Neither hard-rock nor pop, Yes's music might be classified as art rock. Although record companies' preferences have changed over nearly two decades, the group's most loyal fans still seem to favor the long, intricate compositions - song is too simple a term - with names like "Tales from a Topographic Ocean," "Starship Trooper," "Siberian Khatru," and equally cryptic lyrics.
By 1 p.m. yesterday, more than 100 fans had lined up in the foyer outside the Hunterdon Room at the Hyatt Cherry Hill, much as they would have waited outside the Ticketron offices hours before concert tickets were to go on sale.
But the Hunterdon Room, with its grand chandelier, was a far cry from the dark, smoke-choked concert venues. Yesterday, it became a bazaar of old, hard- to-find tapes, new fan magazines, T-shirts and sweat shirts, posters and little glass boxes embellished with the trademark Yes logo.
For years, high schoolers have lovingly sketched that logo onto the covers of their math and English books and scrawled the emblem on bathroom walls. Countless teenage bedrooms have borne Yes's trademark posters portraying alien vistas where craggy islands rise from the ocean and jut through the cloud cover.
"Some people have been with the band through everything," said organizer Lisa J. Mikita, 22. "So many of them have picked it up through the years."
Fans in their 20s remembered back to the band's 1973 hit "Roundabout," while many of the teenagers first discovered Yes when it released its next hit, "Owner of a Lonely Heart" a decade later.
Mikita is herself only three years older than the band. But Yescon is just the most recent in a series of music conventions she has organized since she was 15.
She began by running annual get-togethers for fans of the pop band the Monkees, in her home town of Chicago. Four years ago, she said, she discovered Yes. Mikita joined with fellow fans Tanya Coad, 29, of Vancouver, and Susan Smith, 31, of Philadelphia, to stage the first Yescon two years ago.
When it came time to choose a location for Yescon, she said, the Philadelphia area was a natural. The band's largest concert draw came at a late 1970s concert at John F. Kennedy Stadium. And the band members, she said, have named Philadelphia as one of their favorite concert stops.
"Philadelphia," Mikita said, "is known as a Yes watering hole."
To pay for the bash, Mikita said, she pulls the money from her own pockets. She finances her passion from her earnings as a meeting planner for a society of actuaries, who calculate statistics for insurance purposes - a job she won
because of her expertise in staging events. On average, she takes a $2,000 loss per convention.
"It's depressing, but it's out of love for the band," she said. "It's so much fun for me to sit there and watch hundreds of people enjoy something I'm responsible for."
Yes fans, she said, are a breed apart. They're calm and collected, much different from Monkees fans, who let out frenzied hoots of joy when their beloved performers come on screen.
"The biggest thing, Mikita said, is to be with other fans, to sit down and talk to strangers."
Much of the talk, however, seemed to be between the fans and about 15 dealers who spread their wares on tables along the sides of the room. As music boomed from speakers at the front of the room, fans rummaged through tape and poster collections looking for gems. And then, arms filled with finds, some sank into chairs arranged in front of the large screen and drifted into the videos.
"They really have to be die-hard fans," she said, "to sit there and watch videos for eight hours."