Sacramento’s indie scene is flourishing, as evidenced by a growing population of funky boutiques, galleries and club scenes. Juan Ramirez, a DJ, musician, scene maker and club promoter, is one of the many folks behind this brand of urban renewal. Ramirez (under the stage name Marcelo Cunning) has spent the last couple of years trying to breathe new life into Sacramento through special events and his monthly club night, Catfight. For details on the final Catfight, this Saturday, go to www.clubcatfight.net.
For a young guy, you’ve been around nightlife for a while now. How is that?
I had my fake ID and my friend’s green card since I was 13. By the time I turned 21, I was showing people my real ID, and they were like, “Oh, you’ve been coming here for years.” That is what initially got me into the club scene. I started going out so young.
What motivated you to take on the task of running a club and booking bands?
I didn’t think there were that many things going on. So, instead of sitting around, complaining about how there is a shitty scene or whatever, I decided I’d make my own.
Officially, you’re a DJ, but at your events, there’s a lot more than just records spinning. Tell me more about that.
I am a DJ, but I also bring to the scene a place where people can come out and have fun and be themselves. With Catfight, it’s a themed club. We have different really silly themes. In a way, it’s like therapy. I am exposing people to music that isn’t played at other Top 40 clubs. Stuff that I think is inspiring and new. I don’t want to say cutting-edge because it is such a buzzword.
How is it therapy?
I try to bring an environment where people can come in and be themselves, and I encourage them to be ridiculous. I think a lot of bars are stale and play Top 40, and it is kind of boring. So I say come on down to my club and dress ridiculous and make fun of each other and be yourself. That takes out the seriousness of it. I think that it makes it easier for people to talk to each other and feel free. It makes it therapeutic.
You’re a musician, too. When are we going to hear some of your stuff?
I’ve been working on some new tracks for a while now. I’ve been getting new gear and learning how to use more software programs. I want to get better at producing and songwriting. I have a band called Impostor, which has sort of been floating up in the air, and I want to have a good batch of songs before I go ahead and push it. I want to take it far and for it to be more of a “live” show. A lot of bands play a straightforward rock ‘n’ roll show, but I want to do a little bit more with it when I do get it going. … I’ve been doing the DJ thing for a while now, but I am ready to get back to music making.
You’ve successfully created a following here in Sacramento, but, to many people’s chagrin, you’re moving to New York soon. What’s that about?
I am moving to New York because I think that what I am doing now, I could do it on a larger scale by moving. Though Sacramento has been good to me, it doesn’t really have the demographic to support what I want to do. There is a good bunch of people that come out and have fun and get what I am doing, but there are people that don’t get it. A lot of people come off the street and come into the club and don’t really know what is going on and don’t really know why we are dressed up and don’t really know why we are not playing Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and all of the hits.
Overall, you have lots of good things to say about Sac. What do you think you’ll miss?
I’ll miss the people. One thing I like about Sacramento is that this place is so small, there is no room for pretension. You go to other, bigger, cities, and people name-drop and think they are a part of something that is bigger than what it actually is. But people in Sacramento are cool about it. You can go to a party, and a lot of scenes will mix. You’ll get crusty punks, club kids, and you’ll get those rockers that won’t necessarily go out on the floor and dance, but they’ll stand around and talk to everyone and have a good time. Those scenes—they share similarities and are still different, but you’ll get a lot of collaboration. You’ll have an art show and a fashion show put together in one. That stuff is really interesting. The fact that Sacramento can get up and get it together is admirable and cool. That’s what I’ll miss, the people.