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Toby Keith, Jimmie Allen perform at Coachella Crossroads to thousands of fans

The Desert Sun (Palm Springs) logo The Desert Sun (Palm Springs) 5/16/2021 Brian Blueskye, Palm Springs Desert Sun
a group of people standing on top of a grass covered field: The new outdoor venue Coachella Crossroads hosted its inaugural concert with country star Toby Keith and opening act Jimmie Allen, May 15, 2021. © Brian Blueskye/The Desert Sun The new outdoor venue Coachella Crossroads hosted its inaugural concert with country star Toby Keith and opening act Jimmie Allen, May 15, 2021.

Thousands of country music fans descended on the desert Saturday night for one of the area's first high-profile concerts since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The new outdoor venue Coachella Crossroads hosted its inaugural concert with country star Toby Keith and opening act Jimmie Allen. For many people, this was their first show in more than a year.

Keith hit the stage shortly after 9 p.m., after Allen played a half-hour opening set, using AC/DC's "War Machine" as an intro. The headliner's 90-minute setlist started with "Made in America," "God Love Her" and "American Ride." 

a group of people on a stage with a crowd watching: Toby Keith hits the stage at Coachella Crossroads on Saturday night. © Brian Blueskye/The Desert Sun Toby Keith hits the stage at Coachella Crossroads on Saturday night.

"Eighteen months was long enough for me," Keith told the audience, saying it was his first show back since the pandemic began.

According to ABC News Radio, K played a private concert in January during the 2021 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions at Mystic Dunes Resort & Golf Club in Orlando, Florida.

Highlights of the Saturday show included his '90s hits "Who's That Man" and "Wish I Didn't Know Now," and his playful 2011 hit "Red Solo Cup." 

He ended the concert with his patriotic anthems, "American Soldier" and "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" 

About 10,000 tickets were made available for the event, according to Coachella Crossroads spokesperson Bob Bogard. He estimated between 8,000 and 10,000 had been sold as of Saturday. 

Daisia Guillen and Jackie Escobar of Riverside were strolling around the grounds taking selfies, celebrating being at the event.

Guillen, 26, said she’s been a fan of Keith since she was 6 years old and had always wanted to see him perform.

“I haven’t been anywhere in a year due to COVID-19, and I’m so grateful to be here with my best friend to see Toby Keith,” she said.

Escobar said she was happy to see things going back to normal and hopes to continue a tradition of going to the Stagecoach country music festival next year.

Coachella Crossroads is about 5 miles from the site of the Stagecoach music festival, which regularly brings tens of thousands of country music fans to the area but was canceled for April. 

Keith is no stranger to the desert: He headlined Stagecoach in 2013 and 2010.

“It kind of feels like (Stagecoach) tonight,” Escobar said.

a woman sitting in a field: Concert-goers Daisia Guillen (left) and Jackie Escobar smile on the Coachella Crossroads grounds before seeing Toby Keith in concert. © Brian Blueskye/The Desert Sun Concert-goers Daisia Guillen (left) and Jackie Escobar smile on the Coachella Crossroads grounds before seeing Toby Keith in concert.

Alma Titone of Indio, a fan of Keith and Allen, said it was the first entertainment event she’d attended in more than a year. 

“It’s nice to be out and it’s beautiful (outside),” Titone said.

Event rules sent to ticket holders did not mention masking or vaccination requirements.

Created by the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, Coachella Crossroads is located next to the tribe's Spotlight 29 Casino. The venue is on tribal land; Native American tribes, as sovereign nations, are not required to follow state health orders.

Before performing his 2003 song "Whiskey Girl," Keith boasted: "The chief here called us up and said 'Hey, we don't have to listen to the state rules or federal, and if you'll play it, we'll pay it." 

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased masking guidelines this week, California's current guidance states face coverings are not required outdoors for fully vaccinated people except during crowded outdoor events. Unvaccinated Californians are required to wear face coverings outdoors "any time physical distancing cannot be maintained, including when attending crowded outdoor events, such as live performances, parades, fairs, festivals, sports events, or other similar settings."

The show was one of the first high-profile concerts billed in the area since the start of the pandemic, but live entertainment is beginning to return across the desert. 

T Dance: Oscar's in Palm Springs to hold 'fully-vaccinated' 300-person dance party

McCallum: Theater plans to open at full capacity in December

Nearly 300 people planned to gather at Oscar’s Café and Bar in downtown Palm Springs on Sunday for a “fully-vaccinated” afternoon of dancing and drinking, according to owner Dan Gore. The event — which will require prior proof of COVID-19 vaccination, identification and a signed HIPPA waiver to attend — illustrates one potential “new normal” standard for safe partying.

The Joshua Tree Music Festival has returned as a spring concert series with capacity just under 200 people in 8-foot-by-8-foot "pods" marked throughout the site. The "pods" are shapes drawn in the sand, separated by 6 feet, to accommodate up to four people, and masks are mandatory.

The McCallum Theatre is planning for a full-capacity return in December. Spotlight 29's neighbor Fantasy Springs Resort Casino will host indoor music events starting this fall.

Over the last year, Coachella Crossroads has been the site of several soccer tournaments, according to online reviews of the venue and other websites. 

a group of people on a field: The new outdoor venue Coachella Crossroads hosted its inaugural concert with country star Toby Keith and opening act Jimmie Allen, May 15, 2021. © Brian Blueskye/The Desert Sun The new outdoor venue Coachella Crossroads hosted its inaugural concert with country star Toby Keith and opening act Jimmie Allen, May 15, 2021.

Previous reporting by Desert Sun reporter Amanda Ulrich was used for this report. 

Desert Sun reporter Brian Blueskye covers arts and entertainment. He can be reached at brian.blueskye@desertsun.com or on Twitter at @bblueskye. Support local news, subscribe to The Desert Sun.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Toby Keith, Jimmie Allen perform at Coachella Crossroads to thousands of fans

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