Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hi. I'm Sammy.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be sitting in an easy chair, sipping a beer in the company of rock musicians.  Such was the case this past weekend, in Spokane, Washington, just before a Sammy Hagar concert at the Northern Quest Casino, when in walks this stocky fellow with a shock of curly hair, shoots out his hand and says "hi, I'm Sammy".

"Hi, I'm Paul", and I shook his hand.

First of all, I have to give you all the caveats up front...I am not, nor will I ever be, a real rocker fan.  I love rock music, but it ranks in the middle of the pack when stacked up against other genres such as 60's rock and roll, classical...and even opera.  I've been known to frequent a jazz club, and I also enjoy a little banjo mixed in with the drums and guitar.  I like my music in all styles and genres.

So...that said, I did have the awesome opportunity to not only attend a rock concert in person, but to also go backstage. In fact, I even was on stage for a time. I will tell you that, as an engineer who is most comfortable in an office or at a construction site (where the music is mostly the beep-beep-beep of heavy equipment), being on stage in front of 4,000 fans jumping and dancing to the music is an entirely different experience! 

In the above photo is Sammy in the background, at the front of the stage.  Guitarist Vic Johnson is in the middle and David Lauser is on the drums.  Mona Gnader is playing the bass at the other end of the stage.
Of course you are probably wondering how all this came about?  Well, Karen happens to be very good friends with Liza, the wife of the drummer for Sammy's band.  The trip was really a reunion with Karen and Liza, who have known each other since the mid-90's but hadn't seen each other in several years.  More on that later.

It was to the roar of the crowd that we followed the band onto the stage, and we positioned ourselves behind some equipment, out of the way, needless to say.  I parked myself behind the guitar rack and watched the stage tech swap and tune guitars and the sound engineer at the board. 

I've never been one to get hung up on celebrity.  In fact, it was not long ago I wasn't familiar at all with Sammy Hagar, and the music of Eddie Van Halen was not in my top 40.  I didn't go into this experience with goo-goo eyes nor the zeal of a real fan.  Yet brushing shoulders with true rock stars was amazing.  I even danced a little to the music.
However I think the real treat was seeing celebrities as normal people.  Cutting up with guitarist Victor about greek yogurt, and finding out that David Lauser is a history buff...and of World War 2 history, was one of the highlights for me.

Me, Karen, David and Liza
Perhaps the real celebrity in this experience for me is Liza.  You see, Liza was diagnosed last April with tumor on her brainstem that has been deemed inoperable.  Cancer is no respecter of celebrity.  It really doesn't care who you are or who you know.  In a twinkling of an eye, one's life is radically changed.  Yet what inspires me is Liza's indomitable spirit and her unshakable faith that she will beat this.  The trip was less about attending a rock concert and more about two friends reconnecting.  It was humbling for me to see the love between these two women.
The other thing I learned is that, while the star who walks in the center of the stage does indeed make good money, it isn't necessarily true for the other band members.  Liza's medical bills, despite insurance, are mounting.  Below is a link to Liza's web site that describes what is happening, and how others are helping.  You can too, if you feel so inclined (but please do not feel pressured.  This blog is not about raising funds).  One thing I'm sure she will always accept are your prayers and thoughts.
"The tumor is gone, and Liza is healed!"  There, dear Liza.  I said it...and thank you.
(By the way, all the photos were taken with my iPhone, so please forgive the quality)

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