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By Photojournalist Chaz Dykes

Sammy Hagar and The Circle
Strawberry Festival
Wish farms Sound Stage
Plant City, Florida.
March 6th, 2022

Sammy Hagar and The Circle took the stage at the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Florida Sunday night. But before I get into it, I want to reminisce a little. Van Halen and Sammy Hagar, AKA the Red Rocker, were two of my favorite artists from my childhood. I first heard Sammy’s voice on songs like “Bad Motor Scooter” and “Rock Candy” from his time in Montrose. They were always on the radio. Sammy left Montrose in the mid 70’s and released his first album Nine on a Ten Scale. Sammy’s solo career has given us a lot of great music like the theme song to the classic animated movie Heavy Metal in 1982.

At the same time, Van Halen had become larger than life. They were, in my opinion, the Best Rock Band around. They had been dominating the radio wave since their first release in 1978, a remake of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” They followed their self-titled album with Van Halen II, Women and Children First, Fair Warning, Diver Down and 1984 all in a 6-year period. There was so much great music in a short time.

Van Halen and David Lee Roth parted ways and they brought in Sammy Hagar in 1985 and released 5150 in 1986. I loved it. Yes, it was different, but it was still great. It was a mixture of two of my favorite artists at the time. Over the next 11 years this version of Van Halen gave us so many great songs, until it came to an end in 1996, when Sammy and Van Halen went their separate ways. I always felt fortunate to have seen both iterations of Van Halen perform live, while growing up in Virginia Beach.

Sammy and Van Halen’s bassist Michael Anthony continued to play together, and they started a new project called Chickenfoot with guitarist Joe Satriani and drummer Chad Smith, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. After Chickenfoot, Sammy and Michael started another project, The Circle, with guitarist Vic Johnson and drummer Jason Bonham, son of the late great drummer for Led Zeppelin, John Bonham.

Fast forward to March 6th, 2022, it is a half hour before the show starts. I am being escorted across the Strawberry Festival grounds to the Wish Farms Sound Stage, where Sammy Hagar and the Circle will be performing. The crowd was starting to fill in and the air was charged with excitement and anticipation. The next 30 minutes could not go by fast enough.

Sammy and the boys opened the night with, “There’s Only One way to Rock,” and spent the rest of the night proving it by serving up some “Poundcake,” and the crowd ate it up. This included Michael Anthony unleashing his incredible voice to sing “Ain’t Talkin’ bout Love,” which ended with Michael saying, “That’s for you Eddie!” And the crowd started to chant Eddie, Eddie, Eddie!

Sammy Hagar looked at Michael and said, “Hey man what are we supposed to do, let all those great songs die? Hell no! We got to keep it going. We are the other half and that’s about all that’s left,” and the crowd cheered them on. Did I mention they sounded great? I was in awe, I felt like I just stepped into a time machine.

Sammy sounded stellar and Michael was amazing. Vic Johnson nailed every guitar part and Jason Bonham was just as solid on the drums. Jason took the mic for a second and talked about how awesome it was to be able to get back out and perform again saying, “It’s been a long time.” That was the perfect segway to the next song, Led Zeppelins’ “Rock N Roll” originally recorded by his father.

The band had great energy and looked like they were having tons of fun. They even did the “Walk” they used to do in Van Halen performances. The crowd cheered for every song and sang along the whole night. Other songs performed included “Three Lock Box,” “Heavy Metal,” “I’ll Fall in Love Again,” “I Can’t Drive 55,” “Top of the World,” “Your Love is Driving Me Crazy,” “Right Now,” “Why Can’t this Be Love,” “Finish What Ya Started” and “When It’s Love.”

I have to say, I really enjoyed the show, it brought back great memories of good times with old friends. If I had more than two thumbs, I would put them all up.