Move Over, L.A.: Is Coachella Valley The New Epicenter
Of Live Music In Southern California?
Fantasy Springs Casino Hotel Resort Bringing Big-Name Talent To The Low Desert, Furthering The Coachella Valley’s Growing Music Reputation
Frontman Robin Zander of Cheap Trick, who played
Fantasy Springs Resort Casino Special Events Centre
with Peter Frampton recently. (Photo by Kathryn White-Esposito)
(INDIO, CA) – As we sat in our seats taking in the recent Peter Frampton/Cheap Trick show at the Fantasy Springs Casino Special Events Centre in Indio, it occurred to me that the Coachella Valley has quite possibly begun to give the mighty metropolis of Los Angeles a run for its money as the Entertainment Epicenter of Southern California. To wit: the biggest, most important rock festival in the business takes place here each April (Coachella, now over two weekends), followed in May by another big country music festival, Stagecoach (both co-produced by concert juggernauts, AEG and Goldenvoice).
Not to be outdone, the many first-class casino properties in the Low Desert/Coachella Valley area have also been regularly presenting top-notch entertainment. At the top of the list is Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, who, in addition to the Peter Frampton/Cheap Trick show, also have rock legends Deep Purple and ex-Van Halen frontman scheduled for August 15 and September 5, respectively, along with many other A-List acts. Owned and operated by the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, Fantasy Springs is absolutely worth the 100-mile drive from virtually anywhere in the Southland (we drove from the High Desert and it took us less than two hours on a Saturday morning).
As for the concert itself: The Baby Boomers were in the house on this night, they being people in their fifties and sixties. Nice to see for a change, as opposed to younger “millennials” who often are too busy talking or doodling on their smartphones during the show. Cheap Trick led off the evening with a solid hours’-plus worth of mainly very recognizable songs from their vast hit catalog – “Dream Police,” “The Flame,” “Surrender,” and “I Want You To Want Me,” to name a few – plus some tracks from their most recent album, aptly titled, “The Latest”. Since forming in America’s heartland (Rockford, Illinois to be exact) back in 1973, their overall popularity has ebbed and flowed; but they’ve always enjoyed a loyal following, many of whom came out adorned in their Cheap Trick t-shirts for this show. The band currently consists of three founding members (Robin Zander, lead vocals/rhythm guitar; Rick Nielsen, lead guitar; Tom Petersson, bass) and drummer Daxx Nielsen, who has replaced longtime drummer, Bun E. Carlos. Zander – in top hat, tight spandex-style pants and boots – looked like a frontman and sounded as good as he looked, rarely failing to hit the high notes that many vocalists in their fifties have a hard time with (can you say ‘David Lee Roth’?). Nielsen, ever the consummate showman and ‘the man of a million guitars’ (at least it seemed that way – he changed guitars with virtually every song!), played to the crowd and knocked off a couple of serious solos as well, showing why he remains one of the most underrated rock guitarists in the business. Overall, a thoroughly satisfying set from an American rock institution.
After a short intermission, longtime British rocker Peter Frampton took the stage (or was that James Taylor? They’re both only several strands of hair from being bald. Certainly not the Peter Frampton with the long curly, flowing locks that I remember from Back in the Day!). Indeed, this may be at the root of Frampton’s “no-photos” obsession on his current tour; there was even a big brouhaha in the news recently about him taking a fan’s camera from them and throwing it in the air, where it then crashed on the ground, to which Frampton half-heartedly apologized and lamely said, “that’s rock ‘n’ roll). So my theory here is that, ‘Ol Peter wants fans to remember him as he looked during the height of his popularity, circa 1976/”Frampton Comes Alive” days. Hence, the camera ban at his shows (and the reason there are no photos being used here for the purposes of this review). Frampton still sounds as he did back in the seventies – that high falsetto voice and “wah-wah” effect he does with his mouth on the microphone haven’t changed – although they do seem a bit more unusual from a fellow his age (currently 65). If you came to hear the hits, you weren’t disappointed: “Something’s Happening,” “(I’ll Give You) Money” (nice extended version), “Doobie Wah”, “Show Me The Way,” “Do You Feel Like I Do” were all in the set list – but one big difference between Frampton and Cheap Trick was obvious: Whereas Cheap Trick always seemed to be performing FOR their audience, Frampton seemed much more immersed in his own persona, less so in playing for the crowd. Hey, my girlfriend noticed it, too. Going forward, maybe he’ll be happier if he goes to Bosley Hair Replacement. Just a thought.
While you’re at Fantasy Springs, make sure to check out their cool outdoor venue, The Rock Yard. We caught a set by L.A. band Judge Jackson, whose rhythm section, bassist Brian “Chewy” James and drummer JJ Garcia, also currently play with Bo and the Bluesdrivers. Busy guys!
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick playing one of his countless guitars
(Photo by Kathryn White-Esposito)