PICTURED: War headlines Concerts in Your Car on May 29. Photo submitted

by Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

christina@timespublications.com

As a drummer, Sal Rodriguez has toured with Duke Ellington, Tom Jones, Jose Feliciano and Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, among others. 

But he’s never performed in front of fans in cars. His band War (“Low Rider,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends”) will hit the stage as part of Concerts in Your Car at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 29, at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. 

“I’ve never done that before,” Rodriguez said. “This is going to be a first for me and I think for the group, too. I don’t think anybody’s done this before with War. I know bands who have done that, and they said it was OK. We all just want to get out there, period. Working again is a good thing.”

Rodriguez said fans can expect great music and “live” entertainment. No backing tracks here. 

“People want to be entertained, to hear live music,” he said. “I just want everybody to come out. This is the first time we’re playing California in over a year. We have a big fanbase in Santa Barbara, Oxnard and Ventura who already have their tickets. We’re busting loose and creating good vibes. But it’s all safe, clean fun.”

Fans don’t have to worry about War, led by singer Lonnie Jordan, veering from the band’s traditional sound. 

“I like to keep it pure,” Rodriguez said. “We play as close as possible to the real thing. With the groups I want to hear, I honestly would rather not hear new stuff or hear them butcher the song. I don’t want to hear rap in between, either.”

Rodriguez has a storied career. He’s also appeared in movies and television, including stints on The Today Show and Motown Live, the film Mars Attacks, and television series Full House and American Family.

“I’ve been doing little local things around here with friends, but as far as concerts with War, the last one we did was with Marcus Miller, and a livestream in October.”

The pandemic was rough on Rodriguez and his musical and immediate families. His wife, Madeline, kept him in check, he said. 

“I was very cautious,” he said. “I did what I needed to do, not going places I didn’t need to go. I stayed put, mostly. My wife put the hammer down. Us men need that stuff. We need a good woman behind us, rolling their eyes.”

When Rodriguez is not touring with War, he does comedy, which peppers his conversations. 

“I live in the San Fernando Valley,” he said. “I used to live in Beverly Hills, but they towed my car. I had to move. Yeah, that joke always works.”

One thing he doesn’t joke around about is the vaccination. His daughter, Sheila, works in the media department for a hospital. So, Rodriguez stands behind vaccinations. 

“I just say, ‘Have you ever read the labels on what’s in the supermarket?’” he asked rhetorically. “I can’t even pronounce what’s in these things. And some don’t believe in vaccinations? The thing is, musicians don’t talk politics, vaccinations or religion. 

“Obviously, we’re not going to see eye to eye.”

One thing they have in common, though, is their desire to play great music. 

“We haven’t played together in more than a year,” Rodriguez said. “We usually don’t rehearse, but we have to. When you get old schoolers together, like us, who are 60s on up, your memory fades. That joke goes over well, too.”


War performs for Concerts in Your Car on Saturday, May 29, at 8:30 p.m. at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura. Tickets start at $99. For more information, visit cbfproductions.com.