Here’s a story that’s fitting for Cinco de Mayo – a full report from Cabo by Darin Bristow, who attended the 20th anniversary of the Cabo Wabo Cantina, April 22-24. Darin conceived and directed the animated video for Chickenfoot’s “Get It Up.”
Cabo San Lucas is pretty damn hot folks. The sun shines there about 350 days out of 365, and at night when that great ball of fire dips behind the famous arch of Land’s End, it only gets hotter. It was never hotter than the 3 tequila-soaked nights of April 22, 23, and 24th, as these days marked the 20th Anniversary of the famous “Cabo Wabo Cantina”. For those of you who have made the trek, you know what kind of off the chart party’s can occur when Sammy appears unannounced and tears up the stage for an awestruck crowd. Redhead and VH fans know to expect the unexpected as countless rock icons have shared the stage with Sammy over the past 2 decades. I myself have taken the long road to Cabo twice, but each time sadly missed the ‘Wham of Sam’. My first trip I missed him by a day. My second trip I actually missed him TWICE in one week! ( Can you believe that??? ) But as they say, the 3rd times’ the charm. Rightly so, for this trip was a going to be a little extra special as this time around I was actually invited to witness Sammy and Chickenfoot rock the house as thanks from the band themselves for conceiving and directing the animated video for “Get It Up”.
Let me tell you- ROCK THE HOUSE THEY DID. Here are some Cantina hi-lights and some special “fanecdotes” from this amazing 3 day rockstravaganza.
Birthday Bash Day 1 – Thursday, April 22nd 2010, 5:10 pm:
My girlfriend Kelley and I had just gotten off the plane from Toronto via Houston and jumped in the first cab we could. We were tired, and after getting the runaround from all the timeshare folk at the Cabo Airport, we just wanted to get to the Cantina and party. We were escorted to a van by our driver, jumped in the back, and were about to pull away, when he shifted into park and said ” amigos- we have one more person joining us”. We all turn to see this large, goateed Latino dude wearing the blackest midnight shades I’ve ever seen, jump in the front passenger seat. He didn’t say one word. I assumed he was either someone from the airport hitching a ride home, or he was coming along for the ride to help bury our bodies in the Cabo desert. I was nervous as the four of us drove ( hopefully ) towards Cabo. After about 10 minutes of sorta scary silence, I sarcastically asked out loud ” if they knew which house was Sammy Hagar’s?”. Not one smile from either of the men in the front seat. Just silence. Kelley looked scared. ( So did I ) Then, after a pause, there was a flurry of Spanish exchanged between the two men ( which at that point I was sure was them discussing who was going to pull the trigger and who was going to dig the hole ), when all of a sudden the big dude turned to us, and in the kindest voice ever asked “Are you guys here to see Sammy?” WE WEREN’T GOING TO DIE!! Instead, we ended up making fast friends with fellow fan Dave Pena from San Antonio Texas! Let me tell you, Dave is one great guy and wicked fan! He’s got awesome tats of the VH logo and Cabo Wabo logo on his arms, and Cabo Wabo Tequila bottle and on his leg, and even had the EVH striped sneakers! We vowed to hook up later that night at the cantina.
After literally throwing our stuff into our hotel room, Kelley and I headed downtown. Outside the bar there was already a lineup around the block! Die Hard fans had been lined up for hours, some, such as the very sweet Pat from Colorado, literally slept overnight in the streets to guarantee getting the much coveted Cabo wristband. All the fans were great, and it was literally a party in the street as ice- cold Modelo’s were handed out, concert memories exchanged, new friends were made, and sure enough we even hooked up with the mighty Dave Pena again! Everyone was getting primed for day 1 of the party of the decade!
Inside the at capacity Cantina, the crowd was cheering for the party to start. We could see upstairs that the VIP room curtain kept opening a bit, offering brief glimpses of the band’s pre-show party going on. Sammy and Mike could be seen sporadically as flashbulbs went off like lightning before the thunder. The crowd was at fever pitch!! Then, as the VIP door opened, the crowd went insane as Sammy, Joe, Mike and guest drummer Matt Sorum took the stage! We somehow had made it to center stage, so we had a great view of Mike, Joe, and Matt warming up, and heard the first words from Sammy’s mouth: ” We’re just gonna jam! Is that ok??” The cantina roared with approval as the band ripped into an awesome version of Highway Star. Relentless, and with the energy of teenagers, “ChickenMatt” kicked ass with renditions of ” Sexy Little Thing”, Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”, and Zep’s ” Rock and Roll”. Each owned their respective instruments and I swear that Joe never played better. As a fellow guitar player, to see him play from a few feet away is simply staggering. Matt’s drum solo at the end of ” Rock and Roll” was pure Animal from the Muppets! Just insane. Mike was barefooted and grinning ear to ear as he kept the bottom end up like never before, and Sammy, well he was Sammy. When he screamed at the outro of “Foxy Lady” it literally gave me goosebumps. The man seems to just get better and better. I think we all left with voices a few octaves lower than when they came in from trying to scream just as hard. All in all it was a great night, and the crowd left anxious for Friday’s concert. In fact, some fans went directly outside to get in the overnight lineup for the Friday wristbands!!
Friday, April 23rd 2010, 9:35pm:
I had too many Waborita’s and only remember them rip apart ” Avenida Revolution” before my lights went dim! HA!
Saturday, April 24th 2010, 3:30pm:
This was it. This was the night I’d been waiting for since August 2009, when I first conceived the idea of transfusing my professional life and my personal life, and pitching the idea of an animated music video to Sammy Hagar and ‘Chickenfoot’.
The video had taken off like I’d never imagined and was exploding not only virally, but on broadcast as well. MTV2, MuchMORE Music, SpikeTV, and even major cruise ship lines had added it to their broadcast rotations! As a professional Animation Designer/Producer/Director, this video was a personal and professional career highlight for me, as the final product produced thru Pipeline Studios Inc. was something very unique and special. The caliber of talent Pipeline assigned to work on the video was unreal. ( see images below ) After visiting the Cabo Wabo Cantina a few times before and seeing all of Sammy’s legendary career memorabilia that adorns the walls, I asked if I could officially present the Cantina with a framed animation still from the ‘Get It Up’ video while at the anniversary bash. The entire ‘Get It Up’ video project originally sprang from my quest to just get my character designs of the band signed ( I collect autographs of my favorite bands and guitar players on my original animation designs ), but now it had now exploded into something much larger. I would be honored to revisit the Cantina in the years to come and see the video artwork on display. My answer from the band was a resounding ‘yes’, so I decided to frame the best still possible and have all the talented Pipeline Studios’ animators, designers, producers and painters who worked on the video with me, personally sign it. It looked fantastic, and I knew the band would love it. But that wasn’t enough. After all my years as a fan, and for the countless summer nights of blasting their music, I wanted to really blow the lid off the event and give something back. So, I grabbed stills of each ‘Chickenfoot’ member’s scenes from the video and matted those as well. My goal would be personally present each band member their own original still from the video to keep!
So, here I was April 24th, 2010, making my way down to the Cantina with my stack of animation art wondering how it would turn out. I was slightly nervous. Some people warn you about meeting your heroes, as they may not “be” the people “you think they are”. Would I be Icarus? Was I trying to fly too close to the sun? I knew in my gut that it was going to be a night I’d never forget….
After hitting the Cabo Wabo bar for some warm-up drinks, Kelley and I hooked up again with superfan ‘San Antonio Dave’ to hang while we waited for the lineup to start. You could feel the buzz starting to fill the air. Fans from around the globe had now started to fill the bar. As we drank Waboritas and did Tequila shots, the air filled with everyone’s conversations- and it was all ‘Hagar’, ‘Halen’, and ‘Chickenfoot’. A common love of music turned complete strangers into lifelong friends. It was really a special night that brought all the fans together.
The Cantina now closes, and patrons were asked exit the bar and to get in line outside as the bar began it’s transformation into a red hot rock n’ roll club! The party continued into the street as the electricity in the warm Cabo air began to hum. Sound checks then started, security teams arrived, and drinks were dispersed to the ever growing crowd. It was unreal how much energy was in this crowd at that point, and I have to admit, Redhead/VH/Chickenfoot fans really are the best, as everyone we met accepted each other as family. All of a sudden the crowd began to cheer, heads turned, and a series of white vehicles showed up, each emblazoned with the ‘Chickenfoot’ logo. The band had arrived and party was about to go to the next level!
The BestBuy video crew began filming the enthusiastic crowd as security commenced with letting us in! I could feel my stomach turning anxiously with anticipation, or was it the copious amounts Cabo shots I’d been doing with the crowd?? Either way, Kelley and I were escorted in as our names were confirmed on the VIP guest list, and we made our way upstairs to a part of the Cantina I had never seen before. Once on the rooftop patio, we picked a table near the backstage entrance that was sheathed by a backlit curtain, and I got all the animation stills ready to present the band. Kelley and I then ordered more Waboritas as the sound checks ended and the stage lights began to ignite. We were T-minus 1 hour till show time!
As we sipped our drinks I could feel an anticipation building inside me like never before…something was about to happen. “What do you ask your heroes?” I thought. What should I say and not say? Then, the backstage curtain opened and out popped a grinning Joe Satriani! We shook hands and chatted about the “Get it Up” video. I know Joe is a fan of animation so we casually discussed the animation production process and how ‘Chickenfoots’ music had inspired me to dream up the video idea. For as out of this world as his fretwork is, I was struck by how down to earth he was. Joe is really genuine, and his easy going nature really made me feel at ease. I then grabbed his video still and presented it to him. I could see the youthful kid within him as he smiled graciously and accepted it. It felt great to be giving something back to one of my childhood guitar heroes. I bet he had no idea how many hours I spent back in 1987 practicing every lick of ‘The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing’ on my first guitar. We discussed what a sequel to the ‘Get it Up’ video could look like, or what the storyline could be, then we again shook hands and he headed backstage. He really was a decent, caring guy! Thanks Joe!
After a very mellow chat with Joe I really wasn’t prepared for the whirlwind of energy and humor that is Michael Anthony! The guy is simply high on life! As soon as he burst through the backstage curtain he was already amped up, making jokes, and discussing the video. It was great to hear how much he liked it. I had met Michael back in 1998 when VH did a rare autograph session in Toronto, and he signed a cartoon I did of the band. Due to the liquid courage I’d had in the form of tequila, I decided to ask him if he remembered that piece. To my surprise his face lit up as he actually described it to me! Simply put: Michael. Anthony. Rocks. We then laughed and joked as I presented him with his ‘Get It Up’ video stills. He grabbed them and immediately posed with them. The patio burst into laughter at his antics. The man’s energy is totally contagious! The pics say it all! We then shook hands, and he signed my original ‘Chickenfoot’ character model sheet that got the video green lit. Even his autograph is hilarious! Thanks Mike!
After Mike left, the crowd could be heard chanting for the band and the Cabo sun began to set. The VIP patio was almost full, and I recognized people that were close friends of the band. Then, Kelley grabbed my arm and said ” this is it baby- look!”. I turned to the backstage curtain and could see by the activity of the backlit shadows that someone big was on their way out. As the iconic silhouette of Sammy Hagar began to form on the curtain, time seemed to slow to half speed. As a longtime guitar player and rock music fan I have met some cool people over the years. Eddie Van Halen. Billy Gibbons. Gene Simmons. But when Sammy Hagar emerged from behind the curtain, I knew I was for a treat. Would he be who I thought? Would this meeting change my thoughts about him? My answer was confirmed when he looked at me, smiled, shook my hand and said: ” Man, you are a crazy muthaf@#&er! That video was cool man!” With those immortal words we immediately hit it off and he was exactly the laid back, down to earth dude I had always thought he was. As we chatted, my mind drifted to the countless images of Sammy I’d seen over my 22 years as fan. All the videos, live concerts, TV interviews, books, magazine articles, etc., that it was actually hard to believe he was standing beside me saying he liked the my work! Surreal. Bless my girlfriend Kelley’s heart, as while I kinda stood there in a fog, she was busy snapping pics and video so I could remember what the hell he and I spoke about! Then I gave Sammy his animation stills and he smiled the biggest grin and laughed with glee. He even laughs in perfect pitch! To give him back, even if just for a split second, a portion of the joy his music had given me felt great. With a final mighty handshake and a few autographs Sam was gone, and within seconds I could hear the crowd go crazy, as ‘Chickenfoot’ was obviously storming the stage.
As the cool Cabo night air began to roll in, I reflected on the wild and crazy evening that had just taken place. I smiled, raised a tequila, and Kelley and I began to enjoy the opening riffs of ” Avenida Revolution”. All was right in the world!