Pappy & Harriet's: A Decade of Home on the Range
Musical haven draws you in with its old West feel
Pappy & Harriet's in Pioneertown is "a genuine piece of the old West,” says Shadow Mountain Band leader Steve Lester.
Michele McManmon photos
The entry way is rickety, like you could borrow a lasso from the front desk to tie up your horse.
As you wipe the dusty desert twilight from your eyes, the alluring traces of the soft twang of music and laughter pours out from inside the old roadhouse.
The glowing 21st century sign plopped high above the western styled, wooden doorway states you are at "Pappy & Harriets”. As the door swings open and closed, customers float in and out, smiles wide, and you get the feeling like you’ve just come home for the first time.
The sign on the wall reads, “If you’re in a hurry, you’re in the wrong place”, so leave your city life expectations back where you came from. "Pappy & Harriet’s is an iconic place, a genuine piece of the old West,” says Shadow Mountain Band leader Steve Lester.
The Pioneertown music hangout celebrates its 10th anniversary with a sold-out concert Nov. 2. The weekend kicks off with the eighth annual Halloween Party Nov. 1 with Joshua Tree’s Gram Rabbit.
People gather for the music, as much as they do for the food, especially on weekends, so reservations are strongly recommended. With a smoky mesquite barbeque in the back, you feel like John Wayne just caught your dinner this morning and has invited your kin to help come eat it all. Dinner portions are big enough to feed you and your imaginary horse.
While you wait for a table and build up your appetite, there is plenty to do to kill time. The “L” shaped bar provides frosty beverages in thick, glass mason jars with limited seating filled mostly by locals. The side room hosts a few bright green pool tables where you could easily shoot an eight ball into someone’s food or drink if your aim is horribly off and your arm is strong. If pool isn’t your bag, hand your stick to the next person in line to play.
Saunter through the bar area to find happy diners surrounding a dance floor and a small, almost floor level stage. Old show posters of famous bands, like Lucinda Williams, Robert Plant, Eric Burdon, and others who have played at Pappy & Harriet’s line the old wooden walls.
On most weekends, the two “House” bands play at 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, making it an even fuller house. Shadow Mountain Band plays incredible, authentic, country folk music on Saturdays, while the Sunday “Rock ‘n’ Roll Service” has a jam vibe with an eclectic group of local talent. While the band plays on, dance your cares away.
A blonde haired, pony-tailed, 4-year-old little girl places her Dad’s dollar in the huge glass tip jar next to the lead singer, Steve Lester, of Shadow Mountain Band (pictured left). He gallantly tips his cowboy hat to her.
“My band started about seven years ago, here out back, as a bunch of us musicians just having a jam,” Lester says. “[People] came out to hear old time songs and harmonies, and we’ve been playing’ inside ever since!”
The crowd applauds wildly and a sense of community envelops you. The organic, natural flow of Pappy & Harriet’s has swept over you like a Grandma’s comfortable quilt. Grateful to catch a breath of fresh air after some two-stepping, you head towards the back door.
The vast open patio, the size of a small soccer field, allows a gentle nighttime breeze to caress your hair. Just as fast, the barbequed meat on the open grill wafts into your nostrils telling your stomach it is indeed dinnertime.
A sign on the back of the building near one of the picnic tables reads “Hippies use side door” and you’re left wondering if you used the wrong entrance earlier, though no one told you otherwise.
Time stands still at Pappy & Harriet’s. Everyone seems happy here no matter whether you’re a cowboy, hippy, musician, or a 4-year old. As you catch your breath under twinkling starlight, a gentle voice calls out your name…your table is ready.