Everybody Wants Some: Fan Halen embraced in Van Halen’s hometown

Bassist Andy Catts, vocalist Ernie Berru and guitarist Derek Fuller, from left to right, perform in the Van Halen tribute band Fan Halen. (Fan Halen/Submitted)

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Fan Halen wasn’t nervous about playing The Mixx in Pasadena, California, the hometown of its namesake, Van Halen. 

Several years ago, Fan Halen played at a Pasadena bar for Greg Renoff, who penned the book “Van Halen Rising.” A who’s who of Van Halen fans, friends and family filled the venue. 

“All the people in and around the band back then participated in the book and they were there,” Fan Halen guitarist Derek Fuller says. “The pressure, as you can imagine, was intense. We were a little concerned. But people came up to us and said, ‘We just went back in time.’ It was really, really special. 

“From that standpoint, the pressure is a little bit off. We’ve performed in front of the most critical people.”

Fan Halen headlines Casino Arizona on Friday, March 17, and Saturday, March 18, to celebrate the music of the “Hot for Teacher” band. 

“We love the music,” Fuller said of Van Halen. “We’re fans just like everybody else. We celebrate that music and that era when they ruled rock ‘n’ roll.” 

Based in Huntington Beach, California, Fan Halen was founded more than 10 years ago and has since played around the world, including Japan, South and Central America, Canada and Mexico. 

Fan Halen focuses on Van Halen’s first six albums, from 1970 to 1984 — not “Van Hagar,” when Sammy Hagar replaced original singer David Lee Roth.

The band features vocalist Ernie Berru, who uncannily resembles Roth. Fuller recreates guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s riffs and enthusiastic live persona. 

Bassist Andy Catts is a doppelganger for Michael Anthony — in terms of looks, musicianship and vocals. Alex Van Halen’s drumming comes courtesy of Michael Thompson, who brings a 1981 18-piece double-barreled bass drum Ludwig kit.

Bringing the sound

As a teenage guitar player in Hacienda Heights, Fuller started following Aerosmith and Ted Nugent — until Van Halen came on the scene. 

“Hundreds of millions of other guitar players and I gravitated toward them,” Fuller recalls. “It was so different and so impactful. It was an easy choice for me. There’s only one choice for me: It was Van Halen.

“If you’re a tribute band and you have a passion for that music, it transcends into your show. We lived it, breathed it. It’s what we love.”

Fuller says Fan Halen worked for about three years to perfect its live show. 

“The biggest compliment is someone who said, ‘That just took me back to 1979, the Forum, when I was in high school. I brought a date,’” Fuller says. “‘That show changed my life, and your show brought me right back.’

“When we’d see rock shows like Aerosmith and Kiss, it was just four dudes kind of rocking out. Nothing was wrong with that. When Van Halen came out, it was like a party. David Lee Roth was this ringmaster doing the splits off the riser and Eddie playing guitar, jumping around like crazy, too. It was just a party, and you couldn’t help but feel so elated. We bring it, too.”

Fan Halen

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 17, and Saturday, March 18

WHERE: Casino Arizona, 524 N. 92nd Street, Scottsdale

COST: Tickets start at $15

INFO: casinoarizona.com, ticketmaster.com, fanhalen.net