Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Sex, drugs, rock and roll
Their songs give us what we want
Illusion of youth

The long awaited day had arrived! Got up at the normal time, drove Rachel into school and then off to the airport. An uneventful flight, at the end of which we dropped down through the clouds to be swooping over Milwaukee. No rain or snow as they were predicting, but it was very cold and windy. Took the 80 line bus to within 3 blocks of the hotel. I ditched my bag, having a few hours to kill before the concert. I made a point of first going to the Bradley Center and finding an easy route back to the hotel, only 4 blocks away. Sounds easy, but ha, ha, ha....

I spent the bulk of my available time at the the Milwaukee School of Engineering's Grohmann Museum to see their "Men at Work" exhibit, three floors of paintings depicting scenes of heavy industry, mining and other work related subjects. I had never seen anything like it. The art works were very well done, but of a subject that was somewhat depressing. Most art I like depicts something that is beautiful or inspiring, but this exhibit depicted scenes that were dark and gritty. For example, they had a small collection of paintings showing autobahn bridges in the art of the Third Reich. Afterwards I walked the 10 or more blocks to the shore of Lake Michigan, blue gray water white capped by the cold wind.

Drifts through the high clouds
Carried on his passions wings
The dream is calling

Graze rolling cloud tops
Descend through their soft whiteness
Fasten your seat belts

Ride through Milwaukee
A graveyard amidst small box homes
Rows of Polish names

Fuming gray and black
Orange punctuates the grime
Tired people toiling

Dinner and then back to the room to gather my stuff for the concert. The golden drink was transferred to the .5 liter container. Walked to within a block of the Bradley Center, to light up a cigar and watch the many concert goers arrive on foot. I followed them in and made my way through security, first getting the bottle through the door and then onto the floor. I decided that I'd prefer the comfort of having my designated seat rather than fear being ejected later on for being where I should not be. Bought my large cup of Sierra Mist, which soon had a distinctly golden color.
And then they were there! The concert really began with Van Halen's arrival on stage, the moment everyone was waiting for. One hit song after another, all of them sounding so familiar considering my winter of parties on the pass. On my feet the whole time moving to the music. The more I drained my drink, the stronger it tasted of tequila as I emptied the canteen into it. The band sounded the best in the three concerts I attended, David's voice sounding strong and steady, almost rejuvenated, unlike the earlier concerts where he appeared to be straining and unable to hit certain notes. Eddie looked tanned and fit, the month and a half off apparently doing him good. You can tell both of them were having fun on stage, the old team working it together. It was heaven all over again.

Then it was over. Sometime just before the encore my memory of events ceases. Like the other concerts, Van Halen lifts me up to the stars and when it comes to the end, I plunge back to earth, deflated and somewhat depressed. I don't really know how I got out of the Bradley Center, but I "awoke" in the cold night air, finding myself wandering the streets, with a pocket full of glitter and paper flutter that erupts out on the audience at the concert's end. I didn't know where I was. I don't know for how long or how far I wandered, looking for familiar sounding streets. I'm guessing I was going in circles. What did the guy in the apartment building lobby think of this speech slurring stranger who asked for directions? Why did the woman sitting in her car start screaming when I tapped on the window, wanting to know where Wisconsin Street was? I had a couple opportunities to ask the police for directions but I knew how that would end. Thoughts of sleeping outside began to enter my head because I was so tired. I eventually found my way back to familiar territory and the hotel. What relief.

Slept in until 10 AM, then got up and went out for breakfast. Took the bus back to the airport where I caught my 2:10 flight back to Denver. I was feeling zoned the whole morning, wondering what the hell happened last night. Since I lost a small part of the concert, that means I've got to go see another one from beginning to end. Ha, ha, ha.....

Long weeks waiting
Day of anticipation
Gone in two short hours

They come out swinging
Guitars loud hard hitting sound
Cheering crowd knocked out

High on the music
Satisfies the addiction
Wants to overdose

Shoots through the ozone
Tequila fueled rocket climbs
Lost in the black hole

Memories are dim
Burned in his subconsciousness
Source of the craving

Prophets have departed
Wanders the urban desert
Seeks his Messiah

Here's the review from two concerts ago, which is very complete and includes a bunch of pictures.

Here's the Milwaukee concert review

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Part of the day was spent planning for Mondays trip. The weather for Milwaukee on that day looks poor: cold, snow/rain the whole day as a front moves through. Not wanting to wander the streets drunk after the concert, I found a cheap hotel a few blocks away from the Bradley Center. I also learned that 2$ gets me from the airport to within a few blocks of my destination on a straight shot bus ride. So the cost of the hotel and bus ride is cheaper than a car rental, which would have also double as a "bed" after the show. Sleeping arrangements are therefore taken care of. The trick will be finding my way to the hotel after the show!

The warm up act was an excellent bootleg recorded live during Van Halen's 1992 US tour with Sammy Hagar in the lead spot. A great collection of the Van Hagar era band. I'm thankful that none of the neighbor's have complained about the loud music coming from the blaring truck speakers, because I came in from the cold outdoors around 11:30 PM.

Now that I was stoked, I went inside to watch a DVD of a show recorded at the Sydney Entertainment Center in Australia on April 20, 1998. Gary Cherone was on lead vocals, although Michael and Eddie did a fair amount of lead singing themselves. A great show with Gary being a dynamic stage performer. As I said previously, Van Halen III was too difficult a transition for fans to accept, leading to it be their worst selling album, but the live shows, in my opinion, are just as hot as any from the previous eras. I personally believe Gary did his best and was short changed in the end, graciously accepting his short tenure with the band and who had to endure the wrath of loyal fans who may unfairly attribute him to the subsequent downfall of the band. When Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2007, Gary was not even invited to attend the ceremony. "To answer the few fans who are wondering whether I should or shouldn't be included - while, yes, I was a small part of their history, I was certainly not part of their legend, and that is what we, the fans, are celebrating."

Gary's do or die
Band in disintegration
Victim of the times

From boys to grown men
Rock bands metamorphosis
No escape from time

Saturday, April 26, 2008


The countdown is nearing the end. Van Halen appears at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO tonight, followed by their appearance in Milwaukee Monday night. In the meantime I'm doing my own countdown here at the house these next few nights with various concerts planned.

Friday night was Van Halen's South American assault in Montevideo, Uraguay. The band was hot and Dave was especially chatty. The only two things I understood him saying were "Uraguay est numéro uno" and "Where's my bottle?". I may have dissed Dave in earlier blogs, but this show is an example of where his singing was at its best and he was master of crowd control. The band was at their prime.

I was really hyped up on the way home from work because a) it was the beginning of a long weekend and b) I knew the Milwaukee show was now only a few short days away. As a consequence, I pretty well toasted by the end of this 2 CD bootleg recording.

Michael's bass solo
Keeper of Van Halen's groove
Goes on way too long

Dave raps with the crowd
Seduces the front row babes
Asks "Where's my bottle?!"

Blogging on the web
Diary of a rock band
Window to his soul

Cold starry darkness
Music strains the trucks speakers
Dance the night away

They focus on one
Egomaniacs control
It's all about Dave

Eddie's wild fingers
Nothing can stand in their way
Bore into the soul

Time comes to a halt
Past confused with the present
Reality lost

Loud heavy metal
Yes, the crowds feeling alright
Flask still yields its gold

Monday, April 21, 2008


LP0255 VAN HALEN - 5150

Ain't no Della Reese
Graced by the band's autographs
Touched by rock angels


I pulled out David Lee Roth's "A Little Ain't enough" CD and listened to it again on the way home from work. It has a moment here and there, but for the most part the album is forgetable. After repeated use of his canned formula when it came to making music (loud, fast, screeching, focus on women, booze, women, sexual references, parties, and more women), his brand of big metal party rock hit a dead end. One of the reasons he split from Eddie back in 1985 was that Dave wanted to continue using this formula over and over again, while Eddie grew tired of it and wanted to expand his musical style. Eddie took a new direction, brought on Sammy, and they together wrote 4 number 1 records, staying strong as a rock band through the mid 90's. David did not adapt, floundered around for a while and his career effectively hit the wall in the early 90's and never fully recovered.

From Wikipedia entry for DLR:
In 1991, Roth released A Little Ain't Enough, a more mainstream hard rock album, produced by Bob Rock; it achieved RIAA gold status. Twenty-year old guitar prodigy Jason Becker played on the album, but he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease shortly before the accompanying arena tour. He was replaced by Joe Holmes. The stage for the A Little Ain't Enough Tour featured statues that spat whiskey at Roth's audience, and a pair of giant inflatable legs, positioned 'spread-eagle', wearing ripped, fishnet stockings. Musical tastes changed dramatically by the end of 1991, with the arrival of grunge music, hence Roth's tour did not sell out many venues, as in the past.

Golden locks are shorn
Strained voice, flying kicks are gone
Aging Adonis

Glam rock's Adonis
Stage god sees only himself
Acts like Narcissus

Casts himself adrift
Career's gradual decline
Floats on his ego

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I spent a good portion of Saturday in the office, using the drive to and from to listen to a new CD, a sort of "best of" collection of Sammy Hagar's solo career. A lot of sweet tunes. While driving through Parker on the way home I pulled alongside a Douglas County sheriff's patrol car stopped at a red light, making sure I had "I Can't Drive 55" playing at top volume. The light turns green, and I stomp the gas peddle, making sure I top off at 40 mph, the speed limit on that street. But I was way ahead. Stopped at the liquor store to buy a BIG bottle of tequila for tonight's concert.

The warm up act was a visit to Donnington Castle in England where Van Halen appeared on August 18, 1984. An excellent audience bootleg recording. Dave was particularly chatty and the band was playing really tight that night. A great concert. There was alot of audience chatter as well, making me feel as though I was there sitting behind drunk Brits a few rows from the stage. A beautiful night for a concert, the air being cool with a full moon overhead burning through thin high clouds.

I took pleasure knowing that as I stood outside that night, Van Halen was simultaneously playing at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

Eddie leaves rehab
Blood alcohol levels down
While fans booze it up

Rested and ready
Eddie's back up on the stage
Knocks us off our feet

"We are here to listen to one of the greatest bands in history. It is my honor to introduce you to VAN HALEN!"These words came courtesy of golf legend Tiger Woods as he announced the band at Tiger Jam XI, a fundraising event April 19 at Mandalay Bay Events Center that helped raise more than $1.5 million for the Tiger Woods Foundation.

The main event for the evening was a trip to Japan, to see "Van Hagar" live in the Tokyo Dome on February 1, 1989. A really hot concert with Sammy in the lead. One of these days I'll figure out how to hook the HD tv to the living room stereo to really make it sound as loud as a real life concert. The boys were jumping around the stage, played very well and were obviously enjoying themselves. All this emphasizes what I missed by not having seen them in concert years ago when they were in their prime. The music and DVDs are a way of making up for those lost opportunities.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


After nearly a nearly two month absence, Van Halen has once again returned to the stage with their appearance in Reno NV last Thursday. As the Reno Gazette Journal quotes:

"The band was in top musical form, with Eddie ever the astonishing guitarist and brother Alex pummeling away on his massive drum set. Even Roth didn’t hold back, save for a few of the banshee screams that went missing. The band played every song in its original key, evidence that Roth can still hit the highest highs, or at least back off subtly when he can’t."

"But the crowd stayed on its feet the whole time, a sure sign that this band can still whip an aging fan base into a frenzy. Nearly two hours, a drum solo and guitar solo later, the band didn’t seem to let up. They closed with “Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love” and “Jump” amid a confetti storm, a giant inflatable microphone and not exactly a whole lot of jumping. Roth pulled out only a few helicopter kicks during the show, but not the high-flying scissor kicks he once did."

"“We’re a new band with the same s---ty attitude,” he added, letting everyone know that it was the original, sex-crazed party band that was on stage that night. The last time Van Halen was in Reno, it was 1992 during the Sammy Hagar era, but not a note from the Hagar days was heard."

The countdown for Milwaukee is on, with another appearance in Las Vegas tonight!

In the meantime, last night I attended their concert in Biloxi, Mississippi back in December 6, 1991, with Sammy Hagar in the lead. My Friday night rocked! This audience bootleg was trimmed down, Sammy's banter with the audience having been edited out. Otherwise it was a fairly good recording. I was looking ahead to the bigger concert planned for Saturday night!

Open air concert
Under a round moons white light
Big rock in his head

Dance across the stage
Screaming throng, their arms outstretched
Their six string hero

Solo performance
Furious fingers bend steel
Eddie taps our minds

Steel strings vibrating
Electrons set in motion
Rhythm for the feet

Close with the anthem
The fans pledge their allegiance
Music makes them JUMP!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Unquestionably, one of the Sammy era Van Halen hits is "Right Now" that came out on their F.U.C.K. album in 1991: well written, strong and sung by Sammy with real feeling. The song was written by Eddie before "Jump" which appeared on their "1984" album. Heavy/big metal rock songs are not known for their great lyrics, and I was somewhat shocked to learn how "pithy" the lyrics are on the early Diamond Dave era albums (but the finished product sure do sound great, which was Dave's primary objective when it came to song writing). But that changed with the arrival of Sammy who seemed to take song writing more seriously (he had a fairly prolific solo career before, during and after his stint with Van Halen).

This song captures the spirit of what it is that inhabits me when it comes to this whole Van Halen thing: live for the moment, enjoy what you've got. When I drop a CD into the truck stereo, I'm there before the stage and no where else. I'm right there and it feels like right now. Everything else, including writing this blog, is simply meant to build the anticipation of that moment when the stereos cranked. And the CDs and the parties on the pass are all meant to build the anticipation for the supreme climax, seeing them play live on stage. Rocket to the stars! On that rare occasion when I do attend their concert, nothing else exists at the moment. Right here, right now.

"Right Now"
Don't wanna wait til tomorrow,
Why put it off another day?
One more walk through problems,
Built up, and stand in our way ,ah
One step ahead, one step behind me
Now you gotta run to get even
Make future plans, don't dream about yesterday, hey
C'mon turn, turn this thing around
Right now, hey
It's your tomorrow
Right now,
C'mon, it's everything
Right now,
Catch a magic moment, do it
Right here and now
It means everything
Miss the beat, you lose the rhythm,
And nothing falls into place, no
Only missed by a fraction,
Slipped a little off your pace, oh,
The more things you get, the more you want,
Just trade in one for the other,
Workin so hard, to make it easier, whoa,
Got to turn, c'mon turn this thing around
Right now, hey
It's your tomorrow
Right now,
C'mon, it's everything
Right now,
Catch that magic moment, do it
Right here and now
It means everything
It's enlightened me, right now
What are you waitin for
Oh, yeah, right now
Right now, hey
It's your tomorrow
Right now,
C'mon, it's everything
Right now,
Catch that magic moment, and do it right,
Right now
Right now, oh, Right now
It's what's happening?
Right here and now
Right now
It's right now
Tell me, what are you waiting for
Turn this thing around

Saturday, April 12, 2008

9 TO 5, THEN ON TO '95

Friday night finds me standing outside with the truck stereo cranked, listening to Van Halen playing live somewhere in Europe in 1995. This bootleg was the warm up for the real show to follow inside the house , where cigar smoking is naturally prohibited.
Popped in the "VAN HALEN LIVE: Right here, right now" DVD to watch the boys play in Fresno CA in May 1992. Again, another hot video of a smokin concert during which a bunch of their hits are showcased. These DVDs have opened another avenue for me to better understand who these guys are and how well they performed for their audience. To explore this avenue further, I've acquired a few more DVDs of their concerts, all bootlegs, that should be arriving here at the house over the next week.

Frontier Airlines recently declared chapter 11 bankruptcy, although they say it will not affect their schedule of flights and therefore ticket holders should not worry. I'm flying to Milwaukee on Frontier in a couple weeks. If its not one thing I have to worry about, its another. The true test of whether this tour resumes happens this coming Friday night when Van Halen is scheduled to appear in Reno NV on April 17th. My fingers are crossed!


Packed up early and hit the highway. Wolf Creek Pass was shrouded in clouds, a light snow coming down. I pulled into the ski area (only a handful of cars present at that early hour in the morning), looked at the slopes (icy dust-on-crust), thought about my arm and decided it was not worth further injury. I got back on the highway and drove several hours through scenic Colorado to arrive at home by mid afternoon. Back to reality.
On the ride home, I listened to 3 of VH's CDs, including the infamous Van Halen III, featuring former Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone as Van Halen's third frontman. The album only sold 500,000 copies, was considered a bomb and led to Gary leaving the band in 1999. Gary didn't really fit in with Van Halen, and Mike's signature background vocals are nowhere to be found. Despite these fall backs, Eddie's guitar playing is excellent. The album had a very different sound that was largely rejected by two decades of Van Halen fans. This contrasts with the Van Halen III tour which traveled the world, did fairly well and based on my listening to the bootlegs sounded really good. Perhaps that's because they played a diverse set list that included some of the earlier favorites.

You have to look at this album from a bigger perspective. Popular hard rock bands, including Van Halen, maintain a strong presence and are still popular through the mid-1990s. But the music scene was evolving: alternative rock, grunge, post-grunge, alternative metal, nu metal, punk-rock and hip hop were becoming dominant. During most of the 1990s, anything "Eighties" was considered to be ultimately uncool. I personally believe that Van Halen III was a brave attempt by the band to evolve and adapt to the new music scene, an effort that ultimately failed. The consequence was that this was the bands very last album that showcased new music and Van Halen effectively vanished off the map for five years. During that hiatus, the various members of the band did their own separate thing and efforts to reunite quickly failed (except for a joint tour by both Sammy and Dave, known as the 'Sans-Halen' or 'Sam & Dave' Tour!). Eddie had hip surgery, underwent treatment for cancer and separated from his wife. Van Halen as a band was effectively over.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Had breakfast at a small coffee shop in Durango Mountain Resort (aka "Purgatory") near the base of the lift. The "town" that has sprang up at the bottom of the mountain consists of rows of tacky condos, a bunch more under construction. The place will soon be a mud pit as the snow melts because of all the ground that has been disturbed during the construction. It happened to be the last day of their ski season and lift passes were only $10!

Ski slopes draw the flies
Their plastic wrapped condos rise
Rape that which they've spoiled

Never skied here before, so the first thing I did was traverse the mountain to get a sense of what it offered. Mostly groomers and a few small bump runs. Similar to Silverton, the snow was crusty/icy but because of its lower elevation and the partly cloudy skies, the snow softened to make for easy carving, if one stuck to the sunny side of the slope. Lots of fast runs!

End of the season
Condemned to Purgatory
Only way but down

I worked the north side of the mountain first and made my way back to the base area around noon where I planned to have lunch. Right near the crowded lift line something happened: my right ski detached and began flopping around attached to my boot via its leash. I fell and instantly knew I dislocated my right shoulder. It's been a long time since this happened to me, and typically it was my left shoulder. Attempts to reset it failed no matter how much I flopped the arm around (that movement really hurt!). Rather than continue trying and possibly pass out from the pain, I ditched the skis and walked down to the urgent care clinic where, after getting name, numbers and $50, they reset it fairly easily. This event effectively ended today's skiing, tomorrows skiing and possibly all skiing for the remainder of the season.

Skis off and he falls
Sharp pain and its over
Journey at an end

I left the ski area around 2PM and drove to Pagosa Springs were I soaked in a hot spring pool at a motel down along the river. Didn't do much for the shoulder. As the sun began dropping closer to the horizon I continued my drive eastward to a nice turnout a quarter mile off the highway a few miles from Wolf Creek Pass. Solitude surrounded by tall Ponderosa pines. A line of wild turkeys crossed the snow in the field nearby. Dinner of soup and bread on the trucks tailgate.
When it got sufficiently dark, out came the CD, tequila and cigar. I turned on the time machine and was transported back to Van Halen's Women and Children First World Invasion Tour, April 14, 1980 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since my April 7, 2008 VH show in Milwaukee was cancelled, I saved this show specifically for tonight to replace the concert I was supposed to attend. 28 years ago almost to the day. Once I was stoked, it made little difference whether it was 1980 or 2008, Milwaukee or on the East Fork Road because I was just grooving on the music! They rocked the night away with their early classics, the fire still there to drive the hard hitting music. David Lee Roth even managed to sound like he was really singing. Even with the aching right shoulder, it was one of the high points of the trip

They ski with iPods
But he hears other music
Voices in his head

It's an obsession
Enters new reality
Dislocates his mind
To quote The Van Halen Encyclopedia:
"The World Invasion Tour also saw the birth of the legendary brown M&M contract rider. The band demanded M&M candies backstage with all of the brown ones removed. Only one documented case exists where the rider wasn't adhered to: the University of New Mexico Arena in Albuquerque, N.M., or the University of Colorado in Pueblo, CO. Whichever location the event occurred in, they paid dearly for their error. The band demolished their backstage dressing room causing thousands of dollars of damage."

"The rider itself was genius. Its sole purpose was to ensure that venue and promoter personnel read the entire contract before each performance, and the brown M&Ms backstage was an instant indicator they hadn't. If the venue couldn't perform a task as simple as removing a specified color of M&Ms, how could they be trusted to fulfill lighting, sound, and other technical requirements?"

Wednesday, April 9, 2008



Had breakfast in Silverton at the one cafe open, sharing the packed joint with all other skiers heading up to the mountain that day. Drove up the dirt road in the side valley and arrived at Silverton Mountain with their single lift. What's different about the place is that it goes straight up 1,900 feet with only advanced/expert terrain to find your way back down. Big bowls, chutes and tree runs. Shovel, avalanche probe and avalanche beacon are required equipment. Extreme terrain! The "lodge" is a funky fabric covered frame hut containing old beat-up furniture, a wood stove and a drop ceiling made of duct taped plastic designed to catch and redirect the drips of melting snow off the inhabitants. The bar was the only "food" service offered.

The snow was fairly good on the very top of the mountain, but once you dropped down a few hundred feet it became crusted and icy as a result of the lack of recent accumulations and the sun they had yesterday. So not only the steep slopes were tough, the snow conditions made the job of getting down even more difficult. The sun never came out to soften things up so it was icy all day. Some of the runs had names like Concussion Woods, Hell's Gate, Nightmare and Mandatory Air.

The most memorable run was down Curly, a tree run on the face referred to as the Three Stooges. If you remember, Curly had no hair, while the run was real hairy. Patches of sun crusted snow made turning in the tight trees on the steep slope difficult. Then there were the occasional cliff bands that had to be navigated around. I was exhausted by the time I reached the bottom. A few more runs like that and I was done for the day. Got back to the car and had an early dinner in Silverton. Drove over Molas and Coal Bank Passes to find a camp site in a turnout alongside a snow covered meadow on the Old Lime Creek Road.

Cold on the way up
Legs pump on steep crusty snow
Burn on the way down

Cliff banded forest
Look out over the steep slope
Can touch the tree tops

Thick tree trunked forest
Buried in sun crusted snow
Heart filled with terror

High mountain top cirque
Holds a smooth blanket of snow
Glaciers long vanished

Scared for their silver
Valley's wounds of orange rock
Lifeless creeks flow red

Snow turns dirty brown
Patches of dead grass appear
Winter in retreat

Back to the Van Hagar era! This night's concert was part of the Balance tour, dubbed the Ambulance Tour by Eddie because of the hip and neck injuries sustained by both he and Alex. After this tour, Sammy Hagar departed from the band, to be replaced by Gary Cherone in 1997, only to return for a "reunion tour" in 2003/2004. This particular concert was held on March 20, 1995 at the Orlando Arena in Florida very early in that tour. Sound quality of the audience bootleg was very good, as was the set list that included both Sammy and Dave era hits. I was rockin that night, happy to have survived in one piece after skiing Silverton Mountain! Sorry, too tired to come up with any Halen haiku.