Pioneertown Show (4.30.17)

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Post by TragicFig »

Wow! Thanks grainpulp! Fantastic and spot on review. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I too passed the unfortunate accident outside the Roxy. Hope that guy will be ok. There was a fatal motorcycle accident in Yucca on the way to Pioneertown too. Just a bad couple of days for the bikers. To the SV fan cyclists, please be careful. :cry:

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Post by grainpulp »



Son Volt came to the West Coast with a pocketful of blues. Managed to catch them in Pioneertown and West Hollywood. They had played Stagecoach Friday night, which Jay at some point said had "kicked their ass" and that it was better to be here at Pappy and Harriet’s. Their music was fitting in the saloon atmosphere. It felt alive and in its natural place. The air – the dust. The mesquite smoke rolling in through the open doors. The stage is about a foot or less off the ground, so you are pretty much standing eye level with the band.

They had to alter their normal configuration to fit the small stage. Chris Frame was put off to stage left, kinda hanging out in mid air out by the open door to the back patio, with a few of the remaining dinner tables still standing up against that side. Sometimes when laying down a sweet blues riff he’d let his guitar hang out over the tables, letting the sweet riffs wash over someone’s steak dinner.

The great thing about this configuration is that it pushed Andrew Duplantis into center stage with Jay. Duplantis emerged at Pappy and Harriet’s as an anchor to the music. I was left wondering where this band would be without his downhome rhythms and sweet harmonies. The dude was smiling the whole night while his fingers slammed the steel. Ever since he emerged on the scene with Okemah he has been vital.

Mark Spencer is one of my favorite guitarists, so it was a little frustrating at first that he was not playing lead guitar. He was off in no man’s land on stage right, landlocked by the faux wood paneling. But on second thought, as the night wore on, I realized only he could handle dialing in that kind of atmosphere. No easy task. I’m not even sure Spencer would want to spend night after night grinding out those lead riffs. Leave that to the young Clapton doppelganger from Nashville. But I mean it, Chris Frame is a workhorse and really rocks. Love that dude’s sound. But so - Spencer is maybe happier working in the stratosphere. And he sounds great there. The keys are dynamic and the pedal steel is gorgeous. Shout out to Mark Patterson too, great drummer. I’m glad that young guy dropped out.

The show really is an adventure, Sam the gear man is working overtime slinging those guitars as they do the ballet dance that brings us those sweet tones. There are the multiple Gretsch - black and red. A Creston Telecaster type with a big whammy bar, and the old Bonanzinga acoustic. What a treat. These guys play some mean tunes. It’s not everyday you get to hear some real masters throw down and come to blows with Americana. I mean the old cage match of slide guitars, the ancient merging of the rhythm and lead guitars. The music felt incredibly alive at Pappy and Harriet’s. I kept imagining what if a stranger had walked in for a beer with no knowledge of the band. I think it’d sound like some true shit-kicking honky-tonk action. There’s really no need for explanation, not that there’s ever any danger of that with Jay.

The first notes of music came drifting out of the bar around 5.30. They were doing soundtrack and I was eating dinner on the back patio. The open pit BBQ was saturating the atmosphere with hickory smoke as the band jammed through Lost Souls. The crowd outside took notice, various folks generally inhabiting a Yucca Valley Sunday mood.

I can see why the tight space and low ceilings might be frustrating to some. But from right in front, I loved it. The sound was really good and the connection to the band was organic. Jay’s voice was somehow really clear. The best I’ve ever heard it. Could really hear every nuance. And he was really in the groove, even messing with the phrasing ever so slightly every once in awhile – which is something he doesn’t do a lot of. The whole band felt comfortable. I honestly don’t think there was a botched note or off beat all night.

There was an old farmer man, sorta Walter Brennan, standing in the open doorway just behind the stage. He was just hanging onto a post, hanging onto every note, just gap-toothed smiling his ass off all night. I mean – what the hell were these dudes playing? Just a ton of hot rock – breakdowns and riffs, deep grooves, tear in my beer numbers, straight G chords, open keith richards bar chords, someone just spilled a drink. There was still mesquite smoke in the air when the show came to an end. The open pit BBQ still cooling, pitmasters throwing in the towel, mason jars of booze, dust on skin, bright stars and lots of open land. People talking quietly – peace.

The setlist is great. The Notes of Blue songs are awesome. With each passing day the album grows on me more - "Cairo & Southern" live is really mesmerizing. As for the back catalogue - the inclusion of "The Picture" is really touching. It’s fair to say most of Farrar’s output is a little overlooked. The Search probably qualifies as very overlooked. "The Picture" suddenly sounds like a classic anthem. It’s a great song and goes to show how great of a songwriter he is and how deep his catalog is. The Okemah songs really come alive – "Bandages & Scars" and "Highway 61" both got my head rocking. "Dynamite" is one of my favorites and I’m glad he still plays it.

By the time the band is playing the two Straightaways tunes, the show has really warmed up. "Back Into Your World" and "Picking Up the Signal" are pretty much the heart and soul of the set list. And having Chris Frame play the 12 string electric is pure class.

And then there’s the Trace songs. After the 20th Anniversary acoustic Trace tour the songs have grown new wings. They are all performed deeper and better than they have been in a long time. "Tear Stained Eye" is set free into a twangier country shuffle. "Route" is so deep in the groove it’s hard to keep track. "Ten Second News" is absolutely explosive. The band is let loose to jam a little bit more, so things feel a little less predictable than sometimes Jay’s bands can be. The final encore of "Happy" fit the Pappy and Harriet’s down and dirty honky tonk vibe, while the final encore of the VU in L.A. had an appropriately big city psychedelia.

Jay seems to love the historic West Hollywood venues, he usually plays in either the Troubadour or the Roxy when he comes to L.A. I love these clubs, they are still unique in how intimate and rocking they are. The area, however, is pretty dead and in its day to day life is only a dim shade of what it once was when Frank Zappa included a fold out map of the area in the LP of Freak Out! The truly die hard fans showed up, along with whatever manner of insanity got blowed up the steep Hollywood hillsides on this warm day in early may – May Day. While protests unfurled in downtown and across the country, I was grateful to get to see a real live protest singer.

The biggest difference about the L.A. show was that he played "Graveyard Shift," at which point I admittedly lost my shit. As a somewhat younger Farrar fan, who first saw Jay in 2003 (actually at the Roxy on the Terroir Blues tour with Mark Spencer on guitar and Anders Parker opening), I never thought I would hear that song live.

Here’s a shout out to Anders Parker. When he joined up on this tour it immediately qualified as "dream show." Been a fan of him since that Roxy show in 2003. Parker is a one of a kind fantastic musician, singer, and songwriter. His solo acoustic opener was killer. Mesmeric songs, fingerpicking, strumming. Some sweet open tuning blues jams that really set the stage for the Volt onslaught. His new album is great. Here’s hoping Parker, Spencer, and Farrar join up again. Every time they collaborate it turns out gold.

By the time everyone had filed outside, a real bad accident had taken place right in front of the venue. It looked like a motorcycle, heading east on Sunset, had collided with the front of a car pulling out of a parking garage. The motorcycle driver had flown over the hood of the car and landed more than six feet beyond. When I came out he was already down, immobile on the concrete. Police and ambulance arrived moments later to swarm the scene. Talked with some friends and introduced myself to some of the band to thank them for the great shows. The stomach turning scene across the street dampened the mood somewhat. Back to reality, better watch your ass, etc. By the time I was heading off, the paramedics had still not managed to lift him off the concrete.

May 3, 2017
Los Angeles, CA

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Spencer's contributions

Post by ThrasherBear »

Son Volt 2017 is a full-on rock band. Mark's role here is adding color largely via the classic Hammond B3 sound, plus pedal steel. And he's really good at it. They wouldn't sound nearly as rich and interesting without it. Similar to how Benmont Tench made Hollywood Town Hall so great that the Jayhawks had to get a permanent keyboardist.

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Post by thatbeat »

I love the full line up, don't get me wrong and we've all been screaming for it

Go back and listen to any Jay show from 2001 or 03 and you hear Mark just tearing that shit up, like unreal stuff on the lap steel. Even the Gob Iron tour he was just nuts.

He is such a good wing man for Jay, da best.

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Post by widespreadchanges »

Thank You For YoUr Review: keith21

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Post by keith21 »

I can vouch for Fig. Weird room, excellent show. I was in awe at how powerful the band sounded. The natural surroundings of the area around Pioneertown provided some great recreation surrounding the gig as well.

My only real gripe is that Mark Spencer seems way-underutilized in this line-up. Maybe it's because I couldn't hear the steel too well from the other side of the crowded room, but I've always been blown away at his playing and Chris Frame seems to have the lion's share of the spotlight this go-round.

Minor gripe; I was overall really impressed with this SV incarnation.

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Post by Kurobuta »

I'm much obliged to you for your patience during the recent difficulties.

Last edited by Kurobuta on Tue Sep 05, 2017 9:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Tokyo Fan »

Thanks, TragicFig. Nice review. Really curious what happened at the Stagecoach?!!

Oh well, sounds like a fantastic show

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Post by widespreadchanges »

Wow that was the best 8 second read TragixZong ever wrote... :o

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Pioneertown Show (4.30.17)

Post by TragicFig »

Made the drive from Phoenix to Pioneertown for the show in the desert. Pappy and Harriet's is roughly 30-45 minutes north of Palm Springs in the middle of nowhere. It's a sprawling, iconic Honky Tonk made from wooden beams that has pool tables, food, and several rooms both indoors and out. Despite its famousness, I don't really care for the room that much. The main room only holds a couple of hundred and the big wooden beams are set low and partially obscure the band. Still, it was packed with well lubricated fans and the sound was good. Anders opened with a nice acoustic set. SV was rockin as usual. Bandages and Scars a highlight.

At one point mid-set Jay brought up the Stagecoach show again. "We played Stagecoach the other night...did any of you all go?" Crickets. "Well, they kicked our ass, it's MUCH better to be here with you guys. Besides, you all know Paul McCartney played here, right?" I spoke with the merch girl before the show about Stagecoach. She brushed off Jay's comments, but he's still clearly aggravated about that gig.


1st: Windfall...Chickamauga

2nd: Happy (Rolling Stones)

The Stones cover is incredible. Whole joint was on their feet.

Crowd left amazed at how good the band sounded and muttering "Damn that was a great show."

Even the rattlesnakes and scorpions were blissed out.

LA tonight at the famous Roxy in West Hollywood.


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