Barndance: The Long-Running Country Jam Calls It Quits Tonight
At the time, the Palomino wasn't thrilled about Mack's no-cover policy. "But I was adamant," he says. "It was about the music itself, I was railing against modern country and country radio. I wanted to rub their noses in it and prove that this traditional country was still a viable force. The best way was by doing it for free, to keep the whole mission and vision that existed in my mind. And that's why the bands all wanted to play it."
The Palomino closed in 1995 and the Barndance wandered through the honky tonk wilderness, going from room to room. Club owners ceaselessly bitched at him out about money. "They all complained, it was always a fight, Always the same exact thing." he said. "We'd have a good night and when the next one didn't match it they'd start up 'We're losing money, I thought this was supposed to be popular.'"
It was never easy and it only got worse. Many nights, "I'd go home and some angry musician would be screaming at me on my message machine." Hobbled by depression and health problems, he cut it down to once a month and in 2009 settled at the current Burbank spot. He even began paying the big-name performers, always out of his own pocket. Momentum evaporated, and the hassles grew.
Mack broke down in tears during this interview, but the fact of the matter is that he seems happy as hell to finally be slaying the Barndance dragon. He recently even started paying the local musicians -- many of whom should have known better and had absolutely no business accepting it. "I've been doing that to fraudulently make it look like we were doing well.' Mack admits. Worse, "The mission and vision behind it -- fighting for traditional country music -- that doesn't even exist anymore."
"Our heyday was really '88-'93 and its been downhill since, a gradual decline," Mack says. "It's human nature that people gravitate toward the new and discard the old, and that's kinda like what happened to us."
"So I'm just going to drop out."
The last edition of Ronnie Mack's Barndance, with the Barndance Band, Big Jay McNeely, Bob Reynolds, Bliss Bowen, Electric Earl, Mark Tortorici & the Hollywood Combo, Maureena & the Maniac Cadillac Band, at Joe's Great American Bar & Grill, 4311 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, Mon., Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m. Free. (818) 729-0805. http://www.ronniemacksbarndance.com