After meeting the members of Nerd Halen, and being blown away by the level of musical talent in the band the first time I saw them play live, I had always joked with their tour announcements that they just cannot seem to spell ‘Florida’ in their tour dates. When the band posted a three night run in Texas and combined with a comment made from a female who has captured my attention, that confluence of events brought the idea to my mind to travel to Dallas to see and meet up with the Nerds once again.
Prior to presenting the idea QG (said female who has captured my attention), I researched the best option of the three announced cities (San Antonio, Dallas, then Houston) and Dallas had the most non-stop flight choices. My next date with QG, I mentioned that she had made the comment how she would rather see tribute bands than going to some of the bigger name concerts with me, so I threw the idea out there and showed her what I had researched already along with a few videos of the band performing. Within a day or two, we had flights booked and were already looking at ideas for other things to do in the area.
I had met the guys in Nerd Halen before I got to see them play. I was the photographer for their ‘photo experience’ session on the 2022 Monsters of Rock Cruise and got to spend some time chatting with and getting to know the fellas onboard that year. I traded emails with Caleb, their guitarist, and he and I have stayed in touch since then. I then asked for the opportunity to do the band’s ‘photo experience’ session at the 2022 Monsters on the Mountain festival and hilarity ensued at both of those events as several session attendees would bellow “NERDS” as they approached the band members for their photo, much like ‘Ogre’ did in the “Revenge of the Nerds” movie. It is also well documented how their pool deck set was my personal highlight set of the 2022 cruise!
QG discovered there was to be a full lunar eclipse in the San Antonio area the day of the Dallas show so we tried our hardest to rearrange our flights to go to San Antonio, see that Nerd Halen show and then potentially hitch a ride with the band to Dallas. While that fantastic idea did not come to fruition, how freaking awesome would it have been to be on the road with the band even for a day! Dallas area had just over eight percent of the full eclipse so QG and I opted to see the eclipse during a leisurely and relaxing day in and around the local area of Grapevine, TX. We did a daytime drive by of the venue so we could check it out, and it actually was within view of the cabin we rented for the trip.
With doors opening at 9PM and no opening bands we figured it would be a 9:30 start time but that got pushed back to 10PM. During the time before the show, someone came up to me and made a comment about my 2022 Monsters of Rock Cruise shirt I was proudly wearing since it had Nerd Halen listed. He mentioned that he was on the same 2022 cruise and we introduced ourselves to one another and now I have a new rock cruise friend for the next time that Scott is able to go. I also met and connected with another photographer who was in attendance, Anthony, and he also is a Monsters of Rock Cruise alum! Soon the lights go out and a montage of the band members appear on the screens above and to the sides of the stage.
The Nerds open the show mouthing the chorus of car horns that lead into ‘Runnin’ With the Devil’ and both the rock and hilarity were underway. Those of us in attendance gave the fellas a hearty welcome as the opening notes hit our ears. While it is impossible for me to convey every comedic interjection by lead singer, Hal Sparks, I can tell you that he adds a level of hilarity to the iconic and anthemic tunes of the mighty Van Halen/Hagar that in my opinion just takes their show to the next level. This is a band comprised of passionate musicians and their amazing talent with their respective instruments, mixed with witty, nerdy humor with a foundation that celebrates all things Eddie Van Halen including the Sammy Hagar years.
The band takes their nerd look and persona very seriously both in outfit and facial expressions as they perform. There was an instance in this show where Hal accidentally knocked his glasses off into his hand and he perfectly segued into that nerdy look to polish his glasses as if the whole thing was planned. During his first guitar change for Caleb, just as Jeff on drums was starting the intro for ‘Hot for Teacher’, Caleb’s strap broke and his guitar hit the floor and while maybe a portion of the audience thought it was part of the act I knew for sure it was not. Hal and bassist Victor encouraged Jeff to keep the drum intro going and soon Caleb was back in business.
Each and every song in the band’s repertoire is a Van Halen or Hagar hit and is performed with energy and enthusiasm. It is easy to see that the guys in the band are having as much fun as we are celebrating the music that we grew up with. For the David Lee Roth years, the setlist is almost a greatest hits as even the theoretical “deep cuts’ of that era are still widely recognizable. For the Sammy Hagar portion that is where they stick to the more well-known songs of the Van Hagar era. This was my third time seeing Nerd Halen and the longest set of theirs yet so I got to hear them play songs I had not yet experienced before.
Theirs is such a fun show the way the band interacts with the crowd, how spot on exact the music is, and the comedic element added in a way of taking an already legendary rock song and making it that much better in its own sense. From the 2022 cruise link above you would read how my cabin mate and I were still talking about the band’s pool deck show for weeks after we got back.
I savored every second and note of their seventeen song, ninety minute set. While Florida NEEDS a Nerd Halen tour, I would gladly travel again to see these great musicians and friends celebrate rock and roll in the way that they pay tribute to the legendary Van Halen! I took way too many photos during the set but my enjoyment was not lost being behind the lens. QG and I got to chat with the fellas after the show, Caleb gave us picks and I heard QG mention to either Caleb or Jeff how if she closed her eyes and just listened she thought it was Van Halen playing!
The band announced on stage that they would be back at this same venue for New Year’s Eve and I highly encourage anyone in the area to consider this a great way to ring in the New Year. Some of my Florida friends are interested in making the trip after seeing how awesome our cabin was five minutes away from the venue and hearing me continuing to rave about this band. It was a fantastic trip and show, and it was great to see my friends again. Until the next time fellas…NERDS!
To see photos from the show – click here.