The theme for this year’s Del Mar Fair is “Music Mania.” Chris Behar of reggae band High Tide thinks that’s false advertising. “The fair is supposed to be all about music this year. They are leaving out one of the most popular genres, reggae music.”
After a Ziggy Marley concert at the Fairgrounds last August, local groups such as the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth complained to the Fair’s board of directors that the state-owned facility is no place for reggae concerts because they foster open smoking of marijuana in an all-age setting. At an October board meeting, general manager Tim Fennell said he would consider forbidding all reggae shows at the Del Mar Fair.
In the past, the Fair has hosted grandstand headliners like Steel Pulse, the Wailers, Maxi Priest, Eek-A-Mouse, and the Wailing Souls. This year there are no reggae headliners.
“This is an all-age event that is supposed to have something for everyone,” says Eric Castaneda, lead singer of Stone Senses. “It’s as if they are discriminating against one style of music because of a stereotypical image they have of reggae. Reggae is much more than smoking pot.”
Although Fennell said in the past he would consider a ban against reggae shows, he now says that those anti-drug groups “had no bearing” on the Fair’s talent-booking policy this year. “It was a scheduling problem,” he says. “We tried to get [a headliner], but we couldn’t line up their schedule with ours.” Fennell says he could not remember which artist it was that the Fair was trying to book.
Why couldn’t the Fair have hired local reggae bands such as Stone Senses, Tribal Seeds, or High Tide to play the Fair?
“I’ll have to get back to you on that,” says Fennell. “I’m busy trying to keep the Fairgrounds from getting sold.”
Tim Read, director of operations for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, which hosted the Ziggy Marley concert last year, says staging reggae bands at its 4 O’Clock Friday and Saturday shows is good business. “San Diego has always been a huge market for reggae.” He says the Thoroughbred Club will host Steel Pulse August 22, free with admission to the races.
Read says that in response to the dustup over pot smoke, his organization has forbidden all smoking in the concert venue during the show. He says he was reluctant to second-guess the Fair’s decision to veto all reggae bands this year. “They are our landlords…But I think reggae will eventually come back [to the Fair].”
Hear Ken Leighton discuss this further on Reader Radio!