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June 27, 2009

Yes at Fantasy Springs

The casinos in the Palm Springs area host performances by artists of various sorts, ranging from "I remember him (or her)" to "He (or she) is still performing?" to "He (she) is still alive?!" But that's what the demographic of Coachella Valley demands. Wait long enough and inevitably your favorite band or artist from your regrettable youth will appear at one of the casinos.

That time finally came for me when I serendipitously spotted on a crawl (I never look at those things) on, of all places, The Weather Channel (I never watch The Weather Channel) that Yes would be appearing at Fantasy Springs. Yes was my favorite band in college...or at least they were evenly tied with (of course) Emerson, Lake & Palmer [have you seen a cheezier website that wasn't, like, selling penis-enlarging drugs?]. BTW, a reliable source tells me that EL&P were to come to Fantasy Springs this fall, but that tour was cancelled because Keith Emerson injured a hand. It remains a possibility for 2010.

The cheap tickets were, indeed, cheap ($30 I think, and no ridiculous surcharges, convenience charges, mailing charges, or even parking fees - just $30). Even the most expensive tickets were cheap. Fifty bucks maybe.

The first rock concert I ever attended was Yes in 1975 somewhere in the vicinity of Carbondale, Illinois, at an outdoor venue with my first (and still the best) boyfriend, Bill Shepardson. We drove there from Columbia, Missouri, and then drove back after the concert. Why Yes didn't appear anywhere in Missouri on that tour, I just don't know, but probably it was self-respect.

At that 1975 concert Yes was made up of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Patrick Moraz, Chris Squire and Alan White. Last night's concert it was Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Alan White, Oliver Wakeman (son of Rick Wakeman) and Benoît David. Benoît David looked so young from my cheap seat distance that I was sure he had been born well after Yes's most popular days. But according to his Wikipedia page, he was born in 1966, making him 9 years old when I was at that concert in Illinois. He dressed and cavorted on stage in a way that reminded me of a stereotype of a late 1970s gay hustler, but who cares. He totally nailed the vocals, obviously intending to present a perfect copy of Jon Anderson's singing - and succeeding at it. Jon Anderson, BTW, is maybe not totally gone. He was originally going to be in this tour, which was going to be in 2008, but he had a severe asthma attack and "acute respiratory failure" (according to info on his Wikipedia page). On his own website Jon Anderson has info for a European tour of his own starting this week in Warsaw.

As for the whole performance, they consistently performed nearly perfect copies of what we've been listening to on Yes albums (on all the various media) for decades, and at this point in life that's what we're paying to hear. The crowd included a surprising number of younger people - and by "surprising number" I mean "a few." There were a handful of fans in their twenties who did not seem to be their just to accompany their enfeebled parents or grandparents.

This was my first time at the Fantasy Springs "Special Events Center." See how its name doesn't lay any claim on being a concert hall? It's got a flat concrete floor and could be as suitable for basketball and boxing as a classic rock concert. If you go to a concert there, the cheap seats are what you want. Cheap seats are on temporary stadium seating. Here's a photo:
After Asia - Waiting For Yes - In The Cheap Seats (0414)
I sat in UU so that must be a photo of TT. If you pay for the expensive seats you will be seated down on the flat floor with a worse view. The seats themselves are better in the cheap sections, being a bit wider (and having arm rests) compared to the wooden folding chairs (like those you rent for a wedding or funeral) out on the flat floor. I guess if you had a real need to see how your favorite ancient musician has aged, you might want to pay to be in the front few rows. The cheap stadium seats were a bit flexy (probably excellent in an earthquake), so that if anybody in your row got his groove on and started rocking to the beat, everybody in the row had to join in.

Oh yeah, the warm up band was Asia, made up of Steve Howe (the same), Carl Palmer (of Emerson, Lake & ...), Geoff Downes, and John Wetton. They performed a few of their own, plus covers of other bands, including a cover of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's cover of Aaron Copland's Fanfare For The Common Man which really worked the crowd into a frenzy. So much so I thought we were going to have a real rock concert on our hands, but no such luck. Asia continued on with their own stuff and the crowd returned to its previously sedate attitude, biding its time until Yes.

Here are a few photos of the "Special Events Center."
Asia in Concert at Fantasy Springs Casino (0409)
During Asia's performance.

After Asia - Waiting For Yes (0413)
During the break after Asia, before Yes.
Note the haze showing under the ceiling lights. I was there at 7 o'clock when the room was opened and that haze was already there, so they're pumping some hazifying material into the air so the light show on the stage more effective. Whatever it is, and however they do it, the stuff remained evenly consistent throughout the show; no billowing, no thin spots. Anybody got technical info on this?

After Asia - Waiting For Yes (0415)
There were five or six bars inside the concert room - you can see two of them in this shot.
If you stepped outside the room, there was a whole snack bar to sell you food and more booze. People did go out during the concert to pick up plates of nachos, or whatever, and bring it back in.

There were, BTW, no restrictions placed on recording the concert. Nothing printed on the tickets, no signs, no announcements, no messages projected on the TV screens. So I guess they've wisely given up on trying to stop that. Many people were obviously video-ing parts of the concert. I don't know what they would do if you came in with a tripod and professional recording equipment.

Here's a photo of Alan White during the Yes performance:
Yes in Concert at Fantasy Springs Casino (0421)

I was experimenting with the camera, not having much concert photography experience, and didn't do too bad. Much of that had to do with the fact that I was on the end of the row and had a good, steady railing to brace the camera against. More photos here.

Before the concert I walked around a bit inside the hotel and casino. At first I thought the place was smoke-free. I didn't smell or see any tobacco smoke...for awhile. Then I spotted one guy who seemed to be trying to hide it, walking along holding his cigarette down by his side, stepping behind a big pillar occasionally to take a puff. "Who's he trying to fool," I wondered. But then I opened my eyes a bit and saw that every trash can had something with it for cigarette butts, and the bar was crowded with ashtrays. But all the ashtrays were clean and empty. No one at the bar was smoking. The butt bins attached to trash cans never had more than one butt in them. I saw no one smoking except that one guy. Is it possible that so few people are smoking now that even alcohol and gambling don't make them want to light up?!

Inside the concert room (I really can't call it a "hall") I did see a cloud of smoke rise from somebody during a moment of bright light from the stage. Before the concert I saw security talking to a woman who had something like this Supercig device. It looks like a cigarette in a holder (at a distance). She would put it in her mouth and draw on it, causing what seems to be a red LED light at the end to glow. This red LED light is totally non-functional and simply invites confrontations with security people. But according to the website the device delivers an aerosolized dose of genuine nicotine without smoke.

Filed under Music,Photography | permalink | June 27, 2009 at 06:38 PM


Ron Thanks for your Yes/Fantasy Springs blog.I missed the Carl Palmer free Rockyard concert July 9,2016 there due to car problems.I have been trying to find a review and/or video etc.on it.What a treat it must have been for those that made it since most stuff of that caliber is in LA or San Diego counties.I'm very sad to have missed it- I lived 55 miles away but is a milder drive over to LA these overcrowded days,Thanks.

Posted by: Randy at Nov 19, 2017 10:08:52 AM

Hey, I wanted to thank you for this article. Adam Lambert will be performing at this venue (seems to be sort of a test concert before he tours) and it will be his very first concert where there are no other acts or attractions, so you can imagine anticipation is running incredibly high among his fans (to the point where we're driving the venue employees insane). We're really glad to have such an excellent description and review of the venue! So thank you again for taking the time, it's very much appreciated!

Posted by: Maryann at Jan 31, 2010 10:51:53 AM

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