By JOHN KATSILOMETES
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOUNAL
Originally published Sept 28, 2020
Note: Today’s column kicks off a series — “Surviving Shutdown” — examining the effect of COVID-19 on the Las Vegas entertainment industry.
David Perrico has been playing Las Vegas long enough to know how to count in a song: 1, 2, 3, 4. The trumpet virtuoso and veteran bandleader can also count the four components needed for entertainment to reopen in the city: conventions, corporate events, lounges and showrooms. “Without those, Vegas really isn’t open,” Perrico said in a phone chat Saturday. “The city isn’t open right now, at least not how it’s being portrayed.”
Fronted by Perrico’s wife, popular Vegas vocalist Lily Arce, Pop Strings had performed a wild, no-cover residency at Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace when the pandemic shutdown took hold. Perrico’s band had also just opened a promising late-night, weekend gig at Westgate Cabaret. There is no word from either property about when a 14-piece band can return to the stage, even ambiently.nPerrico was also forced to shelve a half-dozen dates at Myron’s Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center, where Pop Strings is a lock to sell out. The musician and small-business operator finally pulled some of his equipment out of Cleopatra’s Barge last Monday and has retrieved property from Westgate. He can’t guarantee he’ll be back, either.
Perrico’s Instagram post, with video and photos of the empty room, raised some eyebrows around town. Perrico said in that post and again on the phone he has not had a serious conversation with Caesars Entertainment about his band’s status in about seven months. “I am not looking for pity. I am showing that this is what the state of entertainment is in Las Vegas,” Perrico said. “I speak for a lot of entertainers who are frustrated and who are trying to get information to deal with this.” He isn’t alone, of course. Verifiable intel from even the top entertainment officials is scarce in the often-erratic pandemic reopening.
Currently, Perrico presides over four bands in his “Pop” empire: His Pop Strings ensemble, the new Pop Soul trio, Pop Retro and Pop 40. Pop Soul is to work into the latest trend of background music currently allowed in Vegas bars and restaurants. But Perrico represents a meter of modern-day Vegas show business. His extensive experience in this city is undeniable. Perrico has headlined several on- and off-Strip venues, including the Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Resort, the old Lounge at the Palms, South Point Showroom, The Strat (then Stratosphere) Showroom, The Smith Center, Caesars and Westgate. Reaching back, he fronted Zowie Bowie’s vintage-Vegas band at the Monte Carlo and the shuttered Ovation at Green Valley Ranch Resort. He was bandleader for Paul Shaffer at the Barge, for the production “Pin Up” at The Strat, “Alice” at various venues, and was a jazz music professor at UNLV for six years ending in 2011.
Lest we forget, Perrico was a backing player at The Act at The Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes (where he was once asked by Act partner/producer Simon Hammerstein to play a note as if the trumpet were coming down from a cocaine binge). Perrico was also a costumed musician in “Viva Elvis” at Aria, so he has Cirque experience, too.
Even with his vast experience in town, Perrico’s career is built on the shows you might never see. He has a coveted corporate- and private-gig operation, estimating that 75 percent of his business is from shows not open to the public. In Las Vegas, the system is symbiotic, as fans who have waded into Pop Strings’ late-night shows at the Barge for the past four years were eager to book the band for private shows. Westgate, too, with its convention business, was leading to additional corporate bookings before the shutdown.
“The lounges at Caesars and Westgate has allowed people to see is, and want to book us, and that has given us steady work on the corporate side,” Perrico said. “It generates a lot of awareness for musicians in Las Vegas, and we help drive convention business in this city.” Overall, Perrico has hired 45 “gig” workers whose workload is equal (at least) to a full-time job. The number blooms to 77 overall when you add the musicians Perrico has hired for select performances. These are the 1099 tax filers largely left in the dark through the state’s unemployment-insurance process.
“Those musicians are all out of work,” Perrico said, “and that’s just in my own little world.” Perrico has been able to sustain many out-of-work musicians through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. He’s offered some work through studio recording and promotional videos. But those projects are nothing close to the type of work he can provide when the engine is at full steam. “We have had PPP help, but it’s a one-off payment,” Perrico said. “It’s not meant to last indefinitely. It’s to help sustain us until we can go back to work.”
As a businessman and musician, Perrico had grown mentally spent of receiving email messages from fans who had seen Pop Strings at the Barge. “They had seen that Caesars was open, and saying, ‘I can’t wait to see you Oct. 3!’ or whenever,” Perrico said. “It’s sad that I have to explain to them that we are not playing.” Those overtures finally led him to shoot video and stills inside his now-former venue. “There has been a lot of response,” Perrico said. “I think it’s starting to hit people just how long this has gone on.”
Perrico’s most recent show was March 14 at Westgate. His band hasn’t played Caesars since the last weekend in February. The Barge might well move to a full-time, ticketed venue when reopening. With its tight design, packed at 165 capacity, the venue presents unique social distance challenges.
Customarily, Perrico is prepared for most any outcome. Aside from Pop Soul, he’s mapped a new project, Queen Strings. This is a nine-piece ensemble featuring four violins, with Arce again at the front, unspooling Queen classics. “The concept is a tight, 75-minute show,” Perrico said. “A real show. I think it will do well.” It sounds like a good fit for a corporate, private, lounge or showroom gig, for whenever this town opens up.
INTERVIEW by John Katsilometes
David Perrico & Pop Strings Orchestra has been selected to perform as part of the iVoted Concert nationwide event on election night, Nov 3rd! The performance will feature the following 4 video studio recordings:
Visit www.ivotedconcerts.com to receive updates and more information via email!!
Be among the FIRST to hear Rabbits for Alice, one of 11 original compositions written for David Perrico's latest creation, Pop Symphonic, soon to be released on CD.
The music for Pop Symphonic will feature varied musical styles and instrumentation, ranging from 34-70 piece ensembles with a strong presence of solo trumpet and flugelhorn.
As each piece for the album is recorded, the "in the studio" process will be documented on video, culminating in a full-scale, formal video production featuring ALL the Pop Symphonic originals (this first CD is only one of FOUR volumes that are planned for the future)!
Check back regularly to preview even MORE original pieces by David Perrico...
"Rabbits for Alice" CREDITS:
Copyright 5/6/20 ASCAP
David Perrico and Pop Strings Orchestra took a few weeks off from their regular engagement at Cleopatra's Barge to play the Westgate Cabaret at The Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. If you missed them the first 2 weekends, it's not too late...they still have 2 more LATE NIGHT performances left, March 13th & 14th. Doors open at 11:30pm. BONUS: You can also watch a quick preview of some video footage of their recent performance right here!! Click the play button above...
David Perrico & Pop Strings Orchestra will perform in THE WESTGATE CABARET at The Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino for a 5-night, limited engagement. Doors open at 11:15pm. Midnight show. No cover, drink specials, and plenty of FREE parking. Don't miss out!
11:15 PM DOORS / MIDNIGHT SHOW
ADDRESS: 3000 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
*Performances at Cleopatra's Barge will resume Friday, March 20th!
By LESLIE VENTURA
LAS VEGAS WEEKLY
Originally published January 30, 2020
It was five years ago, inside the lounge at the Tuscany, that David Perrico accidentally launched his Pop Strings Orchestra. “I never intended it to be pop strings,” Perrico laughs.
It just so happened that the entertainment director of Red Rock Resort, Judy Alberti, was in the audience that night. After hearing Perrico’s group, Alberti asked him to put together a lounge act for the hotel, Perrico says. “She heard those songs and she said, ‘I want this.’”
The problem was, he only had “This Love” by Maroon 5 and “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson in his repertoire. “She convinced me to put together a pop thing, so I put together all these hits and started arranging them for the orchestra.”
Perrico has since moved his Pop Strings Orchestra from Red Rock to Cleopatra’s Barge inside Caesars Palace, a classically Vegas lounge that’s a perfect fit for his retro-meets-modern concept.
“I’m just doing a throwback to old Vegas with today’s music,” Perrico says. “We’ve got a legion of fans now, people who plan their vacations around us. When I did put this together—and this is not a brag—the unique thing about this band [was that] every musician plays with a headliner or has their own show.”
From the singers to the all-female strings section, the individuals in the ensemble have performed with stars including Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Aerosmith and Andrea Bocelli. “That’s the unique experience that makes up Pop Strings,” Perrico says. “Anyone could copy the format, [but] it’s like my all-star baseball team, the people I’ve always wanted to work with. No egos, we’re all having fun. It’s high energy, it’s positivity and it’s live. We don’t use any assistance like tracks or anything, and people love that.”
Pop Strings Orchestra members rotate in and out, but singers Lily Arce and Ken Fletch Walcott hold down the fort nightly, with Perrico leading the procession and, when the song calls for it, peppering the arrangement with his signature brass. A classically trained trumpet player, Perrico is also an award-winning conductor and arranges all the songs into modern versions on his own.
“In general, I pick the songs people can sing to and really know well,” Perrico says, adding that ’80s music seems to work best. “The Caesars clientele is more Generation X, people in their 40s and 50s. We’re not doing what Tiësto’s doing, but I’ve gone to those clubs to see how they work.”
Essentially, Perrico has taken the DJ format and adapted it to the live stage. “I’ll take an Earth, Wind & Fire song like ‘September,’ and then I’ll do a 10-minute mashup, a medley of nonstop songs, all in the same tempo. My master’s is in composition and film score, so I’ve gotten pretty fast after years of doing it. It’s just gilding the lily.”
And he creates arrangements for his other ensembles: Pop Evolution Big Band, which has appeared at the Smith Center, and Pop Retro, which has performed inside Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club and Cromwell.
“It still surprises me every week that people are responding the way they do,” Perrico says. “They don’t stop dancing. I never take it for granted that every night is a different night. You can’t rest on your laurels, ever.”
DAVID PERRICO’S POP STRINGS ORCHESTRA Fridays & Saturdays, 10 p.m., free. Cleopatra’s Barge, davidperricomusic.com.
David Perrico & Pop Strings Orchestra will once again be performing at the Nevada Ballet Theatre's Annual Black & White Ball, this time honoring country pop icon Shania Twain as the 2020 ‘Woman of the Year! The event will take place Saturday, January 25, 2020 at Caesars Palace.
Canadian singer songwriter Shania Twain is the top-selling female country artist of all time and among the best-selling music artists of all time. With over 100 million records sold, her three decade career has produced a roster of unforgettable hits. She is the recipient of five GRAMMY Awards and a 2016 Billboard Women in Music Icon Award, earning her the respected title “Queen of Country Pop.”
In 2010, Twain established “Shania Kids Can” (SKC), a non-profit organization that provides services for elementary school children in North America who are experiencing personal suffering, economic hardship and food insecurity. Since 2013, SKC has operated at both elementary and middle school levels in Las Vegas and this school year, the program will be offered at Doris French Elementary School.
“By creating a positive cycle for students and providing extra support, we’re giving them a better chance at personal success in the future,” says Shania.
Twain joins an impressive list of female icons who have been feted over the past 36 years by NBT for their artistic achievements, philanthropic contributions and dedication to Las Vegas.
For information and reservations call (702) 243-2623 ext. 222 or email email@example.com
To purchase Tables or Individual Tickets, click HERE or the button below...
Just in time for the Holidays, the 2019 KATS! AWARDS are in, and David Perrico & Pop Strings Orchestra have been awarded the "Barge Hall of Fame Award." As John Katsilometes explains, "The no-cover-charge shows rattle the room on Fridays and Saturdays, hearkening to the days when you could get up, get out and groove to world-class performances without needing to pay for a ticket."
Find out about ALL of this year's winners here:
David Perrico recently contracted Pop Strings Orchestra to perform on the 20th Latin Grammy Awards with Bad Bunny. Behind-the-scenes video and photo above!
MGM Grand Arena, Las Vegas, NV 11/14/19
Join David Perrico & Pop Strings Orchestra this weekend as they Celebrate 3 YEARS at Cleopatra's Barge inside Caesars Las Vegas!
Performing the best of Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, and SOOOOOO many more, every Friday & Saturday night from 10 p.m. - midnight. NO COVER charge...ever!!!
DAVID PERRICO & POP STRINGS ORCHESTRA
10:00pm - midnight
Cleopatra's Barge, Caesars Palace
3570 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
DAVID PERRICO IN THE NEWS
Here's where you'll find all the latest news about David Perrico, Pop Strings Orchestra, and Pop Evolution.