Ramona Mainstage owner Orrin Day has bitten the bullet and says he has agreed to pay some $3000 annually to music licensing groups he has called “scum suckers” in the past. “You can’t get away from it. You have to pay the bastards even if you only do a couple of [music] shows a month.”
The upshot is that after a year without big shows, the Ramona Mainstage is bringing back major name concerts. Prior to that, the Mainstage had hosted major music acts for six years. Day he says he will not focus solely on the metal and hard rock acts that seemed to have put the back country venue on the map.
“We’re going to mix it up,” says Day, who fully expects to bring back pop singer Eddie Money, country swingers Asleep at the Wheel, and country maverick David Allan Coe, all headliners who have previously sold out Ramona Mainstage.
“On his last tour, David Allan Coe skipped Southern California altogether,” says Day. “He loves it here.”
Another artist who seems much more at home in Ramona than, say, North Park, is right wing rocker Ted Nugent.
“The last time Ted played here, he flew his Citation Jet here and took a limo to the Mainstage. That was the day his wife was caught with a handgun in her handbag trying to board a plane in Dulles [Washington D.C.] to come here. It made national news that she was coming to join her husband in Ramona [with a gun]… It’s pretty conservative up here. But then, so is San Diego. At least in comparison to the rest of this fucked up state.”
There is one genre of music Day won’t host at the Mainstage. “Rap is not a thing that would work up here.”
Day says he knows it has gotten harder to attract big name headliners. “The Belly Up now books 25 shows a month at the Music Box, on top of what they put in the Belly Up. They are taking an awful lot of shows. But I feel there’s enough for everybody.”
And then there is the proliferation of casino talent buyers who famously give huge guarantees to headliners at the expense of independents. “It’s like they don’t treat [contracts] as money. If a band is worth $10,000, they’ll pay $15,000 or $20,000.”
But Day says his ace is in the hole is the acoustics of his room. “This is an old movie theater built for sound. It has a vaulted ceiling and a sloped floor. Once bands play here, they love this place.”
But will greater San Diego make the trek? “I built [an adjacent] steak house and a BBQ restaurant... I just finished my third remodel. The concession area next to the stage was turned into a bar…The Mainstage will be all ages and we will serve liquor. Ramona is now a destination. It’s no longer just a place you drive through on the way to Julian.”
Day says he will soon announce his concert calendar. He says local bands will be welcome only as openers for headliners and may be better off playing Ramona pubs like Cheers and the Waypoint Saloon (which was renamed from Molly Malone’s after a 2015 episode of Bar Rescue).