Everyone has something they splurge their good fortunes on. Clothes, cars, wine, porn (yes a lot of people do), food. Name anything and there is a buyer of and/or for a particular item or service. This is not a bad thing. All of us have one thing we crave. It’s an energy our bodies and souls are hungry for.
This isn’t an obession. People like to twist this around. The common adage is, ‘you are obsessed’ in a strong, loud tone. When I receive this type of reaction, I always retort with, ‘what’s one thing you spend your money on?’ When answered, I say, ‘you are obsessed.’ Then, I enjoy the blank stare on their face. Point made with a simple question. Are both of us maniacs? No. No psychological warfare. We are human, we have our needs.
I crave, I hunger for, I splurge on music. To be more specific, concerts. When I was in grade school I read the phrase ‘music is food for the soul.’ I understood the deep meaning of those simple words. Music touches every inch of our bodies down to the cellular level. The vibration, tone and speed of a particular piece of music activates a feeling inside that is difficult to explain, yet everyone understands.
Music is my food, my medicine for my soul. The concert experience takes me to a higher level of excitement where the energy is not only felt within, its felt through the entire arena. A connection occurs – a oneness between each person in the audience and the musicians. The crowd receives the energy through the music. In turn the band receives an intense energy from their fans.
Over the past 25 years, I’ve experienced this energy with many bands. The one band / singer where the connection resonates the deepest with me is Van Halen / Sammy Hagar.
I love all Van Halen (Roth and Hagar), but I’m a Sammy man.
Stop right there. I’ll get this out-of-the-way now. I’m sure I’ll read comments on this, with the potential of a full-scale onslaught from both sides. Bring on any and all comments. It’s nothing new to me. It’s an ongoing gutter war that will never end. This article is not about who’s better, this is what resonates with me.
Twenty-seven times. I’ve seen Sammy Hagar with and without Van Halen 27 times in concert. The first 11 times he was the front man for Van Halen. The next 11 shows were with his band Sammy Hagar & The Waboritas. The last five shows have been with Sammy Hagar & The Circle. The stories and memories I could tell of these experiences – well, each concert could be a blog article in itself. This is not my intention here. This is more of a tribute and thank you to Sammy for four decades of rock ‘n’ roll and the travels I have taken to feel the connection and live the lifestyle with my favorite rocker.
My travels with Sammy Hagar
September 1991 – First time seeing Van Halen – Tinley Park, IL
July 1993 – Back-to-back shows. First night in Tinley Park, IL. Second night, Alpine Valley, WI
April 1995 – Chicago, IL
July 1995 – Back-to-back shows. First night in Tinley Park, IL. Second night, Alpine Valley, WI
September 1995 – Back-to-back shows. First night – Ames, IA. Second night, Quad Cities, IL
July 2004 – Back-to-back shows. Chicago, IL
Fall 2004 – I believe September. Oakland, CA
Sammy Hagar & The Waboritas
Here’s where my mind gets a little fuzzy. I was going through a rough patch in my life and I lost all my concert ticket stubs. During the years of 2001 – 2007, I saw Sammy and the Wabos 11 times. I know this is correct because I counted my ticket stubs before I lost them. I remember the ticket stub count of 11 times each with and without Van Halen. I went to every possible concert I could, because his show was an escape for me. I needed the energy, the connection, the vibe, the fellow Redheads. I’ll list the years with some explanation. I can’t remember all eleven dates so I’ll list what I do remember and the dates missing are lost forever.
2001 – Chicago. I remember this vividly because the show was recorded with the result being the Sammy Hagar & The Waboritas Cabo Wabo Birthday Bash Tour. I remember waiting for the show to start and seeing the cameras by the stage and wondered if they were recording this show for a DVD. I was right.
July 2003 – Tinley Park, IL. A day long music festival. The crowd was electric.
October 2003 – Cabo Wabo Cantina – I saw Sammy and the Wabos twice on this trip. October 13th is Sammy’s birthday. My birthday is 10 days after his. I went on this trip to celebrate with him and to celebrate my 30th b-day.
October 11th, 2003 – Night One – The place was jam-packed. Fellow Redheads as far as the eye can see. There is a common rule that’s understood about concerts. One does not sneak in the middle of people who have stood in the same place for two hours just to try to get a little closer. There I was, standing in the crowd surrounded by new friends with a great look at the stage. All of sudden out of nowhere, this guy wiggles his way through and stands right in front of me, blocking my view. I called him out. Everyone around me heard my voice. He looked at me and said, “I’ll leave.” After his departure, I got pats on my back and congratulations from those around me. This is a Sammy show, don’t fuck with me at a Sammy show, you’ll lose.
October 13th, 2003 – Night Two – Back in July, fans hosted a small Sammy Hagar convention at a hotel in Chicago. Items were auctioned including dinner for two at the Cabo Wabo Cantina the night of Sammy’s Birthday Bash with first access to the stage for the concert. I was the highest bidder. Cabo, here I come! I had front row for the concert of a lifetime. Michael Anthony, bassist for Van Halen was in attendance and the show was electrifying. I positioned myself in front of where Sammy was standing. With my arms in the air, singing every word, Sammy leans forward, grabs my right hand and looks me right in the face for a few seconds. This night was the best concert experience of my life.
2004 – 2007 – There may have been one more show I saw in 2003, I simply can’t remember. If not, eight shows were crammed between ’04 and ’07 including an unforgettable night in St. Louis which resulted in the Sammy Hagar and The Wabos: Livin’ It Up! Live in St. Louis DVD. I’m in the crowd for two Sammy DVD’s. Am I rockstar? Yes. Yes I am. I know I saw him three times in 2007 with November being the last time I saw him until this year.
Sammy Hagar & The Circle
July 3 & 4, 2015 – Back-to-back concerts. First Night, July 3rd – Rib Fest – Naperville, IL. Second Night, July 4th – Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI. After an eight year absence to get my shit straight, I reunited with Sammy and my fellow Redheads and the magic was still there.
August 14th, 2015 – Illionois State Fair – I took my best friend John to this concert. He wanted to see Sammy again. He was disappointed with Eddie Van Halen when we saw the VH reunion tour in 2004. He and I went to the VH concert a month earlier with Roth at the helm. After Sammy & The Circle ended, I asked him (knowing the answer already), who sounded better singing, Roth or Hagar. Without hesitation, “Hagar,” he said.
September 2nd, 2016 – FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, Northerly Island, Chicago, IL – John joined me again for Sammy Hagar & The Circle on the shores of Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago. With the crashing waves of Lake Michigan at our backs and the view of Chicago’s skyline in front of us, outside of the Cabo Wabo Cantina, there is no better place for a Hagar show. Jim Peterik, former Survivor member and co-writer of Heavy Metal was the opening act. Sammy’s voice is still unbeleivably great! I don’t know how much longer he will tour, but I’ll be at every show I can with the excitement I had at age 17 when I saw him for the first time with Van Halen in 1991.
June 19th, 2017 – Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL – Sammy and the Circle jam out songs from Sammy’s 40 year career. Montrose, solo material, Van Halen, The Wabos and Chickenfoot. I’ve never seen Chickeknfoot live and the four earlier times seeing The Circle, they never played material from the ‘Foot.’ On a whim, Sammy loves throwing in a new song while on stage. Tonight, The Circle played ‘Big Foot’ from Chickenfoot III. The moment they started playing ‘Big Foot,’ I felt like I came full circle now having heard all incarnations of Sammy’s music live. Thank you Sammy! One last note about this show. ‘When The Levee Breaks’ sounded hauntingly beautiful. It was magic.
‘Are We Having Any Fun Yet’ Book Signing
Sammy describes his band ‘The Circle’ as his career coming full circle. Live, Sammy, Michael Anthony, Vic Johnson and Jason Bonham play songs from Sammy’s career including music from Montrose, Sam’s solo work, Van Halen and the mighty Led Zeppelin. This past summer I found out Sammy Hagar was coming out with a cookbook titled ‘Are We Having Any Fun Yet?’ Sammy hit the road to promote his new book with stops in certain markets to meet and greet fans along with signing copies of his latest venture. It was time for me to come full circle and meet Sammy Hagar.
September 17th, 2015 – Wentz Concert Hall – Naperville, IL. I pre-ordered ‘Are We Having Any Fun Yet?’ through Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville about a month before the event. Upon arrival at the event, I picked up my copy and entered the concert hall. The crowd gave Sammy a loud cheerful welcome. There was a 20-25 minute Q & A and then he signed books for his loyal Redheads.
After the Q & A, we got in line for the signing. When it was my turn, I went up to Sammy and told him that I have seen him 25 times live. He looked up, saw my shirt (I was wearing my 4 Decades of Rock shirt) and said, “I like that shirt.” “Thank you,” I said. I repeated to him “I’ve seen you 25 times live, you’re the best.” He looked at me, “Midwest?” he asked. “Midwest, California and Cabo,” I said. As I started to walk away he shook his head from left to right several times fast in humble disbelief. When I saw his reaction, I smiled and walked away.
Thank you ‘The Red Rocker‘ Sammy Hagar for 4 Decades of Rock, timeless music that always touches me down to my core, the intimate setting of the Cabo Wabo Cantina, starting the Cabo Wabo Tequila brand, Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, Are We Having Any Fun Yet cookbook, countless memories and how well you treat your fans! The only thing left on my Sammy Hagar wish list is to have a drink and a meal with Sammy and talk about whatever comes up. Two people just enjoying each other’s company. Will it happen? Most likely no. But when it comes to Sammy Hagar, I never say never.
Tony Toto a.k.a. The Walking Traveler, 27 times and counting…
Feature Photo via www.redrocker.com