By Mike Osegueda / The Fresno Bee
Finally, Sammy Hagar got to see his new Cabo Wabo. And finally, Fresno Redheads got to see their beloved Red Rocker.
After months of anticipation, lots of rumors and weeks of is-he-or-isn’t-he-coming, he landed in Fresno on Tuesday to play a free concert at his third Cabo Wabo cantina.
It was the christening so many Hagar devotees — or Redheads, as they call themselves in honor of Sammy’s curly red locks — had been waiting for.
The ex-Van Halen singer arrived in town in the afternoon, and after a soundcheck at 4:30 p.m., took a stroll around Fresno Wabo, stopping along the way to take pictures, shake hands and pat workers on the back.
Hagar typically performs free concerts at Cabo Wabo locations a few times per year, something he says is a gift to his uber-dedicated fans, many of whom will travel for hours to see him perform.
“The thing I like more than anything in my life is playing for my fans for free,” Hagar said, hanging out in the Cabo Wabo dressing room before showtime.
“That’s the best concert you get out of your fans because they’re so happy. In Cabo, they sleep on the sidewalk for like three days.”
In Fresno, people were in line as early as 4 a.m. Tuesday. More than 200 were waiting by the time wristbands were handed out at 11 a.m. Many hung around all day at the cantina, eating lunch and drinking at the bar, as the clock ticked away before Hagar’s performance.
“It’s so rewarding to me,” he said. “If you paid me a million dollars to play for a bunch of people that don’t know who I am and don’t care who I am, or let me play for free at a Cabo Wabo for my fans, I’ll take the Cabo Wabo any day.”
This stop in Fresno didn’t come without its fair share of drama, though.
His appearance had been on-again and off-again since Fresno Wabo opened in August. After announcing, then canceling one show, Hagar said in September he would be doing two shows this week. Then last week, Hagar cut that back to only one night.
On Tuesday, he said the change was because of his busy schedule of recording and touring.
Those who turned out Tuesday were a mixture of diehard Redheads, who go where Sammy goes, and Fresno locals, who were excited to see Hagar for free in their neck of the woods.
For both, Tuesday night’s concert was the culmination of a long day.
Ask Tiffany Lawley, of Clovis, who was first in line. She arrived about 4:15 a.m. to make sure she got one of the wristbands that guaranteed entry to the 9:30 p.m. show. Hagar took the stage early — at 8:35.
“I didn’t expect to be first in line,” she said, but added the time went by quickly as she chatted with other Sammy fans.
Married couple Scott and Sanja Hoffman stood a few places behind Lawley, having made the drive from Monterey on Monday. They had dinner at Cabo Wabo, then slept in their truck, waiting for their chance to get in line.
Sanja clutched a customized license plate that read “IGMDRMS,” which she says means “I Got My Dreams” and is an allusion to Hagar’s song “Dreams.” She was hoping Hagar would autograph it.
“We’ve loved him for over 20 years,” Sanja said.
“It’s just good energy,” Scott said.
The Hagar-hungry line built to about 200 people by the time 11 a.m. rolled around and wristbands started to be handed out.
It was around that time that Brandon Smart arrived and joined the end of the line.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to get a ticket,” Smart said.
But there were still some to be had, so a few minutes later, he was on his cell phone, asking a friend, “Can you get over here?”
Wristbands were being given away steadily until about 1:20 p.m., when a lunchtime rush exhausted the 400 that were available.
Percy Salcedo Jr. walked away grinning with his wristband.
To him, the show not only signaled the long-awaited arrival of Sammy Hagar at Cabo Wabo, but also a cool accomplishment for the city in a while.
Salcedo, who grew up in the area where Cabo Wabo now sits, moved to the Bay Area in 1999. But as a Hagar fan whose family still lives in the neighborhood, Salcedo was eager to see the Red Rocker in his hometown.
He took four days off work, came back to Fresno and showed up bright and early Tuesday morning wearing a Fresno State Bulldogs T-shirt.
“It’s so great that we have this in the neighborhood,” Salcedo said. “I thank Sammy.”