Cantina show will let Hagar’s spirit reign unshackled

Sammy Hagar is always fun to talk with. He called me up to promote his free concert on Saturday at Cabo Wabo Cantina, and he immediately unfurled this honesty:

“Are you ready for my hype?!” Hagar said and let out a big laugh. The guy is always laughing. He’s a happy guy.

Saturday’s show celebrates the cantina’s third anniversary.

Hagar will be playing with the Cabo Uno band, the house band that usually rocks Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas.

Hagar says the Uno band is so good that when he hears them from his dressing room in Cabo San Lucas, he thinks he’s hearing records spun by a DJ.

“They’ll go into an AC/DC tune, or a Journey tune, and I’m sitting there thinking, ‘They’re still playing the DJ music.’ And I look down and it’s them. They blow my mind.”

Hagar plays with the Uno band at least five times a year in Mexico. They never rehearse together. He calls them “the best unrehearsed band in the world.”

“I hate rehearsal. I hate doing it with my own band. So I go down there and I just say, ‘Hey you guys, you know my songs.’ They’ve got a list of about 20 songs of mine and other people’s” songs that both Hagar and the band know by heart.

If Hagar makes a mistake onstage, that just makes the show “mo’ better,” Hagar says.

Besides, he adds, “it’s free!”

“We’ve been known to do songs that we don’t even know. I’ve done a U2 song with them that I don’t even know the words to. I just get up and scream.”

Hagar says performing in his cantinas has given him the chance to jam onstage with a lot of vacationing musicians he never would have met.

“It’s allowed me to play with musicians I would have never played with in my life. Kenny Chesney. Toby Keith. Slash,” he says.

“And it’s allowed me to jump onstage and do whatever I want.”

He says there’s more creative freedom in jamming on the cantina stage than in playing on tour.

“You know, my whole life has been Van Halen and all that. It’s been big business. It’s not that easy to just let your hair down and say, ‘This is who I really am, and this is how good or how bad I am.’

“You can’t do that at the MGM Grand Garden arena. You can’t do that at the Thomas & Mack.”

Hagar fans can get free but limited tickets (200 available) for Saturday’s show by picking up a wristband at the cantina at 8 a.m. It’s first come, first served. The show is at 9 p.m.

Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Email him at He blogs at

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