Touring Pioneertown, CA's Idyllic Rancho V
Touring Pioneertown, CA's Idyllic Rancho V
How Airstream accommodations, large-scale art and a recording studio unite in the desert
With Palm Springs International Airport only a 40 minute drive away, it's easy to place Rancho V on the map by way of that transportation hub. Unless, of course, you've heard of Pioneertown, CA. On Route 62 in the lush desert of the Yucca Valley, Pioneertown began in 1940s as an Old West motion-picture set, which actors actually lived in when not filming. Today, its theatrical energy carries forth as one strolls the main street. There's certainly a novelty factor, but it feels more authentic—because it is still lived in. At the corner of town rests Pappy & Harriet's, a dive-bar-meets-rib-joint that has hosted performances from some of the world's greatest musicians. And one mile down the road, is the entrance to Rancho V—a sprawling 40-acre desert estate that features a recording studio, Airstream accommodations and a medley of other fun activities.
Rancho V is owned and operated by Rocco Gardner, founder of Escape (which produced the Hamptons-based music festival Escape to New York, back in 2011) and Skyline Studios, a recording destination for both top and emerging talent. Gardner, a British-born musician and producer spent years residing in New York City, before falling in love with the magnetism of the lands around Joshua Tree. When he discovered what would become Rancho V, at an elevation of 4,200 feet, a 15 minute ride from the national park, he took his aspirations there.
"I came out here from New York looking for a place to record music, shoot photography and bring creatives together," Gardner explains to CH. "What I found was an amazing location to do just that on: 40 acres with 5000 square feet of buildings. More than anything the desert just has this magic which turns people on to what they are looking to achieve—be it writing, recording, shooting, whatever their pursuit." A magnetic force himself, Gardner then sought to maximize the create potential of the space, allowing him to host everything from major magazine and brand shoots to individuals with slimmer budgets looking to create something special.
Gardner himself hoisted up a door to everywhere, on a vista in back of his property. This is just one of the mesmerizing art displays. "There are a number of artists here," says Gardner. "Paige Bradley kindly allowed us to install one of her 'Expansion' statues, which I love. Our NY friends FAILE have a piece onsite, along with Obey’s Led Zep / Celebration Day at the O2 London album cover." The rest of the art on site was created by Gardner—and the lands have a few flourishes (like fake pink flamingoes).
As for the recording studio, it recently underwent a major overhaul. As Gardner shares, "I teamed up with producer Stefan Skarbek and mixer/engineer James Krausse to install a state-of-the-art pro-recording facility. This includes 'the hanger,' which is a large tracking space, a control room, two isolation booths and all the latest gear. We’re working on adding more vintage instruments. We’ve already had a number of artists and bands here, pre-upgrade, from rock acts to DJs." A full equipment list is available upon request, but visitors can never underestimate the impact of the desert itself, the flora and the fauna and the option for solitude.
There are a handful of additional amenities that make it a desirable destination—more than just the infrared sauna and hot tub. "Outside of the cottage, there are currently two Airstreams that our guests stay in. One is a 1952 Floating Cloud called Kenny who frequents events like Burning Man and otherwise chills on the hill looking at Palm Springs all day," he says. "The other is the new addition to the family, The Silver Weenie, which is a 1951 Airstream Cruisette. There were 71 made, of which 30 are known about. It's the smallest airstream made at 15 feet and has a seven-foot bed in it." The grounds also feature a Unimog—a 1952 Mercedes rock crawler. Gardner, a collector of trailers and cars, shares that the Unimog makes for great desert touring.
Altogether, it's a creative space unlike any other (with two resident pygmy goats Lulu and Junior). The Ranch sleeps a total of 12 people, and is rentable. For information on visiting, staying at or recording within Skyline Studios at Rancho V, Gardner suggests reaching out to info[at]esca.pe.
Images by David Graver