Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Fetto fabulous: Indie rock at the fairgrounds

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Photo courtesy of 1Digit, LLC
College student Patrick Perfetto, 20, a drummer with the Saucy Bills, has put together the fourth annual Fettofest at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds. Part of his marketing plan is the sharp poster.
Someday there will be starlets and swagbags, headliners helicoptering in and out of town, and lucrative cross-promotional deals. But for now, the Gaithersburg fairgrounds will have to do.

‘‘In the future, I see this as being something to represent Montgomery County,” says Patrick Perfetto of Olney, the chief executive officer of a company called 1-Digit LLC and the creator of an indie rock festival called Fettofest. ‘‘It’s a large area, always booming: there’s Coachella, there’s Bonnaroo, there’s Virginfest...”

And there’s Fettofest: Perfetto is expecting between 5,000 and 10,000 music lovers to attend; he has sponsorship from Bud Light, Hot 94.7, Armand’s Pizza and other vendors.

The bands on the roster include Virginia Coalition, Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, Lloyd Dobler Effect, The Bridge, Whole Wheat Bread and a slew of others, including Perfetto’s band, the Saucy Bills. The promoter behind Fettofest 2007 knows what appeals to ‘‘kids today,” and he doesn’t need a focus group to tell him. Perfetto, a drummer majoring in music synthesis and drum set performance at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, is 20.

Every penny

‘‘It started my junior year of high school — 2004,” says Perfetto, doing his best to ignore a buzzing cell phone when me meet for iced coffee. ‘‘Three or four bands, a barbecue, maybe 90 people. It was just a good time.”

He looks more like Britain’s Prince Harry than Ferris Bueller, but Perfetto has the latter’s mysterious powers of attraction.

‘‘The second year, everybody had heard about it and wanted to come,” he explains. ‘‘Everyone knew I was a good musician — marching band, jazz band — and I had local bands, rock bands. Everyone knew who we were, and we had 450 people.

‘‘That’s when I knew I had to move it to a bigger venue.”

Last summer, with that bigger venue in mind, he worked long hours at Outback Steakhouse and raised $3,000. ‘‘Every penny went” to stage Fettofest 2006.

‘‘Last year was awesome,” Perfetto says. ‘‘We had 2,500 people come out, a moonbounce, a slip and slide.”

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Every year, Perfetto kicks it up a notch; every year, folks find Fettofest and make it their own. And every year, Perfetto fixes his blue eyes on an even bigger prize.

‘‘When I worked out a contract with the fairgrounds,” he says, ‘‘I knew it was going to be expensive. And it’s very complicated, but I figured it all out.”

He took out a loan through BB&T – ‘‘I have a good credit score for a 20-year-old,” he chuckles — and put together a seamless business plan. And, perhaps most important, Perfetto got on the telephone.

‘‘Phone call after phone call,” he remembers. ‘‘Energy drinks, local stores – people would say yea or nay.”

He got friends to help out, holding car washes in Olney and spending the take – $200 sometimes – on flyers and banners. His parents? ‘‘Very supportive. They believe in me.”

His younger sister Monica, 17, helped, and his brother Mike and a buddy put up the Web site. And he put together a 35-page business plan with his godfather, a Florida lawyer, overseeing the contracts.

‘‘When I started this,” he says, ‘‘I never thought I’d be doing financing, doing promoting, meeting with people at coffee shops!”

Yet here he is.

Better busy

‘‘You go to Berklee College of Music,” says Perfetto, ‘‘everyone’s ‘good.’ I’m ‘good,’ but my best feature as a musician is, I know how to network.”

As a performer, he says, ‘‘I’ve played to empty houses, and I’ve played to packed audiences.” He knows very well which is a better deal, and seems to know how to get it.

‘‘It’s about being positive and working it out,” says the ruddy-cheeked CEO. ‘‘It’s about being persistent; there’s always that phone call, and if you’re not confident in yourself, if you don’t have the drive...”

He trails off, momentarily at a loss for words. Perfetto, by his own admission, didn’t go out much this summer, except to network. It was nose to the grindstone, working at a music summer camp, teaching drumming to youngsters — and doing all things Fettofest in his spare time.

‘‘I do this, I go to school, I’m in a couple of bands,” he says. ‘‘Plus having a girlfriend.”

He grins.

‘‘That’s a lot of effort. But I say ‘better busy than bored.’

‘‘I’m not the kind of guy to watch TV.”

Not when there are battles of the bands to oversee, vendors to convince, Web sites to design and get running, posters and flyers to sign off on, stage setups to approve and sound systems to check. There are people to pay, and talent riders to fill, and dreams to dream about Maryland bands who might headline future Fettofests. O.A.R.? Good Charlotte?

Swag, starlets and sellout are not on the Fettofest agenda, but beyond that, the sky’s the limit.

The fourth annual Fettofest is set for Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, 16 Chestnut St., Gaithersburg. Tickets are $15. Visit www.fettofest.com or myspace.com⁄fettofest for more information.