Few, if any, rockers can say they’ve had a career quite like Sammy Hagar. His credentials and singing chops are unparalleled and for many, he’s one of the true good guys in music. Oh, and he knows a thing or two about having fun.
Thus, it makes sense that at some point in his career that the Red Rocker would bring his good vibes and create a festival that celebrated all that he represents. This Saturday, Hagar will bring his first Sammy Hagar’s High Tide Beach Party + Car Show to Huntington State Beach, which is a convenient middle ground between his home in Marin County, and his second home in Cabo San Lucas.
Keeping with that spirit, the festival will have food from Hagar’s favorite chefs — including tacos from Cabo Wabo and cars (“Everyone knows I love cars, I’ve been writing songs about them my whole life”) on display, including some from his personal collection. If that’s not enough because there’s still plenty of time left in the day, there are hula, country line and Tahitian dance lessons and a limbo contest.
“It sounds like an ego trip but it’s all about me,” Hagar says with a chuckle. “It’s my lifestyle, what I love to do, what I love to eat and the music that I like to listen to. My favorite thing is hangin’ on the beach, eating tacos, drinking margaritas and mojitos. It involves everything I worked my whole life for.”
The concept was first drawn up about a year and a half ago, something that the singer thinks should have happened sooner. For nearly 30 years, Hagar has thrown a birthday extravaganza at the first Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas that includes an all-star concert with his many musician pals. However, one of the snafus with that is that restaurant only can fit around 1,000 fans.
“Now that the work is all done and it’s basically sold out, I’m sitting here scratching my head going it took me so long to do this,” he said. “The problem with the birthday bash is that it’s so small that the fans go crazy and I get nothing but hate mail about ‘Why can’t you get a bigger venue?’ and all this stuff. But we did it! It just ain’t in Cabo.”
The premise of the festival was to do something “really cool and something that wasn’t a festival” and, in classic Hagar fashion, it would be a party instead. For fans who can’t snag tickets or travel to Cabo, this will be it’s a precursor for years to come.
Hagar’s headlining set with The Circle, which features former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, Jason Bonham (son of John) and Vic Johnson, will also feature special appearances by Motley Crüe singer Vince Neil and Chickenfoot bandmate Joe Satriani and Eddie Money will pop by too. The rest of the eclectic bill includes longtime pals REO Speedwagon, Reel Big Fish (“My son sees them all the time”), Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers (“That’s a fun band!”) and Tre’ Cool from Green Day’s side project the Dead Mermaids (“C’mon they belong on this show that’s the coolest name I’ve ever heard!”) among many more.
“It’s not a concert, it’s a party,” he says. “It just so happens that there’s some good music at this party.”
The intimacy of the beach, with about 12-15,000 people in attendance, is a figure that is big enough for fans to enjoy the festival without it becoming bloated, especially in a climate where ambitious events are folding as fast they arrived.
“With 40,000 people, it’s too spread out,” he says. “It takes them too long to get in and out and all that stuff. I wanted this to be a real success from the fan point of view. If we tried to do a big venue and we didn’t have our shit together and we failed, it’s over. That’s why we said let’s start small, but now, we want to stay small. I would love to jump up on stage at Coachella in front of 100,000 people and half of them don’t know who the fuck I am or don’t even like me. I would love to do that. But this is more intimate and pure Redheads.”
As for his day job, aka his music, Hagar says that his latest solo effort with The Circle is complete. Though many of his records, including with Van Halen, have had overarching themes, this one directly addresses the perils of current times.
“It’s about the misconception that money is the root of all evil,” Hagar says. “It starts in Philadelphia with the first printing plant with a song called “The Devil Came to Philly.” Then it goes through the guy’s life and becomes a person and the building of greed, and how he gets all this money and gets rich and powerful and can’t get enough. Then he blows it and loses it — not all of it — but in a divorce, because he’s an asshole. Then he becomes a free man and moves out to the country, with his guns and his flag and he’s not paying taxes and becomes a complete crazy man. Then he’s got nothing and crashes at the beach with friends and it’s this affirmation that ‘Wow I really blew it.’ Money is beautiful, you can do great things with it, and it’s not evil at all. You can heal the sick and feed the poor and you can buy happiness. But it’s not the root of all evil, it’s greed. The album is about greed and it’s how the way I see the world right now. Everybody’s blaming each other — Democrats are blaming Republicans, Republicans blaming Democrats. The blacks are blaming the whites, the whites are blaming the blacks, right? The rich are blaming the poor for their problems and the same the other way. What it comes down to is that everyone wants to be in charge and overpower the other side for greed and to get what they want. It’s fucking greed, without it, 90 percent of the world’s problems would be gone.”
Have no fear, he assures. Though they’ll play the new album it’s entirety for the first half of shows on that tour, the second half will be the usual greatest hits array from Montrose, Van Halen, Hagar’s solo career and an assortment of covers.
For a guy who has been to Rome and Dallas, Texas, Hagar has certainly seen it all, but if not, he’s come very, very close. On the brink of his 71st birthday, he is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. With his eyes on a second edition at the same spot next year (and potentially future plans to bring it to other coastal cities as well), which he says is already in the works, Hagar has his eyes on figuring out one small problem the fest may encounter on Saturday evening — and that doesn’t include a number of surprise guests that will pop up over the course of the day.
“The only problem we’re gonna have is with the curfew,” he says. “I don’t know how we’re gonna pull that off but we’re gonna have to cut people short. But, I’m just in love with this idea and it brings everything I love, and if it’s gotta taste and smell like something and it’s me!”
Daniel Kohn is a writer based in Southern California. With bylines in an assortment of outlets, Kohn primarily specializes in music with other interests ranging from sports to food. As a transplant, Kohn loves the beautiful weather and is glad he no longer has to deal with brutal winters. If you see him, say hi and of course, he’s always willing to down a beer or two…if you’re paying.