Yes still can't say no to making mystic rock. Last week more than 1,700 folk packed the Aerial Theater for the 30-year-old band's first show here since 1997. The band is famous for its part in creating the genre known as progressive rock, sometimes known as art rock, sometimes ridiculed as pompous rock. Its identifiable characteristics are prominent bass lines, New Age lyrics, ten or 12 tempo shifts per seven-minute song, ten or 12 seven-minute songs per album, abstract drumming and muscular yet agile electric guitar work. And, flowery keyboards. The whole phenomenon is capped off by surreal album cover art and performers in flowy gowns.
Yes, with four of its key members (Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Alan White and Chris Squire), was in town last week touring in support of its latest disc, The Ladder, which debuted on the Billboard Top 100 at No. 99 in September. The new album is much like the umpteen other projects Yes has recorded, which is fine with its fans, who are primarily middle-aged Caucasian males with dyed-blond girlfriends and/or children, and slackers, who think anything made 30 years ago is cool. The crowd rose to its feet and sat back down with each song, like at a Catholic wedding. Bic lighters were held high. Couples kissed. Babies cooed. One guy in front held his arms in the air the entire two hours.
Many of these Houston Yes fans were willing to talk with the Press about their experiences. Consider this a textual documentary. Or consider this our attempt at social commentary, a Studs Terkel-esque stab at explaining why rock and roll, specifically why a nerdy art rock band from Britain, can still burn three decades later.
Mindy, 36, a musician from Houston
Yesstory: "I've liked Yes since I guess about the late '70s....Yes is the kind of music that will never die out. That's why they're still here. It's just good, quality music."
Fave Yes song: "Roundabout"
Identifying Yes Fan Characteristic(s):Thinks Yes are good, quality music.
Matthew, seven, Mindy's son
Yesstory: Mindy says he likes Yes a lot.
Mark, 43, postal worker from Houston
Fave Yes song: "Yours Is No Disgrace"
Yesstory: "Yes definitely changed my life. Their words and their music have more of a spiritual connotation. They're deepness. I think they have a message that's worth listening to."
Identifying Yes Fan Characteristic(s): Thinks the new album is great, too.
Johnny, 38, ultrasonic inspector of jet engines from Dangerfield, Texas
Fave Yes song: "Time Is Like A River" from Open Your Eyes
Yesstory: "I've been a Yes fan since I was 15 years old. They're the most powerful band in the world to me. They're the greatest musicians in the world, period. [Being a Yes fan] cuts through all races, all religions, whatever. It's boundless. No boundaries. People that love music love Yes. People that love harmony, that love melody, love Yes. They are the quintessential rock and roll band, period. You'll have to excuse me... I'm a little bit drunk."
Identifying Yes Fan Characteristic(s): Jumps around during show, singing every word to every song at the top of his lungs. Good at math.
Matthew, 12, aspiring musician from Houston
Fave Yes song: Too many to name
Yesstory: "The first time I heard them was about three or four months ago... My dad turned me on to them. He's a huge fan. What I really like are the drums. I'm going to be a drummer. I've just started."
Identifying Yes Fan Characteristic(s): Waiting in line for t-shirts. Doesn't like Korn. Likes video games.
David, 34, and James, 11, high school teacher and son from Lafayette, Louisiana
Fave Yes song: "To Be Over" from Relayer (David)
David's Yesstory: "I went to see them at age 14, and I've been hooked ever since. When [James] was still in the womb, his mom and I had these great second-row seats in our hometown of Lafayette, so we made a huge banner on a twin-size fitted sheet with the Yes logo on it. At the end of the concert the band asked us to come backstage, where they autographed our banner, and we got to shake hands with everybody." (Pulling photograph out of wallet) "This is a picture of the banner on my bedroom wall. Autographed by five of the members. It's hard to see the autographs because it's been reduced in size so much, but it's got them...you can kind of see... It's my pride and joy. In fact, I brought it to a concert in Dallas, the Union tour, to try to get the other three guys to sign it, but I couldn't get backstage... So it's traveled, it's part of the family. Yes is part of the family. We love Yes."
James's Yesstory (according to David): "James likes [all the songs]. He can already hum all the melodies from listening to my tape deck in the car. He already knows them by heart."
Identifying Yes Fan Characteristic(s): Wearing Yes t-shirts. Carries around picture of homemade Yes banner in wallet.
George, 42, air-conditioning magnate from Detroit, Michigan
Fave Yes song: Doesn't know.
Yesstory: "My mom owned a bar, so I grew up in rock and roll. I last saw Yes 20 years ago...1979. They've still got it. I tell you what, listen to [Anderson's] voice. He sounded like a fag 20 years ago, and he still sounds like one. He's excellent."
Identifying Yes Fan Characteristic(s): Enjoys Jon Anderson's voice.
Wallace, 44, land developer super from Beaumont
Yesstory: "A few years ago I had this bass that I designed and built, so I thought maybe I'd get [Squire] to endorse it. So I came [to Houston] with it, got a backstage pass, was very much welcomed. It was kind of nice because Jon Anderson had a roadie bring a small amp to his dressing room, and I sat in there while he got dressed, in this tent, and I sang him some of my original songs, and he critiqued me, kind of big-brothered me... It was cool, you know? Tonight I'm here with my daughter. She's 18 years old. I saw them five times before, and I brought my wife along when she was pregnant with her -- it was on the Drama tour, right? So now my daughter has probably 90 percent of everything they've ever recorded, and she turned me on to the latest recording, and hey, I'm back in love with them again."
Identifying Yes Fan Characteristic(s): Willingness to be interviewed about his love for Yes in spite of the fact that his car was getting towed.
Sean ("That's S-E-A-N"), 18, slacker/amateur musician from Houston
Fave Yes Song: "Close to the Edge"
Yesstory: "We've just started getting into Yes, into progressive music. There was this movie that came out, Buffalo '66. Did you see it? It was really cool, and it had Yes songs in it. So that's where we heard them, and we really liked it."
Roy, 22, musical instrument retailer, in band with brother Sean
Fave Yes Song: "The Revealing Science of God" from Tales From Topographic Oceans
Yesstory: "We love Yes! We're constantly on the lookout for progressive rock on the Internet. We've just got into it recently, thanks to our friend here."
Identifying Yes Fan Characteristic(s): Actually likes Tales From Topographic Oceans
Jodi ("with an 'I'"), 26, an actress from New York
Fave Song: "Heart of the Sunrise"
Yesstory: "Me, Sean and Roy are siblings, and our mom was a hippie. Our mom pissed in the fields of Woodstock!"
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Sean: "She slept with one of the Allman brothers. Well, she was from Jacksonville and grew up with them, so it wasn't too hard to do."
Roy: "Our mom hates Yes."
Sean: "She was a hippie. She's sort of the anti-Yes."
Roy: "We'll get her [to be a Yes fan], though."