All hail the evergreen Teenage Fanclub, forever and always the greatest Scots in songdom. The band's return to the West Coast also offered the perfect opportunity to hit a rock 'n' roll destination I've been dreaming of: Pappy + Harriet's out in Pioneertown. I'm beyond glad I made the trip.
Teenage Fanclub, Pappy + Harriet's, March 18, 2017: I've said it a million times on this blog, but I'll say it again: I love LA! I was already excited about this trip, but it turned out to be a perfect weekend with all the flavors that comprise the ideal Southern California experience. For me, it covered comedy, food, nature, and friendship -- and a celeb sighting, to boot.
It was also a decidedly nontwitchy weekend. That is, we rolled out of Los Feliz at a reasonable time, drove out to the desert, stopped for beverages and a breather, and wandered around a perfectly temperate Joshua Tree all before pulling up to Pappy + Harriet's. I love Teenage Fanclub, but I knew very well this was not a venue I'd need to sweat over. In fact, we ended up eating dinner there, and our table was exactly the vantage point I wanted for the evening.
Let's back up, though. As a rock tourist, I have to talk about the venue. Pioneertown itself is about three hours east of Los Angeles, depending on traffic, so I guess it counts as a tertiary market. But if you read the New York Times story, you probably know Pioneertown is no longer a secret. Still, it's almost everything I imagined. Basically, you drive out on 29 Palms Highway, take a left on Pioneertown Road, drive a few miles down a two-lane road, and there you are. The obvious parallel from my travels is Marfa, though not as remote, but it also brought to mind the Cellar Door in Visalia, where I saw British Sea Power.
Inside, Pappy + Harriet's is basically a rustic bar. The stage inside is tiny and a few inches off the ground, though there's an outside stage for bigger acts. After last year's headlines, it's hard not imagining Paul McCartney on the stage. I sort of wondered how it compared to, say, the Beatles' Hamburg days. But I digress!
As I mentioned, I felt no need to get to the front, so I hung out to the side. The room was small enough that it didn't particularly matter. As a bonus, the staff ended up pushing our dinner table to the wall to create a walkway out to the back patio bar (for smokers, I guess). The surprise and delight is that they actually enforced the rule, thanks to a huge staffer that we decided to call Hagrid. He was incredibly vigilant for the first half of the set, shooing the interlopers back to their previous spots, until he decided to partake of the nicotine as well. By then, our dear Evonne had taken it upon herself to keep the sight line clear, and trust me, she's quite effective.
The only downside to our spot was the sound, as I couldn't understand much of what the band said. On the bright side, the songs needed no translation, and I was jumping and hollering for all my favorite tracks. We made the acquaintance of the couple seated next to us, and I ended up talking to the guy for a long time. He had loved the Fannies forever, but had never seen them live. I'm happy to report that he too agrees Gerry Love is the man, and I reminded him of our consensus with every Gerry tune. In fact, they opened the set with "Start Again," and my biggest whoop might've gone out for "Don't Look Back." However, there was plenty of love for such Raymond and Norman tracks as "Your Love Is the Place Where I Come From" and "Mellow Doubt," to name two.
Another benefit from watching the show from our spot: We had a nice view of about half the room -- or more accurately, the joy therein. No surprise, there were plenty of singalongs, and Evonne and I appreciated the guy on the other side of the stage playing air guitar and air drums to a number of songs. Britta Phillips and her band flitted in and out, enjoying the gig as well. In fact, Britta took a quick run around the perimeter of the crowd, videotaping the proceedings on her phone.
Funny enough, I left the gig with a greater appreciation for the venue than for the concert. Don't get me wrong -- the Fannies were exhilarating, but due to our spot and maybe the sound, the music wasn't the top draw for me that night. Instead, I was thrilled to finally see Pappy + Harriet's for myself, and I loved sharing the experience with Evonne, as well as our new friends. We listened to Grand Prix on the relatively speedy trip home, but the true impact had yet to set in. I guess in a way, it was merely an appetizer for the San Francisco show.
Still, one takeaway was clear: If any of your favorite bands ever play at Pappy + Harriet's, do everything in your power to get there. You won't regret it.
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