Published September 2021 by Guy D'Astolfo, Business Journal Daily
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Live music at games is part of the Las Vegas Raiders playbook.
So the NFL team went looking for a band leader to make that happen at its new stadium and found the perfect pick in Youngstown native David Perrico
The Raiders moved to Las Vegas last year when the pandemic kept stadiums empty.
But Perrico and his ensemble are bringing their big, brassy and electrifying music to Allegiant Stadium for the 2021 season.
The trumpet player has been a key player in the Vegas music scene for almost two decades. His Pop Strings Orchestra has been the resident band at Caesars Palace casino for the past four years.
Perrico, a Chaney High School graduate who earned a baccalaureate from Youngstown State University, grew up as a Browns fan but has nothing but respect for Raider Nation.
“There’s been an incredible amount of excitement [for the live performances at games] and it’s [team owner] Mark Davis’ vision,” Perrico says. “It comes from the top. And my interaction with the Raiders staff has been the best. It’s a top-flight, family kind of operation. And Raider Nation [the fan base] is definitely a real thing … the silver and black.”
Las Vegas has always had a lot of Raiders fans, he notes, and that number has risen exponentially since the team moved there.
Perrico is known for his rousing versions of pop songs. He has put together a play list for games that will include some Raider Nation must-haves, such as music from Star Wars and the team’s theme song, “Autumn Wind.”
The list runs the gamut with songs by the likes of Michael Jackson, Metallica, AC/DC, James Brown, Bruno Mars and Tower of Power, all given Perrico’s high-octane treatment.
The team has always had an orchestra at games. The tradition dates to the 1960s, when Del Courtney and his band played at games in Oakland when the team was owned by Mark Davis’ father, the late and legendary Al Davis. The team also had live music during its stint in Los Angeles.
The practice continues at the Raiders’ new home, and in true Vegas style.
“We are the entertainment capital of the world and Mark Davis is drawing on that facet to incite excitement for the fans,” Perrico says. Entertainers headlining shows at casinos will make cameo appearances with his band at Raiders games this season, he says.
Perrico and his 18-person Pop Strings Orchestra auditioned for the Raiders in early June after the team reached out to him. They were called back a couple of weeks later for a closer look, and landed the job after a final audition on Aug.6.
For Raiders games, Perrico leads an ensemble that is largely the same as his Pop Strings Orchestra, but the name will be changed.
“For the branding of it, we might be David Perrico and the Raider House Band,” he says. In addition to Perrico, there are four singers, five horns, six strings and a rhythm section.
The act plays a 45-minute pregame set, with segments of 30 seconds, one minute or two minutes interspersed during the game for commercial breaks, touchdowns or timeouts.
The Raiders gig is an exceptional way for Perrico and his orchestra to end their hiatus from the stage.
“After 17 months of not playing and Caesars Palace closing its lounges [because of the pandemic], this is our first gig and it’s exciting,” Perrico says.
Perrico also serves as producer for 10 Vegas bands who were also put out of work. He used his pandemic downtime to “retool” them, updating their music, promos and videos.
“I employ 76 musicians in town,” he says.
The music he plays for Raiders games includes some songs that he wrote. But all selections feature Perrico’s arrangements for each instrument and he makes sure that each number has that Pop Strings level of bombast. “Everything we play at Raiders games, and at all of my performances, are custom arrangements,” he says. “This is not a cover band. We have to orchestrate.”
After graduating from YSU in 1994, Perrico toured for eight years as a member of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and as a cruise ship performer.
In the early 2000s, he moved to Las Vegas to get his master’s degree in music composition at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and later worked as an adjunct music professor at the school. He would go on to work with a litany of shows as music director and arranger, including for Paul Shaffer, Gladys Knight, Donnie and Marie, Toni Braxton, Frankie Valli, The Village People, The Rat Pack Is Back, Cirque du Soleil Elvis, Dean Martin Lives Show and Sinatra Live.
But no matter how far he goes, Perrico always credits his success to his roots. “That blue-collar work ethic – and my ability to improvise and hustle – I got from Youngstown,” he says.
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