Thunder on the Rocks

Redrocks Amphitheater
Morrison, CO
September 5, 2016

img_1966You can say what you want about Sammy Hagar—that he’s a god, that he’s a clown, that he’s amazing, that he’s egotistical, that he’s washed-up, that he’s an incredible person… we all have our own opinion, and I’m going to try to remain objective here, but having had the immense pleasure of seeing Sammy and his latest band, The Circle, perform at Redrocks recently was such a delight that I just had to share my thoughts.

It had been the culmination of a super crazy week for me, having worked 12-hour days for the Labor Day weekend and, not being a spring chicken myself anymore, trying to deal with the agony of my vehemently protesting knees, but when The Circle exploded onto the stage with “There’s Only One Way to Rock”, where I could barely walk just moments before, I found myself dancing (as best I could) and wishing I’d had more space in which to move. Oh my God! The music blew the roof off the building! Oh wait—there was no roof. Or building.

I’ve seen Sammy perform with Van Halen, The Wabos, Chickenfoot and others, and while I never got to see Van Halen in their prime, (I saw them in 2004 during their reunion tour—don’t get me started) and although I love all his previous bands, I have to say that I think I enjoyed The Circle the other night most of all. Maybe it’s because I’m also a huge fan of Led Zeppelin.


Jason Bonham & Sammy Hagar

With Sammy on lead vocals, Michael Anthony (former bassist of Van Halen) on bass, Vic Johnson on guitar and Jason Bonham (son of the illustrious John Bonham from Led Zeppelin) on drums, how could this band be anything but spectacular? And they were. Tight. Loud. Sounding like thunder on the rocks.

I expected to hear some Zeppelin tunes and was thrilled with what they chose to play. I loved “Good Times Bad Times,” but “When the Levee Breaks” and “Rock and Roll” are two of my all-time favorite Zeppelin tunes and when The Circle performed them, I was swept up into a state of bliss and wonder that matched the fog machine’s ambience, and I don’t mean stoned. There was just something magical about all of it—Redrocks—with the stars overhead in the warm summer night’s sky combined with the towering red-hued boulders on either side of the venue like two giant hands holding audience and performers in an intimate setting of sound and soul and rock and roll so mesmerizing that you just had to experience it to believe it.


Hagar seemed to feel it too. “This is the most beautiful venue on earth!” he said, extending his arms. “I wish I could have gotten here while the place was empty, climbed to the middle and just sat there in awe and taken it all in.”

Indeed. If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing a live show at Redrocks, I urge you to go sometime. You won’t be sorry. There is nothing like it.

Michael Anthony was as talented as always—with his high pitched, irreplaceable backing vocals that helped make Van Halen great, and his seemingly sheer joy at performing with his buddy Sam.


Michael Anthony on bass

And although he’s not Eddie Van Halen, on guitar, Vic Johnson, who hails from Colorado Springs, CO, never disappoints. He hammered out those songs as easily as if he could do it in his sleep.


Vic Johnson on guitar

There was a moment during the show that really stood out for me though—Sammy’s guitar solo during “When the Levee Breaks.” I remember talking to Vic years ago and he told me that he’d mentioned to Sammy that he needed to play guitar more, that his fans loved it when he did so, and when I heard that solo during “When the Levee Breaks,” that’s what came to mind—Damn! Sammy! You need to play guitar more! What a treat!

Although I’ve seen Sammy in concert more times than I can count, and yes, I suppose I’m a little biased, I am still impressed that he can perform with as much energy as he does. I leaned over to my son, who was there with me, and said, “Can you believe he’ll be 70 next year? 70!” You’d never know it. Hagar made it look effortless, and it was obvious that he enjoyed every minute of it.


Sammy Hagar on lead vocals

There was a moment during “Runaround” when Mickey’s mic quit working, but it was only a minor distraction. And toward the end of the show, Hagar’s voice grew a bit hoarse, but I’m sure it was due to the altitude. I’ve seen many performers in Colorado have to take hits of oxygen between songs for this reason.

But they didn’t let up. Quipped Hagar, “We’re not going to go offstage and come back on because I don’t want to walk down all those steps to the dressing room and back up them again! So we’ll just do it like we’re in Cabo. We don’t go offstage; we don’t do encores in Cabo. We just keep playing until we’re done playing.”

And they did. The crowd went crazy with applause.


Jason Bonham on drums

The show ended with an etherial rendition of “Dreams,” which is one of my all-time favorite tunes. One year in Cabo, as Sammy was getting ready to perform “Dreams,” he announced to the audience about how I had made my dream come true—to be a writer (the video is on the home page of my website, you can see it here) so this song will forever have special meaning for me. And although he’s lowered the key, with the magic of the evening overpowering my angry knees, it was truly one of the best shows I’ve ever seen Sammy do. Then to close with “Rock and Roll”… Give me more!


There’s Only One Way to Rock
Rock Candy
Good Times, Bad Times
I Can’t Drive 55
Right Now
Little White Lie
When the Levee Breaks
Why Can’t This Be Love
Finish What Ya Started
Heavy Metal
Mas Tequila
When It’s Love
Rock and Roll

**All photos property of Patricia Walker, 2016. No unauthorized duplication, please.

Zeppephilia “Brings It on Home” Heart and Soul with Kick-Ass Rock and Roll Part 1

Interview by Patricia Walker with photos by Mike Barry

Band Members:
James Songfield – (Robert Plant) vocals
Eyal Rivlin – (Jimmy Page) guitar
Chad Coonrod – (John Bonham) drums
Michael Mitchell – (John Paul Jones) bass, mandolin, harmonies

Halfway through their first set at the D-Note in Arvada, Colorado, Zeppephilia’s drummer Chad Coonrod, stood up from behind his drum kit and, dripping in sweat, shouted into the microphone, “Let’s get dirty!”

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about—Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song”—down-and-dirty blues. I’ve had the pleasure of watching Zeppephilia perform several times now and they always ooze with energy and skilled craftsmanship—so much so that you won’t find yourself sitting in your seat for long.

As the lead guitarist of this Led Zeppelin tribute band, Eyal Rivlin wants his audience to know that “the name ‘Zeppephilia’ is a combination of the words ‘Zeppelin’ and the Greekword ‘philia’ which means ‘the love of,’ and so Zeppephilia could be translated as ‘the love of Zeppelin.’”

Can’t argue that. Their love for the music comes through in every song they play.

“It’s a cathartic outlet,” says Rivlin, who’s been playing guitar for over 25 years. “I feel like it’s my prayer too. To be able to channel that is just an absolute joy … When I was a kid, it just seemed like the cool thing to do. Playing guitar always made sense to me. Over the years, it’s been a voice, an outlet whenever intense emotions are going on, to be able to let them out in a healthy way. It’s also been a way to connect with people and share on a more intimate level.”

That’s certainly evident in his music. Besides guitar, he also plays bass and sitar, has released over a dozen CDs, a DVD, and several music books and is in demand as a session guitarist and teacher.


Eyal Rivlin





Since Rivlin also writes his own music, (as do Chad and Mike on occasion) I asked what inspires him.

“I think the muse is us letting ourselves become creators. There’s something about creating from the void—out of nothingness you pull out an idea or a sound or a phrase. And there’s awe in that, and there’s discovery in that; there’s magic in that. Almost like you’re stepping aside and it’s coming through you. Where does it come from? It’s a mystery; it’s The Source. Now, that said, still there’s a language that it comes through. I mean, we’ve all grown up listening to certain scales, to certain notes; we’ve been influenced … I grew up listening to Zeppelin a lot, so in a way, Zeppelin comes through me—that sound, that vibration comes through me … I think that’s part of my color palette so to speak.”

Eyal attended an elite performing arts high school in Israel which he described as “a bit like Julliard in this country.” He said that was where his love for the guitar and music in general, formed. From there, he played primarily rock and jazz, but after a trip to India, he also got into the world of kirtan. “That opened up a whole new door because it was such a different experience. The line between performer and audience was erased. Sure, I was holding an instrument, [but] I was part of a community singing together.”

James Songfield


Chad Coonrod

Chad started playing drums at age ten, in 1981, when Mötley Crüe released their “Shout at the Devil” album and subsequent videos, and he saw Tommy Lee play drums. “I was going ballistic. I thought, ‘This guy is so cool,’” recalled Coonrod. Shortly after that, he bought a pair of drumsticks for fifty cents at a garage sale and went home and set up boxes, pots and pans, lids, trash can lids and all kinds of noise-makers. He didn’t stop playing on his makeshift drum set for six months. So, on his 11th birthday, his parents bought him his first real drum set. After that, he started listening to music and playing it by ear, he said. “I learned all the beginning techniques, and before I knew it, I had kids coming over to my house to listen to me play drums.”

Over the years, he’s played in bands and covered every genre of music from hard rock to funk to blues and country and just about everything in between. He’s also toured all over the United States. The only time he took a break was from 2004-2006 to earn a degree in finance. He also plays acoustic guitar in his spare time.

Michael Mitchell

Mike’s first instrument was the violin. “As a kid, I [also] played clarinet and saxophone and later in high school, I played a lot of percussion in bands.” he said. He went on to say that he played drums for a while, but after his drum kit grew to be too much of a pain to haul around, he took up bass. Now he says it’s his favorite instrument to play. “It’s what feels most right in my hands,” he explained. However, when I asked his favorite type of music, he said “Jazz.” “You can look at rock and roll; you can look at opera; you can look at more traditional classic music and there’s so much structure in it, where jazz is sort of a distillation of the structure. You can map it out and make variations in all these little spots… You bring your creativity to it by saying ‘This is a piece and I understand it like this but I’m going to offer an alternative that’s going to work in the key. Watch me do it!’ That’s how it really speaks to me. ”

Like Chad, Mike is primarily a self-taught musician and he traveled all over the country personally experiencing life on the road as a professional. Now, with his day job is as an IT project manager and his role as a volunteer firefighter, husband and father, his membership in another band besides Zeppephilia, he still lives a busy life. “It’s a good balance because I wouldn’t want to live as a professional musician anymore. It’s very hard not to do the overindulgence thing and string together an income on just gigs.” Now he enjoys playing music on weekends while at the same time, having an income he can depend on—the best of both worlds.

Lead guitarist Rivlin described the goal of Zeppephilia as “to share that love [of Led Zeppelin’s music]. As a band, their catalog is just unbelievable… and forty years later, it’s just as fresh and just as exciting. Kind of timeless in that sense. They embodied something that wasn’t quite there before, the supreme ‘rock star,’ almost superhuman persona, it is quite something to channel that amount of energy. They played arena shows for over 55,000 people. That’s like plugging into The Source.”

The author was unable to interview Mr. Songfield, but I’m sure he would wholeheartedly agree with that statement.

One thing that has always fascinated me is the way some musicians appear to tap into a higher energy when they perform, as if they’re so engrossed in the sound that the world around them seems to disappear, leaving only the performer and the music. I asked Eyal about this. How does he feel when he performs? What goes through his mind at times like that?

His answer was golden. “One of the reasons I came to this country [he was born and raised in Israel] was to get a Master’s Degree in transpersonal psychology. That field studies and researches all states of consciousness as part of the healing process. That quest has also lead me to India and meditation. So for me, music is a spiritual practice. And performing is a way to enter what modern psychology calls a ‘state of flow.’ And in a state of flow, [it’s] what athletes or musicians sometimes describe as entering “the zone.” In reality, any skill that you’ve put your ten thousand hours into, in a sense, you can become that skill. There’s something magical that happens at that point, something where the mind stops and you’re completely present and you’re playing but also being played. That might not happen for the whole two hours of performance, but even if it happens for a moment, that state, that taste is so sweet and so nourishing and so life-affirming.”

I asked Chad the same question.

“There’s a dynamic in that,” explained Chad. “There are times when I really need to concentrate on certain parts. It may be a difficult time signature or a very dynamic section, and there are other times where I just let it GO. ‘Stairway’, ‘Dazed and Confused’, and ‘Song’ come to mind when I want to let it go; it’s so much fun! Bonham never played with a click track.  He was an emotional drummer.  He recorded live, hard, and full of vigor!”

“So would you say that you become something other than yourself when you perform?” I asked him.

“I’ve been playing so long, that I am who I am when on stage. There’s times when you’re just on fire and everything is in perfect harmony. Those moments are the best! [When I] get behind my kit, it just feels so right … Maybe having that universal language [of] music is why a band like us with four different backgrounds resonates so well together. Because when we perform, we are putting our heart and soul out there. It is very fulfilling to know my bandmates have my back when putting on a show! This [Zeppephilia] is an amazing project. I am blessed to have met three of the best guys. After two and half years [we’re] just as excited about it as we were when we first started. There is a peace of mind knowing that, after all the time we’ve put in, it is still fun and going strong.  So in a sense, that helps me grow as a person because when you marry your life with your passion, it’s the ultimate satisfaction.”

Rivlin expounded on that. “If you look around, music is the fundamental carrier wave for all religions and spiritual paths. “There’s something when we, as a community, as a congregation, whatever you want to call it, when we all connect around a beat or around a pulse or around a vibration or a frequency, it gets everybody on the same wavelength. As a group, it aligns the energy or the state of consciousness of the audience. And that’s powerful! That’s a lot of energy to hold and to carry. It’s often the musicians who are the prophets or messengers of every generation. They create the soundtrack for the message. There would be no ‘60s without the ‘60s music. John Lennon, Bob Marley, Bono, etc… The music literally changes our brain as we get entrained to the beat or groove and move our body. It enters our soul.”

“There’s something about music,” Eyal continued. “The way it enters your ears and it literally moves the bones in your ears. The bass frequencies will shake your body and if you’re in that field, you’re affected by that field. That’s a really powerful tool.”

(Check back next week for the short conclusion of my interview with Zeppephilia and hear their comments on how playing music is like making love and what entertaining means to them.)


For more information, videos, photos and upcoming appearances, please visit the band’s website at or check out their Facebook page.

(Photos courtesy of Mike Barry and Fort Collins Photo Works. Used by permission. For more information, please visit

Book Review: “Backstage Past” by Barry Fey

Anyone who was a music fan from the late ‘60s through the late ‘90s in Colorado knows the name Barry Fey. He is a legend—the rock promoter who sold more concert tickets than any other promoter in history. Fey brought everyone from the Beatles and Led Zeppelin to Diana Ross and Willie Nelson to the Denver area (and other places as well).

In his new book, “Backstage Past,” Fey says that he once played a show featuring Johnny Winter, Fleetwood Mac, Zephyr and the Flock in 1969, all for a whopping $3.50. Those days are long gone but they were also the days when great new music was cropping up everywhere and on a daily basis. You couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing some exciting new record that you just had to run out and buy RIGHT NOW!

With forewords by Pete Townsend and Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, cover flap endorsement by President Bill Clinton and a little poem tribute to Fey written by Bono, “Backstage Past” also includes a poster highlighting Feyline ticket stubs and backstage passes. At 270 pages, this book is a combination of behind-the-scenes footage of the sea of snakes that comprises the monolithic rock and roll machine and personal anecdotes about the stars themselves. Fey recounts how Mick Jagger and Keith Richards taught him how to snort cocaine, how a fan once gave him a vial of her blood to give to Ozzy Osbourne as a gift, how he had (and continues to have) personal conversations with Bono, how he was picked up and escorted to the show in a helicopter, and how he hosted  many a party for the Rolling Stones at his personal residence. There are also stories about The Who, Led Zeppelin, the Mamas and the Papas, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, U2, the Eagles, Aerosmith, Elton John, The Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen and just about everybody who was anybody in the music business, along with agents and promoters of the rich and famous.

The amount of money that exchanged hands was staggering, not to mention the power, the politicians, the crazed fans, and the groupies, along with some temperamental artists. There were those who were overly-sensitive and those who were just plain mean and nasty. Some surprised me and some did not, but I guess rock stars are just people too—people with big egos and a ton of talent. Underneath it all, we all have our vices and our virtues.

One would have had to have been a tough cookie to survive in that business and it sounds like Barry was. His “final words… for now” (in the book) were: “I wish that I would have been nicer.” But if that had been the case, he may not have had the stories to tell. And in spite of all the excitement that accompanies rock and roll, after reading this book, I’m rather glad I wasn’t privy to a lot of the stuff that Fey describes. Sometimes, as the saying goes, ignorance is bliss. However, I’m sure Fey would agree with me when I say that his life has been anything but dull.

I loved his “Fey Lists”, where Fey documented his favorite bands, lead singers, guitar players, drummers, songwriters, songs, and albums, even though I didn’t always agree with him. But my favorite part of all was his list of “Pricks.” Who publishes a list like that? I couldn’t stop laughing. This dude’s got balls, but again, I guess one would have to to survive in that business.

Fey also mentions his love of Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado and he goes into great detail about Woodstock, painting a slightly different picture than how I had imagined it to be: rain and mud and the lack of toilets and food while exhausted people dropped acid and dropped like flies.

Backstage Past” (love the title—Fey credits his son for coming up with it) is a great read. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a peek behind the music, the glitz and the glamor that audiences see night after night at rock concerts—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the Oh-my-God!

Thanks, Barry, for taking us along for the ride, and thanks for doing such an outstanding job as a rock and roll promoter all those years. Your work helped make me into the person I am today—a true lover of great music, and for that I will always be grateful.