Jeremy Earl of the band Woods founded the Woodsist record label in 2006, and in 2010 started the Woodsist Festival in Big Sur. Since last year, Woodsist has been holding a one-day version of its two-day Big Sur fest in Pioneertown at Pappy & Harriet’s. While the Henry Miller Library, where the Big Sur event takes place, has a lush lawn (okay maybe not as lush since the California drought began) and is surrounded by Redwoods, Pappy & Harriet’s is covered in dust with a skyline of mountains and Joshua Trees. Pioneertown was founded as a live-in Old West set in the 1940s, and the community is mostly open to roam and wander.
The festival gates opened at high noon and fest-goers meandered in and out throughout the day. Many hid between cars as they tailgated and smoked pot or just walked around the Old West facades taking photos. The outhouse labeled “Town Hall” was a particularly popular snapshot locale. Most of the crowd wandered in and out of Pappy & Harriet’s restaurant which featured billiards, BBQ and local bluegrass talent. For those that wanted to chow with a view of the stage, there was an outdoor BBQ serving up hamburgers, veggie burgers and sausages.
The crowd really started to fill up when Cass McCombs took the stage around 7:15, providing the perfect soundtrack to the sunset. When dusk began to turn to dark, McCombs and his “Skiffle Players” as he likes to call them (despite none of them playing homemade or skiffle instruments) were lit by a DIY psychedelic liquid light show. The most crowded set of the evening was for Woods who were also lit by even more liquid light projections than Cass McCombs’ band.
Woods were definitely treated as the highlight for the evening with people throwing glow sticks in the air and dancing with beers in hand. Although one crowd member probably had one too many beers because as the band went into Moving To The Left, a man started screaming the lyrics to the chorus of Third Eye Blind’s Jumper.
Foxygen closed out the outdoor stage with singer Sam France living up to his exhibitionist reputation. Within the first three songs he blew out his microphone, knocked over an amplifier from jumping on it too often, then fell into the crowd and ripped open his shirt. Although it took a few minutes to fix the microphone situation, the backup singers and France didn’t let that slow down their engine.
After Foxygen most of the audience left, but those who stayed crowded around the indoor stage for Kevin Morby. Outside a few stragglers enjoyed a drink with band members from throughout the day, including a group of bachelorettes who took silly and somewhat provocative pictures with members of Woods. The ladies said they had just wanted to grab food at Pappy & Harriet’s as part of their weekend of desert debauchery, and were glad to have stumbled upon the Woodsist festival. By the time Peaking Lights took he stage close to 1 a.m., it was mostly Joshua Tree and Morongo Valley locals as well as performers and fest staff of the fest left giving the venue a chill vibe, appropriate for such a laid back festival.
Photos by Annie Lesser.