CVIndependent

Fri12042020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Before COVID-19 arrived, the valley’s music scene was celebrating the relatively recent introduction of a space for music that combined local talent with bigger bands on tour—right in the heart of Palm Springs.

The Alibi Palm Springs is one of the newest and best music venues in the desert. It has hosted local acts like The Flusters and the Yip Yops, as well as national acts such as Best Coast and The Midnight Hour. For a while there, it was like the Coachella Valley had our own little slice of L.A.

“My business partner, Melanie (Tusquellas), and I have been in the L.A. music business for many years, and we were originally looking for a spot in L.A.,” said owner Elizabeth Garo during a recent phone interview. “A friend of Melanie’s told her about this beautiful, amazing, historic building in Palm Springs that was available. We saw it and thought, ‘This is it!’ It wasn’t our intention to be in Palm Springs, but when we saw the building, it compelled us to bring the model to Palm Springs, and it seemed to make sense. We noticed that there were a fair amount of venues for cover bands and dance nights, and we wanted to bring a different kind of programming.”

I talked to Garo about the Best Coast show in February—which was the last concert I attended before the pandemic.

“That was such a fun one,” Garo said. “It was a very big deal for us to do that show, and I was very thrilled that they chose to play The Alibi. It certainly let us see that we can do underplays for bands that size, and that the room can handle it. I had many plans of getting more of those underplays; then COVID hit. But once things are back up and running, we will hopefully be able to do more shows like that.”

Like every live-entertainment venue right now, The Alibi is struggling. However, Garo said she and her team remain determined.

“It’s been really difficult on business,” she shared. “We closed down in March and were looking at a pretty healthy spring for programming. Like every small venue, it’s been a challenge. I will say the community’s been really supportive of us and has been cheering us on to keep going, so that’s what we intend to do. We’ve developed a small crew of locals, and they’ve been very positive and look forward to us opening.”

The Alibi is part of the National Independent Venue Association, which has been lobbying Congress regarding the Save Our Stages legislation (www.saveourstages.com). Many venues across the country are struggling to find the money to survive until concerts are able to take place again. This is an issue Garo is very passionate about.

“We’ve been involved; we’ve been putting it in our email blasts and getting the word out, trying to gather signatures,” said Garo. “I’ve worked with a Save Our Stages captain here in L.A., and she and I have been writing to Congressman (Raúl) Ruiz just so he’s aware of the bill, and trying to get his endorsement.”

Until concerts can happen again, The Alibi is focusing on food and drink, and working on launching a series of paid livestream concerts. The venue just re-opened its famous patio for outdoor dining Thursday through Sunday, and is also serving food and cocktails to-go.

“We’ve been doing food with Hoja Blanco, who is our food vendor,” Garo said. … “We are looking into the process of doing some livestreaming performances, which would be on the off nights. We are just doing some research and trying to get equipment together, seeing how to make it work.

“We’d like to highlight the local stuff, but there’s an expense to it. We want to make sure it’s the right artist that will generate some ticket sales to help offset the cost of the production. I think we’re going to be able to do a combination of the two, both local and underplays. We also want to be able to stream any kind of corporate meetings or weddings as well. We are in the early stages of figuring out what can be done.”

For more information, visit www.thealibipalmsprings.com.

To say that I miss live music is a gross understatement.

I write about music. I play music, with two bands and as a solo artist—and, of course, I enjoy going to concerts. One of the biggest parts of my life has been pretty much nonexistent for almost six months, and I’m hurting.

So, too, are the country’s music venues.

The Save Our Stages movement is an online petition by more than 2,000 independent venues—including Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace and The Alibi—calling for support from Congress. The movement is led by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), whose mission is to “preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters throughout the United States.” The goals are for Congress to provide long-term assistance to shuttered businesses, offer relief through tax credits, and continue unemployment-insurance benefits.

While the desert is home to a variety of music venues, none of them are more stored than Pappy and Harriet’s, a small and not-so-secret restaurant and live-music venue located in Pioneertown. What was once a cantina set on Pioneertown’s Western movie lot is now a mecca for music and mystique. Some of the biggest acts in music have played Pappy’s, including Paul McCartney, Leon Russell, Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys and many others.

I reached out to Robyn Celia, the owner/talent buyer at Pappy and Harriet’s, to talk about Pappy’s and the Save Our Stages movement. While Pappy’s is not currently hosting shows, the restaurant is open Thursday through Sunday for outdoor dining, takeout and delivery. She agreed to answer my questions via email rather than the telephone, due to a lack of cell service.

“We are hanging in there,” Celia said. “Very lucky that we have lots of outdoor seating. We put up shade covering and installed two mister systems in our beer garden and the outdoor show space.

“The future is unknown! We are taking it one day at a time.”

Gone for the time being is the revenue from live performances, which due to high demand are booked well in advance—and often sell out.

“We are now booking and rescheduling shows for 2021 and hoping for the best,” Celia said.

Bands and venues all over the U.S. have found innovative ways to continue offering some form of live music, including live streams and drive-in shows. Pappy and Harriet’s is tapping into this trend, recently launching Pappy and Harriet's: A Distanced Concert Series on YouTube, which features local bands performing at an empty Pappy’s.

“Mario Lalli, an amazing musician and lifelong local, wanted to help keep Pappy's name out there in the music community and help local artists keep their creative hearts beating,” Celia said about the YouTube series.

Celia and her team at Pappy and Harriet’s are doing their best to spread the word about the Save Our Stages movement.

“NIVA has been tireless in their approach to get Congress to see how important independent venues are to all of our lives,” she said. “We have been trying to help raise awareness through our social media.

While the future of live music is uncertain—there’s another gross understatement—Celia expressed hope that concerts, in some form, will return to Pioneertown soon.

“I think we are very open to seeing how we can host a very small show outside,” Celia said. “The safety of our staff and customers are more important than anything else, so it really is a day-by-day situation. We are all making the best of it up here and hoping for better days. Come out for lunch and dinner!”

For more information on Save Our Stages, visit saveourstages.com. For more information on Pappy and Harriet’s, visit www.pappyandharriets.com.