Meet The Tiny Bar In The Cali Desert Where Almost Every Coachella Act Plays

Coachella might be kicking off in the Californian desert this weekend, but in a tiny town about 50 kilometres away, in the middle of the Mojave Desert, there’s a little known bar that almost every Coachella headliner has graced.

The bar is Pappy & Harriet’s, and it’s one of very few functioning businesses in a town that was literally once upon a time a Western film set. Pioneertown, the grand idea of 1940s Hollywood producers, was intended to serve as both a real town and as a backdrop to the Spaghetti Westerns popular at the time.

Obviously, cowboy films dropped out of fashion, but the saloons, wagons and hay bales that dot Mane Street (spelling correct) have remained.

But back to Pappy + Harriet’s. Walking in to a darkened room of band memorabilia and animal horns, you can practically hear the spurs clink on the ground. It’s the size of any main pub you’d find around country Australia, but its teeny stage has played host to Queens of the Stone Age, Paul McCartney, Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, Mac DeMarco, Future IslandsBand of Horses and Rufus Wainwright, to name just a few.

Last year, for example? Lorde debuted her hit track ‘Sober’ not at Coachella, but to an audience of 300 at Pappy + Harriet’s the night before.

 The bar has been changing hands since the 1980s. Right now, it’s owned by a couple of New YorkersRobyn Celia and Linda Krantz – who bought the place in 2003 with the hope of returning it to its former glory.

“Every New Years Eve a bunch of us New Yorkers would go to Pappy’s and crash at the Pioneertown Motel,” Robyn told PEDESTRIAN.TV via email. “One year it was really different and a bit square. We found out it was for sale. New York City was becoming a very different place to live in 2003. Rents were escalating and gentrification was starting to set in and we just took a leap of faith and came out to the desert!”

People from all walks of life make the pilgrimage to the bar. “Bikers, locals, tourists, grandmas, families, hipsters… literally everyone you can imagine. It’s what makes Pappy’s so amazing,” she says, adding that Pioneertown is “the real deal”. 

“It’s got a really magical vibe. There’s basically no cell service so you have to be present.”

Given the absurdly impressive roll call of names that have played down the house, Robyn says she’d be hard pressed to name a stand-out. But as for her dream performers? PJ Harvey and Dolly Parton.

Honestly, Dolly Parton doing the ol’ ‘Nine To Five‘ in a middle-of-nowhere bar surrounded by drifters would be a country dream.

To find out more about Pioneertown and where to stay, head to Visit California. This writer travelled courtesy of Air New Zealand and Visit California.