they cut loose a little bit more.”
He echoes Buffett’s boast that his is “the greatest job in the world.” Changes in Latitudes play some sweet gigs for a cover band and encounter few if any of the pitfalls. They never close a bar at 2 a.m. — more likely they’re at a marina, a concert hall or sometimes even a cruise ship.  “Disney took us to Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, bouncing around the Caribbean,” he said. “My job does not suck. We say that to each other on stage almost every night.”
The one potential hitch to playing the music of a performer who’s still alive and touring is actually a benefit, Kareta said.  
“If we hit an area a couple of weeks before Buffett is in town, it seems to help because the mania is kind of starting,” he said. “A lot of people can’t get tickets because they still sell out pretty quickly, so we kind of make up for that.”
There’s no resentment from the Buffett camp either. In fact, the group is friends with many members of the Coral Reefer Band, even collaborating on occasion. Saxophone player Amy Lee once joined Changes in Latitudes for a summer tour, and played on their last two CDs, as did Coral Reefer steel guitarist Doyle Grisham.
Members come and go, as life commitments intervene — a good thing, Kareta said. He and percussionist Brandon Marger are the only original members still in the band. There’s a new drummer and saxophone player this time around. 
“I like having fresh ears and eyes,” Kareta said. “They bring something different to the music.”

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