PHIL PUCCI is a low-key, humble guy. If you know him at all, it's as the front man of the band Melt or as the guy who tends the bar at Petra's and spins records at DJ Pucci Mane. Pucci's a bit of an introvert, and he would never claim to be the mastermind behind one of Charlotte's coolest, most cutting-edge music festivals.
So we'll do it for him.
In 2014, the Charlotte musician-turned-promoter launched Reverb Fest with an eclectic event at the Neighborhood Theatre featuring 10 local bands. Three years later, he's organizing the festival's most ambitious iteration — a full day boasting 14 acts spread over four venues in Plaza Midwood and NoDa: the Neighborhood Theatre, Snug Harbor, The Station and Lunchbox Records. The bill reflects Pucci's eclectic tastes, with performers ranging from local neosoul group Blame the Youth to Neighborhood headliners Of Montreal. Creative Loafing talked to Pucci about navigating the transition from music maker to music promoter.
Creative Loafing: Can you give us a rundown of your career as a musician?
Phil Pucci: I began playing guitar when I was about 13 and started my first band that same week. It was a Blink 182 cover band. My first serious band, Beneath the Dream, played a few legitimate venues. I played in a couple of other bands like Almighty Flying Machine, and then in 2009 I moved to Portland.
When I came back to Charlotte in 2011, I started Serfs, a band with all of my high school friends. That's when I started to become more involved in Charlotte's music scene. I wanted to give back to the music scene that has given a lot to me. Being in Serfs made me realize that booking shows wasn't that difficult if you know all the people that you need to know. Being in a band is such a good way to meet those people, and you earn their trust. I would book shows here and there, mostly just for Serfs or one of my other bands.
Around that time I started dating my fiancé Shirley. She encouraged me to promote bigger shows. That got me interested in bringing mid-level touring acts to Charlotte. It's one of the things that Charlotte has notoriously struggled with — getting bands to come through. At that point Charlotte music had become a full-time gig for me.
What gave you the idea to launch Reverb?
Some people in the music scene influenced me, specifically Zachary Reader and Joshua Robbins. Each threw their own summer festival in Charlotte. Zachary did Recess Fest for a few years, and Joshua did Treasure Fest. They weren't like these big blown-out festivals. They were celebrations of awesome underground music regionally and locally. It was so much fun going venue-hopping during each festival. That inspired me to aim for something along those lines. Both of those festivals, sadly, discontinued a couple years back.
The first Reverb Fest was at Neighborhood Theatre, and it was 12 local bands, basically just my friends' bands. It was like a really long show with a couple of vendors. It was a baby step for me, but it ended up being super successful. I decided to keep going with it.
I did two (more at the Neighborhood) in 2015. One was a winter version called Eskimo Kisses. Reverb Fest was at Snug Harbor last year. It was like the same deal as before, just 12 bands at one venue, but we included some out-of-town bands
When you started putting the festivals together, did it all come together easily, or was there a learning curve?
For the first Reverb Fest, things went smoothly because I stayed in my wheelhouse, which was booking local bands. Then I started working with mid-level touring acts and their booking agents, and it ended up being a big learning experience. I had to learn how to talk to agents, and what certain things mean. For Reverb Fest two, three and four, I was learning how to bring those mid-level touring acts through — figuring out what to say and how to negotiate money.
This year, you're mixing nationally known bands with local and regional acts. What was it like landing Of Montreal?
I'm really fan-boying out about Of Montreal coming, because at one point I was listening to nothing else but them for a whole summer. They meant a lot to me at a certain point in my life, and they still mean a lot to me now. I emailed them out of the blue, so now they're coming through.
There are a couple other regional or national bands. The Coathangers are from Atlanta. I've seen them play a few times and I really dig them. It's really exciting that we were able to work with these of nationally known acts. It just worked out that way — a stroke of luck, I guess.