Various Artists @ Pappy & Harriets - April 2018

Pappy and Harriets is a restaurant, bar and music venue founded in 1982 which stands at a site once called the Cantina It is located in Pioneertown which was built as a film set for westerns back in in the 1940’s in San Bernardino County in California. It was used as a backdrop in over 50 TV shows and films. For a time the venue was closely associated with the LA alt. and traditional country music scene. These days however the acts are much more diverse and Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, Eagles of Death Metal and the Queens of the Stone Age have all played in the venue.  

Though I have known about the venue for some considerable have never had the opportunity to visit. On a recent trip to the area it was a must visit. The first night we made the trip the acts playing were The Banditos, Lillie Mae and Tyler Childers. A large area of the venue is take up with those who have booked a reservation table to eat, drink and enjoy the show. As in many such venues the stage is not raised from the floor and so once a number of punters gather in front of the stage it’s pretty much impossible to see anything other than on the monitor that hangs in the restaurant. The sound however is good.

The Banditos to these ears sound like a Southern rock version of the Janis Joplin band. Singer Mary Beth Richardson is upfront while the boys boogie behind her. Reviews have also mentioned ZZ Top and the Alabama Shakes so that should give you an idea of the overall feel. Not exactly my thing but effective and well received. 

Next up was a short set from Lillie Mae. The four piece band included her brother Frank and her sister Scarlett on great Telecaster and mandolin respectively. They were joined by a bassist (Tanner Jacobson) and ran through some songs from the debut album plus a couple of new numbers. The half hour set was a little too short really get fully into the band.

Tyler Childers and band were the headlines (Mae was touring with him) and its interesting to see how quickly Childers has gained fans and headline status. His album was produced by Sturgill Simpson and it was obviously well known with the fans there who cheered and recognised many of the songs. Indeed the slightest mention of any relation to drink and/or drugs garnered a huge cheer. This was Americana and in the singer/songwriter tradition with the band (including the night’s only steel player) able to rock out as the song dictated. Childers spoke between songs telling stories and anecdotes but due to his accent and the rowdy audience it was often difficult from our position to make out what was being said. Whatever it was well received and he had the audience up dancing by the end of the set. An act to catch if they come your way.

The next night was one I was looking forward to as the opening act was Casey James Prestwood and The Burning Angels. A traditional country act whose album Born Too Latewas one of the year’s best. Prestwood has released several album in the Bakersfield/ LA Country Honky Tonk sound although the band are from Denver, Colorado. The band arrived onstage decked out in Manuel (or similar) suits and opened the evening with a set of original songs and well-chosen the covers. longtime bassist and drummer Jeff Martin and Kevin Finn were a spot on rhythm section with guitarist Andy Hamilton and steel player Dave Barker filling out the sound with all the right licks. Casey James Prestwood has the requited nasal twang to his voice and is an animated frontman who gives a good all round performance. At the end if the set they were joined by the night’s headliner Leslie Stevens for a couple of songs including a spirited Ooh, Las Vegas.

Leslie Stevens and her all woman band were up next, although headlining that took the middle slot. They were joined by a guest steel player who played on a couple of tracks with the band. A number of additional guests joined the band on vocals. They did an acapella version of Neil Young’s Helpless as well as such songs as Depression, Can I Sleep, Everybody and Old Times. There was a strong vocal female presence in the audience for the band who largely dissipated when they finished playing. A varied set that would be hard to place genre wise but one that was well received by the audience.

The final act was a singer/songwriter Isaac Opatz. He played with a guitarist, bassist and drummer and the sound was again more like indie rock than anything vaguely roots but what they did they did with an enjoyable quirkiness. The set included an enjoyable if slightly off the wall version of Warren Zevon’s Carmelita. The audience had noticeably thined out by this time andf we also need to head out so we made our exit for a long drive back to our base.

Review by Stephen Rapid  Photography by Kaethe Burt O'Dea