Daring to do his thing
Local deejay Ron Dare has come a long way since living in a van
Ron Dare has found his comfort zone. It’s a small balcony overlooking the customers at Chico’s hip new sushi restaurant, The Rawbar, at the corner of Fourth and Broadway downtown.
His job there is to set the mood, and it’s something he does with visible delight. A slim, clean-cut guy who’s about as tall as NBA star Spud Webb, Dare is the deejay doling out music to eat raw fish by. He’s casually but classily dressed in loose-fitting clothing and no shoes, he’s got a fan to keep him cool, and he’s surrounded by milk crates filled with records. Typically he stashes jazz, new-age and techno records in the crates, but there might be a Madonna or Michael Jackson album in the mix.
Dare’s turntables are his musical instruments. He doesn’t just reach for a record, he spins around to grab it. When he puts his fingers on a jazz or spacey-new-age record and the fade button on the mixer, he sways like a saxophone player. The only time he stops for a second is to take a sip of cold water. When he throws on Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough,” his body starts bobbing up and down. The customers below start moving their shoulders, and even the cooks are jiving.
Dare’s taste in music covers a wide spectrum, but at The Rawbar he’s a crowd pleaser, and it’s all good with him just as long as he gets smiles when he leans out from the balcony seeking approval. “I feel good tonight,” Dare says, beaming.
It’s an unusual passion, deejaying, and not an easy way to make a living, but Ron Dare is giving it a good shot. After years of scraping to get by and refusing to give up his dream, he’s finally, at the age of 34, making it work for him—enough, even, to be able to marry his longtime girlfriend Debbie. He’s got his own radio show on KZFR, he deejays at Stormy’s on Wednesdays, at The Rawbar on weekends, and at private parties at other times. As he’ll be the first to say, it’s been a long haul.
Ron Dare arrived in Chico from Las Vegas in 1988, determined to work in music or the media. But jobs didn’t always materialize, and sometimes he had to rely on couch surfing at friends’ houses for places to stay. At one time he lived in a friend’s van.
“I was living in a van when I started deejaying,” Dare says.
Poor but persistent, he never really surrendered into minimum wage work. “My parents wanted me to get a regular job like at the grocery store,” he explains, but he had his eyes set elsewhere.
For a while he worked at Channel 24 mixing commercials and programs to get a feel for putting together and producing entertainment ideas. He also did some writing about music and new-age album releases for a music magazine. In time, he snatched a radio show at KCSC playing music for the 20- to 29-year-old audience.
“I was the first person to do a mix show on KCSC,” Dare says. “I was playing acid house and techno music.”
Dare even tried the school thing at Chico State University. “I just didn’t do the work,” he now says. Instead he got sidetracked by the radio work, among many other things, and dropped out.
But he continued to get deejaying gigs. Over the years, he’s spun music all over Chico, from Stormy’s to the Brick Works and the place formerly known as the Zocalo Room. “Every time I lost something, I got something better,” he says, smiling.
Things are different for Dare now. This deejay’s no longer starving. And Debbie puts him in check and makes sure he doesn’t buy a bunch of bargain records before the fridge is filled. “Now I feel good, and I’m getting work,” he says. “But it’s been hard on my body.”
When not deejaying, he’s working on building up his equipment—upgrading the turntable mixer, equalizer, speaker and wires and adding records.
“I need to buy more music to keep that fresh sound,” he says. “Sometimes Chico’s not too big on fresh sounds, just something everyone can sing to.”
It’s important for Dare to make his investments: He’s getting calls for gigs throughout California, and even someone from New York has called for him. Dare is also looking to launch a mobile-deejay business. "I’m addicted to music," he says, shrugging his shoulders.