Pappy and Harriets- Diamond in the Desert.

Pappy-Harriet

There is some kind of voodoo magic that moves across the high desert and Joshua Tree National park. The fusion of the bizarre beauty, the zany locals and the high desert chill make it hauntingly distinctive. The people that come here are running from something or to something, or maybe a little of both. It seems fitting that one of the most iconic music venues is located near the national park in a western movie film set called Pioneertown.

046AE483-E3E7-457C-B619-EE1E83E3908BMyself, enjoying the downtown core.

Pappy and Harriet’s emulates the comforting scents and sounds of bbq, beer and rock and roll. It is not uncommon to enjoy a stack of juicy ribs while watching a famous or up and coming band in this cozy and nostalgic saloon. The second you set foot in the unpretentious and understated bar/diner you feel as if you have entered another ether. It reminds you that music isn’t only alive and well but that it continues to change and influence lives. The walls are draped in relics of musicians who have played there. This impressive list includes-The Arctic Monkeys, Robert Plant, Lucinda Williams, Peaches, Queens of the Stone Age and most recently-Sir Paul McCartney. It also hosts up and coming musicians who are going to be huge over the next few years.

Every Sunday the Sunday House Band plays for several hours to an adoring crowd of mostly locals. They play as a core and with intermingling guest vocals and other session musicians. I had the pleasure of witnessing this last week.


Drummer, singer, guitarist and fellow Canadian Stew Heyduk shared some words with me on what it’s like playing this marvel of a venue each week. He has been playing in The Sunday Band for four years but the Sunday Band is 10 years strong. He describes the space as “ a second home”. This at home feeling certainly shared by the other musicians and audience members. Stewart grew up in Toronto but now resides in the Joshua Tree Park area. He loves working on his craft as a musician in the desert, it’s “great if you like a peaceful place to be creative”. The California stars are draped across the sky in Pioneertown, wild horses freely walk by and you truly feel like mother nature’s son. The troubadour Stew describes one of his favourite experience at Pappy and Harriet’s as “Standing about five feet away from Paul McCartney as he sang and played songs like “Love Me Do” and “I Saw Her Standing There”. As a die-hard Beetles fan, it was described as something he will never forget. As he indicates ” That was a wonderful gift Pappy and Harriets gave to me and a lot of people that night”.

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Paul McCartney playing in a 200 person capacity room, photo by MJ Kim.
Stewart says it isn’t the venue itself that makes the space so special, although “it’s nice not to have five or more TVs in a club” he credits the vibes to the staff and patrons. He says that “it’s the people who bring that sense of home and loving family community to it. And the lovely owners of Pappy and Harriets, who continue to amaze me with their generosity and kindness towards everyone who passes through.” He describes how they have sustained so much passion for this operation. Even though it’s easily the  Derby for music lovers, it doesn’t feel like a soulless tourist trap. It feels like everybody in there wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the world. Even the voicemail is changed daily and is packed with the enthusiasm of Oprah Winfrey. It reminds you that music is alive, well and will never, ever die. This place is an expansive, all age friendly true diamond the desert rough.

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