After sheltering in place for the past five months, Rome Ramirez says he missed bonding with his bandmates more than ever. So the Sublime With Rome frontman and Fremont native was thrilled to take the stage with his group at a recent “Concerts In Your Car” event at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.
“They are like my family,” says Ramirez. “We saw so much of each other, so it felt really strange when all of a sudden it was cut off. But at the same time, it definitely makes an event like the drive-in experience, where you’re able to get back together again with your unit—your brothers—and jam that much more beautiful and fun.”
The singer-guitarist is excited to keep the momentum going and appear with his Sublime spin-off band for two nights at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton; the shows, originally scheduled for Aug. 21-22, have been postponed until Oct. 2-3 as a precaution due to fire danger.
Since a successful live music show is predicated on a strong connection between the artist and audience, Ramirez admits to being initially worried that his SoCal ska-punk group couldn’t achieve the same level of interplay with fans at a drive-in concert as at a standard show.
“There’s something about that certain synergy that can happen when you’re live, in the same element and room with the musicians who create the music,” he says. “Otherwise, you could just watch them on YouTube.”
So Ramirez is ecstatic that “Concerts In Your Car” promoters have devised a setup—with attendees’ vehicles parked in circles around a four-sided stage—that promises every audience member their fair share of face time with the band. Supplemental video screens and in-car audio (via FM radio) have been added to enhance the “up-close-and-personal” experience.
Ramirez adds that attendees are permitted to exit their vehicles to enjoy the show from the comfort of their lawn chairs or to dance, but they must wear masks and stay a safe distance away from other groups, within the confines of their designated parking spots.
“But I think these drive-in shows are actually more unifying because people have gone so long without live music and, in some instances, they hadn’t been around as many people as well,” says Ramirez. “To be in a live environment again, it’s like a new experience.”
It was in 2009—13 years after original Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell was found dead of a heroin overdose at The City’s Oceanview Motel (now SeaScape Inn)—that Ramirez first performed the group’s hits like “What I Got,” “Santeria” and “Wrong Way” live with existing Sublime members, bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh.
Changing their name to Sublime With Rome after a legal battle with Nowell’s estate, the trio would lose Gaugh and then his replacement Josh Freese before settling on drummer Carlos Verdugo. Over the past decade, Sublime With Rome has released three albums, most recently 2019’s “Blessings.”
Ramirez says he’s excited to get back into the studio with Wilson and Verdugo in the near future to nail down tracks for an upcoming Sublime With Rome album. But until that time comes, he’s looking forward to playing more shows and connecting with fans, especially those at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, many of whom will be coming out from his hometown, Fremont.
“This is really crazy, ‘cause this is the closest I’ve played to the house I grew up in, like my neighborhood with all my friends,” says Ramirez. “I’m going to have a lot of friends and family there. Hopefully, we can repeat the same sort of magic [from Ventura] at the Alameda County Fairgrounds.”
IF YOU GO
Sublime With Rome
Where: Alameda County Fairgrounds, 4501 Pleasanton Ave., Pleasanton
When: Oct. 2-3 (rescheduled from Aug. 21- 22)
Tickets: $300 per vehicle
Note: For questions about rescheduled dates, contact firstname.lastname@example.org