Zander the Sander

by Curtis Lanclos

As you may gather from previous blog posts of mine (specifically HERE, HERE & HERE), since the Fall of 2017 I have been involved with a wonderful annual week-long retro music festival known as THE SANDS (previously named 80s in the Sand). Unfortunately the October 2020 installment of this extravaganza was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns; although some regular attendees (aka “Sanders”) still came to the Dreams and Secrets Resorts in Playa Mujeres, Mexico for an unofficial “unplugged” version of the event. This notably had one night wherein all of the attending Sanders slept together in a large room when Hurricane Delta paid a visit; which led to the creation of a great t-shirt which reads “I SLEPT WITH ALL THE SANDERS!” Brilliant.

2021’s installment of THE SANDS (which was held October 25-30) was not cancelled, and most of the performers who were supposed to perform in 2020 simply postponed their obligation to 2021. One of those was the amazing American rock band from Rockford, IL, CHEAP TRICK. I have long been a fan of this band since I first saw them at Six Flags Over Georgia on August 31, 1986. I worked at this park at the time, and the head of the shows department gave me and my co-worker friends Gene Gamblin, Mike Radford and Matt Lester front row seats to the show! I left with some of guitarist Rick Nielsen’s guitar picks and Gene caught one of (then) drummer Bun-E Carlos’ drumsticks at the end of the show! I still have the t-shirt from that show, but it doesn’t fit me now…

Since that time, I saw the band perform 2 more times with Bun E. Carlos as drummer, and with original bassist Tom Petersson back in the group (at the 1986 show, founding member of the Chicago band D’Thumbs Jon Brant played the bass). Carlos left the band in 2010, and was replaced with Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx. I would see this incarnation of the band with Tom and Daxx twice (once on the 2017 80s Cruise and another time at Chastain Park in Atlanta).

Petersson had open heart surgery in early 2021, so he has been replaced for the time being with lead singer Robin Zander’s son Robin Taylor Zander. So this incarnation of Cheap Trick, consisting of Nielsen, Nielsen, Zander and Zander, is the one which performed at THE SANDS 2021 on October 27, 2021!

A day or two prior to the show, my friend and fellow Sander James McNally texted me to say he spotted Robin Zander relaxing on the beach. However, THE SANDS was being held at two adjacent resorts in Playa Mujeres; Dreams and Secrets. I was staying on the Dreams side, and James saw Zander on the Secrets side; so I didn’t make the trek over there.

So, the night of the show, I secured my good place in line outside the concert hall early in the night, since there is no assigned seating. In fact, much of the arena is standing room only. I brought my original 1979 Dream Police LP with me in the hopes I could get Robin and/or Rick to sign it. I had lost my Sharpie I had been carrying; but my aforementioned friend James McNally was kind enough to give me a grey one he had in his possession that night. When the doors opened, I was pleased I was able to get a spot on the front row on the right-hand-side of the stage.

The first band which played that evening was TESLA, and they put on a tremendous show (I had never seen them live before so that was a treat)! Since I was on the front row leaning on the hard metallic fence in front of the stage, I was very close to lead singer Jeff Keith and guitarist Frank Hannon for much of the show…

After TESLA finished their set, Cheap Trick took the stage. As was the case with Jeff Keith, Robin Zander was in very close proximity to me and my friends Tom and Angie Mazanetz at many points during the show…

I held up my Dream Police LP several times during the show, but there was no activity as a result. Then, when the band played the song “Dream Police,” I had it ready once again, with the grey Sharpie prepared as well. About 1 minute into the song, to my DELIGHT, Robin grabbed the LP and held it up…

Then he proceeded to sign the front cover with the grey Sharpie. However, to my disgust, I had left the cap off of the marker for too long and it had dried out. So, you can hardly tell he signed it…

Be that as it may, I enjoyed the entirety of the show. Robin Taylor Zander and Daxx Nielsen are excellent musicians in their own right and I know Robin and Rick are proud to have them performing onstage with them.

I wasn’t able to find Robin Zander after the show to obtain a better autograph; however a couple of days later I was met with a nice surprise. James McNally, who earlier in the week informed me of when Zander was first on the beach and also loaned me the Sharpie which I ruined, came to our final session of Boombox Bingo on Friday afternoon. He showed me the items which he was able to get Zander to sign on the beach. Knowing my disappointment with the Dream Police LP autograph, on the spot he gave me an 8×10 which “Zander the Sander” signed for him.

Every time I go to THE SANDS, I have one or two amazing experiences with entertainers I grew up admiring; and this time was no exception! In addition, the giving attitude displayed by James is a small example of just how generous and kind the Sanders are to one another. If you attend THE SANDS and show yourself friendly, I guarantee you’ll make several lifelong friends and have amazing experiences with heroes of your youth as I have! So be sure and go to thesands.rocks and sign up for 2022!

Thanks so much to Steve and Jacqueline Robinson for putting this event together every year, and thank you James McNally for your kindness!

I leave you with “Zander the Sander” and the rest of Cheap Trick performing “I Want You to Want Me” at THE SANDS 2021! Enjoy!

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