Prominent local musicians, stars ready to ‘Rock the Plaza’

In the early 2000s, Spike Edney and his wife bought a house in Joshua Tree and enjoyed attending the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, a dance and musical revue show with performers 55 and older at the Plaza Theater.

Edney, keyboardist and live member of British rock band Queen, described the Follies as a “great concept” featuring many singers from the 50s and 60s who had brief periods of success, fell into obscurity and then found their way into the successful production that closed in 2014 after two decades.

Edney is also a fan of the historic theater the Follies call downtown Palm Springs home. He always hoped he would reopen with another show.

“In my head, I felt like all these big things were going to happen and nothing came back the next year, and there was nothing year after year,” Edney said. “I found it very frustrating and thought it was a waste of much of the cultural life of Palm Springs.”

Spike Edney, Musical Director of Queen and Head of Pink Satellite Studios, at the piano at Pink Satellite on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 in Joshua Tree, CA.  Edney will perform at Rock the Plaza at the Plaza Theater in Palm Springs, California on November 11, 2022.

Edney reached out to his friend Brian Ray, a guitarist who lives in Palm Springs and has been playing in Paul McCartney’s live band since 2022, about doing a benefit show for the theater. In 2019, the couple met JR Roberts, a former Palm Springs City Council member who chairs the Palm Springs Plaza Theater Foundation.

“I told (JR) that I was very interested in this and wanted to be part of (the restoration effort),” Ray said. “He showed me the (Plaza Theater), turned on the lights, and I was blown away because that’s what they called an ‘atmospheric theater’ like the Mayan in Los Angeles, the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara or the Chinese and Egyptian theatres, it would take you to another time and another place.”

As a touring musician who has visited many cities around the world, Ray is drawn to the architecture of mid-century theaters and art deco, and he worries when landmarks are repurposed for commercial purposes. retail or office.

“I drive down the roads in different cities and see what used to be these big theaters where people used to watch movies together, and then on the marquee it says ‘Friday Shoe Sale,'” Ray said.

Ray and Edney then got to work calling their friends and planning a gig featuring local residents such as Bad Company and Free frontman Paul Rodgers, Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum and Queens frontman of the Stone Age Joshua Homme. Australian guitarist Orianthi Panagaris, Alice Cooper and many others have also joined the lineup.

Musicians Rusty Anderson, Paul McCartney and Brian Ray perform during a desert trip to Empire Polo Field in October 2016 in Indio, California.  Ray will perform at "Make the place vibrate" benefit show at the Plaza Theater in Palm Springs, Calif., on Friday.

On Friday, the musicians will perform at the All-Star Rock the Plaza Benefit in the theater. The concert is sold out, but donor packages including tickets are available between $3,500 and $50,000.

There will also be an online auction featuring rare items such as guitars signed by members of the all-star Rock the Plaza lineup, a custom Beatles vinyl box set by Paul McCartney, Adam Lambert stage memorabilia and Moreover. Items can be viewed and auctioned until noon November 15 at

Advantage is 3 years in the making

In early 2020, the Save the Plaza Theater effort initially raised nearly $500,000 in cash and committed to a goal of $10–12 million for a full restoration. But the COVID-19 pandemic thwarted fundraising efforts, including the “Rock the Plaza” benefit, which was originally planned for later that year but was never announced.

“(The council) broke up and we put on our masks and hunkered down in our homes,” Ray said. “In my mind, I didn’t know if we would ever get to a place where humans wanted to sit next to another stranger in a small, enclosed space. I didn’t know what the future would hold. So As the pandemic began to dissipate, we got back to work.

Josh Homme speaks at the grand opening of the Children's Discovery Museum's Music Garden on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 in Rancho Mirage, California.  Man will perform at

As the pandemic waned in 2021, Save the Plaza Theater had just over $160,000 in its coffers. The efforts got back on track later that year after the organization received a $5 million donation from television and theater producer – and Palm Springs resident – ​​David Lee. The organization received an anonymous donation of $2 million in June. The city of Palm Springs is contributing $2 million and the state is providing $2.5 million, but the cost to restore the theater increased by $4 million in July due to inflation.

As fundraising resumed, there were challenges in reviving the Rock the Plaza benefit. The original plan called for two concerts, one at the Plaza Theater on Friday followed by a bigger show on Saturday at the Margaritaville Resort Ballroom in Palm Springs. The second show was canceled when Cooper revealed a scheduling conflict. There were also scheduling conflicts with prominent actors that the organizers wanted to include on the show.

“We thought we had Billy Bob Thornton and then he got a movie, which was a real drag, but that’s the way it is,” Edney said. “People commit as long as their schedule allows. I was also suing Keanu Reeves and it was the same problem. Gary Oldman also lives in Palm Springs but he’s going to be in London. It’s a shame because that he makes a very passable David Bowie and that would have been great.

Homme, the former guitarist for local rock band Kyuss before forming Queens of the Stone Age in 1996, grew up in Palm Desert and is the only local native to perform for the benefit. Ray said Homme told him a story about how he used to begs her mother to take her to the Plaza Theater to see movies.

“It’s such a great story because he’s the only musician who went there as a kid who’s involved in our effort. Here he is and we’re so thrilled to have him with us,” said Ray.

The concert reunites Palm Springs resident Sorum with Cooper, who performed the song “The Garden” with Guns N’ Roses for the 1991 album “Use Your Illusion I.” The musicians also played together in the Hollywood Vampires supergroup, which also includes actor Johnny Depp and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. Sorum was in the group from 2015 to 2017.

Veteran rocker Alice Cooper had an exciting and theatrical set at Louder Than Life 2022 on Saturday.  September 24, 2022. Cooper will perform at "Make the place vibrate" benefit performance at the Plaza Theater in Palm Springs, California on November 11, 2022.

Although Cooper does not reside in Palm Springs, Ray said the famous singer is a “true philanthropist” and supports the theater’s restoration.

“He does a lot of charity work,” Ray said. “He) gives golf matches and golf invites and stuff like that. I was like, ‘Hey, he’s such a big philanthropist, maybe he’d like to get involved, and he was really in it from the start.”

Preserving the theater for future generations

The 800-seat theater was built in 1936. It opened with the premiere of the film ‘Camille’ and has hosted screenings and broadcast radio shows featuring celebrities such as Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

Sorum enjoys driving friends and family through Palm Springs in his 1962 Galaxy showing where those same celebrities lived. He believes the theater shows that the city was a center of entertainment almost a century ago and what it could offer future generations as the community attracts more musical and artistic events.

“We’ve got more musicians coming out that way and a lot of guys moving here. I feel like there’s another creative wave coming to play in all the local towns,” Sorum said. “The Plaza Theater being a hub of happening in the 1930s, it should be saved, kept as a city destination and something that is preserved.”

Palm Springs resident Matt Sorum, former drummer for Guns N' Roses and The Cult, sits in a booth at Mr. Lyon's Steak House in Palm Springs, California on July 14, 2021. Sorum will perform at the

Ray describes Palm Springs as a city that has always “celebrated the arts,” whether it’s theater, burlesque, rock ‘n’ roll or comedy, and theater plays a big role role in the identity of the city.

“Palm Springs needs to be a city that puts a flag in the desert sand and says ‘Art Matters Here’ to show the world that we appreciate a place like this and want to preserve it for another century of joy. and escape we desperately need,” Ray said.

When Edney considers theater operations in the near future, he feels it should integrate its vibrant history with a variety of entertainment options for local residents and visitors.

“Every night you should be able to go and see a play or a musical or a band or even a great movie that was created there in the past or something from the golden age of Hollywood, for which this theater has been built. It’s going to be great to see some of that stuff and I think there’s potential,” Edney said.

Desert Sun reporter Brian Blueskye covers arts and entertainment. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bblueskye.

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