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Perri packs Legends with students and stars

Tae Andrews | Thursday, October 4, 2007

“The bigger the bands, the greater the demands,” said Aaron Perri, the general manager of Legends.

As the man behind the music, Perri books bands and arranges the logistics of concerts at the on-campus restaurant and club.

A South Bend native, Perri learned about the restaurant business from his grandfather’s restaurant, Pat’s Pub. He also owned and operated an audio/video production company throughout high school and college and then ran it for two more years full-time after graduation. No stranger to the stage himself, Perri graduated from the University in 2002 with a Film, Television and Theatre degree.

“About four years ago, I saw a unique opportunity in Legends and made a difficult decision to wind down my business,” Perri said in an e-mail Tuesday. “Legends provided a chance to return to my alma mater and to combine my previous experiences in management, the restaurant industry and the entertainment industry.”

After his four undergraduate years here, Perri is used to doing his homework.

“Finding out about bands is pretty easy,” he said. “Many times students will stop me or drop an e-mail and say, ‘You should get so and so,’ or ‘XYZ band is awesome … check them out.'”

Perri finds himself inundated with an average of 25-30 press kits per month from various artists, in addition to availability lists from promoters. He also conducts market research and finds potential new acts the old-fashioned way.

“More often than not, I like to find out about bands by simply reading magazines, watching TV, listening to the radio or going to shows,” he said. “If you’re good enough to play here, chances are you don’t have to tell us, we already know.”

Paring down the list of potential acts becomes a bit a more difficult.

“I have to ascertain which acts will go over well here on campus,” Perri said. “That can be a difficult task. Admittedly, Notre Dame is not well known for being on the cutting edge of up-and-coming music, although I believe Legends is helping to change that. There are a ton of great bands out there that go over very well in other markets or at other schools, but unfortunately just don’t have a good draw here. It seems as though the No. 1 factor in assuring a popular show here is name recognition.”

While Perri also works to offer entertainment from all genres, the ultimate decision on who plays at Legends hinges on availability and affordability.

“I’ll find out which agent from what agency represents a particular artist and then contact them,” Perri said. “Sometimes the hard part is getting some of these guys on the phone. The beauty of it is, I’ve formed relationships with many of these agents over the past few years. They rest assured that when they book a band to come play at Legends they will be treated professionally and will be given first-class accommodations on stage.”

Believe it or not, the crowd also factors into determining which talent comes to play at Legends.

“The fan base here at Notre Dame also plays a role in our ability to recruit well known acts,” Perri said. “If agents consistently hear reports of capacity crowds, they’ll want to bring their artist here. Conversely, if they hear reports of apathetic crowds, they’ll think twice about sending their next band through.”

Once Perri targets a specific band, the real work begins. First, he has to get managers to agree on a performance date. Then an issue known as “routing” comes into play.

“If [agents] send an artist out to work, they don’t want to send them to L.A. and then to Chicago and then to Phoenix. They’ll take them from Minneapolis to Madison to Chicago to Notre Dame to Cleveland to Philadelphia and then to New York,” he said.

Perri counts Legends lucky because it lies between a few major cities, although he acknowledges that its location can be a double-edged sword.

“I can hopefully convince the agents that their band should stop here … and hopefully we’re even available to have a show when they’re routing through,” he said. “At the same time, falling right between major cities also ensures we can easily get skipped in the routing process.”

When Perri finally manages to arrange for prospective talent, price negotiation comes into play.

“Agents are trying to make the most possible money for their artist and I’m trying to get them in here for a price that we can afford,” he said.

With past shows including performances by Dierks Bentley, Plain White T’s, Jim Gaffigan, Flogging Molly, Scott Weiland, Stroke 9, Tim Reynolds, Gavin DeGraw, Blue October, Umphrey’s McGee, Motion City Soundtrack, Demetri Martin, Ben Kweller and OK GO, among many others, it’s fair to say that Perri and Legends have had a good deal of success in attracting name-brand talent. That success has only bred more success, Perri said.

“As our credibility increases, we’re getting more and more agencies who will bring bands to us, instead of me going to them first. They want their bands to play Legends,” he said. “We’re being perceived as a must-play venue and that is really making my job much easier.

“Another benefit that is coming with increased credibility is the fact that we’re no longer really classified as ‘college venue’ in most agencies’ eyes – we’ve been distinguished as a ‘club.’ This may sound like semantics, but the difference is night and day. College shows are often perceived as second-rate shows in second-rate venues – we’re not in that boat.”

Despite the success Legends has had, Perri continues to look forward and refuses to let himself or Legends rest on its laurels.

“I’d like to think that Legends hasn’t seen its best concert yet. We’ve had some amazing shows, but as we enhance the facility and solidify our place in the national music industry our shows will only get better, both in terms of concert experience and on-stage talent,” Perri said.

Perri says he has fun with his job, although the work never ends.

“We have to find places for tour buses, we have to load in more equipment, we have to cater to bigger egos, we have to provide more runners and more hospitality, we have to prepare for bigger crowds, the staff has to work longer hours,” he said. “The list goes on.

“It’s worth every ounce of extra effort, though. Seeing this intimate venue packed with enthusiastic fans who are here to watch an incredible live show featuring the very best performers from across the country – it’s worth it.

“Sometimes,” he said, “I even get to enjoy the show.”