Van Freakin' Halen! (A music snob ponders his Friday night plans)

(This post started out as “I’m going to see Van Halen Friday night! Is that cool, or what?”, and it turned into this. I don’t know how that happened.)

Van Halen is playing the very first show of their upcoming tour, and their first show with Sammy since the split, right here in my locale of Greensboro this Friday night. Am I going to be there? Hell yes, I am.

This is not an easy thing to understand. You see, I’m a music snob. I’m the guy who shoves mix CDs into people’s hands of bands they’ve never heard of; I’m the one who can’t understand why his friends don’t want to drive three hours with him to some shitty club so they and fifty other people can see some band nobody else gives a damn about. I haven’t had a Van Halen CD in my stereo in years. My devotion to Phish is the only reason I’ve been to an arena-sized concert in years, since I’d usually much rather go to the club across town from the arena. So why am I going to this show, and why am I looking forward to it so damn much?

Yes, tickets were expensive, and yes, I detest the “milking it for all it’s worth” tours we see these days from previously well-respected but rapidly aging bands. (Yes, Don Henley, I’m looking at you! And Paul Stanley, don’t act like you don’t hear me.) But the teenage guitarist and keyboardist that I was fifteen years ago, hiding away in my bedroom with “Diver Down”, “1984”, and “5150” and my cheap Stratocaster, still lives somewhere inside me–in fact, the very same cheap Stratocaster sits not three feet away from me here in my den. When a colleague announced his plans to get tickets, knowing that it was the very first show of the tour, there was just no way I could say no.

I know that many people consider the VH fronted by David Lee Roth to the One True Halen, and I can respect that. (If you’ve never read any of DLR’s writing, I highly recommend it.) Maybe as a result of my vintage–I was nine in 1984, and it was around the time of the release of “5150” that my musical tastes were beginning to gel–I have always been partial to the Hagar-fronted band. Looking back, I will say without hesitation that the albums made with DLR are just plain better than those with SH. But to me, that was somebody else’s Van Halen. Those first three albums with Sammy were the soundtrack for my adolescence. I don’t know that I’ve listened to any of them in the last ten years, but I still know every note of every one.

So yeah, it’s a nostalgia trip. But I usually hate nostalgia trips. I’m sure as hell not trying to relive my adolescence–given the choice between being a teenager again or spending the same five or six years, say, slamming my testicles in a car door, it’s the car door every time. I know there are going to be people there trying to squeeze into the clothes they were wearing when they saw them in 1987, and that’s just kind of sad.

But I think Van Halen was there at about the time I started to realize that music could kick my ass, and just like that first moment when you realize that the new CD you’re listening to is a really fucking great album, it’s a feeling you only get to have once. So maybe there is a moment of my adolescence–a brief, ill-defined, entirely internal one–that I wouldn’t mind reliving.

Will I relive it? Probably not. Will I get my ass kicked? With the help of several beers to silence the pointy-headed critic within, hopefully. Whatever happens, I can’t wait.