Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On the Road with Victory and Associates, Part 3: Pioneertown

By Conan Neutron
Tue, Mar 13, 2012 at 2:39 PM

03/13/2012 — Pappy and Harriet’s — Pioneertown, CA

A tour never seems real to me until you change terrain. Sure, city-by-city everything is a little different; there are different coffee places and gas stations, monuments named after different local people. But until the land itself changes around you, the scope of what you are doing never full kicks in. I am traveling long, long distances, moving heavy things from one place to another, to wait for a very long time to get up, make some noise and leap around for about thirty minutes or less, only to move those same heavy things back into the van, go to where you are staying, sleep and repeat. It’s absurd, it’s grueling, it's at times inhuman, and I absolutely love it. Seeing the suburban sprawl of the Central Valley melt away into the pastoral desert beauty of the Inland Empire is about as flipped of a switch as you can get. Shades of Cormac McCarthy and Lynch’s Lost Highway come to mind.

This is the area of the world that Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme and that entire desert rock thing happens and happened: Mario Lalli, generator shows and legendary good times that … well, that was all done way before I could take any part of them. But the music stands on its own. It’s a very unique place and a great area to work on creative things without distraction. Much respect to folks who don’t wait for awesome things to happen, but create it. Brothers doing it for themselves.

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Somewhere right about at the start of the Inland Empire, we see lights behind us. Cop. ARGH, COP!!! The natural enemy of a rock band on tour. SHOOT MAN, WHAT ABOUT THOSE FOUR KILOS OF COKE?!?!? (Ha, jokes, this is Victory and Associates, not Motley Crue. But still.) Luckily, the guy is about the friendliest cop we’ve ever met. He still takes my speeding ticket virginity (to the tune of 83 in a 65 MPH zone), but nice fellow nonetheless.

We drive along as civilization itself slowly strips itself away, our destination always just ahead of the next hill. And then we arrive. Pappy and Harriet’s is your ultimate remote roadhouse awesome place. It’s a secret location that you always kind of hope exists and maybe even exists in your mind before the crushing banality of actual reality quashes the dream. It is the only place in many, many miles and everybody hangs out there to see music, play music, have a drink, or have dinner. The pulled pork in particular is a specialty. An episode of No Reservations has actually outed the place as one of the raddest hidden gems in Southern California. So that’s a thing.

The bartenders will brook no tomfoolery, the doorman most definitely can kick your ass (between bowls), and the people are so disarmingly friendly you think you are in a David Lynch movie. To be clear, I mean that as a compliment. Pappy and Harriet’s is a place that many huge bands play as a warm-up for the nearby Coachella festival: Robert Plant, PJ Harvey, they’ve all graced the stage. And tonight it’s Victory and Associates. On open mic night. Yes, you read that right. AWESOME.

The fellow before us plays some of the most incredible acoustic singer-songwriter stuff (yes, yes, I know!) that you could hear. Turns out it’s his first time on stage in thirty years. Incredible. That’s what this place is like. Everybody is quietly humble about all of the badass stuff that they are doing: That dude builds his own guitars, this one used to race motorcycles in the 1940s, this guy is building a rocket. It’s totally surreal. Their stories will unfurl like beautiful tapestries if you ask, but only if you ask. Quite the contrast compared to the Bay Area, where people generally want to give you their resume of accomplishments in soliloquy form upon first meeting. If there’s a place that I end up after my contempt for humanity grows greater than my patience for it, Pioneertown will be a reasonable place to look for me.

We get up and do our thing, moving with a military precision that I wish I could inflict on other bands. We’re ready in about four minutes, including Evan’s jam with the local harmonica man.

“Hi, we’re Victory and Associates, this song is called Plausibly Wild and it’s quite literally about the idea of a good time.” BAM, we are going. The mood change of acoustic Johnny Cash covers and conversation-volume, Fahey-esque guitar compositions changes completely. There is unapologetic rock and roll here.

However, instead of fleeing the area, people watch and are into it. We uncoil and spring like a desert predator, throwing it all out there. Some folks even start dancing during For Serious and our Gang of Four cover. It’s a damn good time. I throw some solos over to table nine. We bring the damage andDamaged Goods.”

Later a fellow buys us some beers, the first of many. It turns out his band played a couple of the Minutemen’s last shows before that final tour with R.E.M. Incredible stories! We swap punk-rock war stories and are bonded in the camaraderie of the insane calling that is playing music.

We retire to Rimrock Ranch, a glorious, one-of-a-kind location that I would love to link you to, but I will not for fear of bespoiling an incredible location. Sorry … email or tweet us, and maybe we’ll tell you about it. It’s a touch ostentatious, but look, man, whatever illusions you have about touring in general, it’s a series of austerity measures. Decisions on where to eat, stay, and conduct any kind of day-to-day goings-on are determined by a few dollars. Sometimes though, sometimes you just have to do something nice for yourself.

In short: Pioneertown, HELL YES. We will return. Count on it.

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Jams in the van:
Poison Control Center — Sad Sour Future, Brenton Wood — Eighteen Greatest Hits, Air — 10,000 htz, Man… or Astro Man? — 1000X, Queens of the Stone Age — Rated “R”, Hot Snakes — Automatic Midnight, Pink Floyd — Meddle, Sloan — Navy Blues, Slint — Spiderland, Sparklehorse and Dangermouse — Dark Night of the Soul

Stuff we sold: 1 These Things are Facts CD (not bad for an open mic!)

Beers bought for us: nine!!!

Setlist: Plausibly Wild / Get Through, Get Through It / Damaged Goods* /Brothers Doing It For Themselves / For Serious

This is the third installment of Victory and Associates' South by Southwest tour diary, which will continue to be published right here this and week. For more about the band, visit their website, follow them on Twitter, or like them on Facebook. For the first two parts of the series, click here.

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