By Brian F. Johnson
The Fox Theatre has a legendary mystique that’s made the local venue stand out during its decade-and-a-half of existence. The vast majority of that mystique is due to the number of — and magnitude of — bands that have stood on the stage.
While he vacated his position as head talent buyer at the Fox last summer to take on the role of Vice President of Live Nation’s Rocky Mountain Division, Eric Pirritt’s legacy will always be intricately interwoven with the Fox because, for five years, he was the man responsible for putting the bands on that stage.
Pirritt left his Fox post at the tail-end of a year-long shake-up and promoter battle in Denver that ultimately left Pirritt’s previous employer, AEG Live, and his current employer, Live Nation, as the two big dogs of Denver’s concert scene. From the outskirts, the move seemed like a brutal, calculated final blow in the shake-up, but to those who know Pirritt, or “E.P.,” it was simply a smart business decision, and smart business decisions are what make the type-A Pirritt’s world go around.
A veteran of hundreds of Grateful Dead shows, Pirritt said that he knew early on that he wanted to be in the music business, not on stage, but “behind the lights.” With a resume that boasts everything from marketing and agent duties, as well as talent buying for the full spectrum of musical acts and venues, Pirritt has found himself right where he wants to be.
Marquee: What was the first concert you ever attended?
Pirritt: Grateful Dead – Brendan Byrne Arena (I can’t bring myself to call it the Continental Izod whatever it is now) Nov. 10, 1985.
Marquee: What was the first album you ever bought, or remember owning?
Pirritt: Either KISS’ Rock and Roll Over or Foreigner Foreigner – they both came out around the same time, I think. I have them still — vinyl and beat to shit.
Marquee: What was your first job in the industry?
Pirritt: My very first gig was booking and marketing for a summer concert series in Greenwich, Conn., at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park — this incredible park on the water just outside of New York City. We did a number of shows there: Bruce Hornsby, God Street Wiine, Derek Trucks (when he was probably 14 years old) and a few others. Mighty Mighty Bosstones show was the biggest success though. We booked them in January and by the summer they had the #1 song in America. The town of Greenwich had never seen anything like that before!
Marquee: What has been your proudest moment in the industry?
Pirritt: Hmmm. Definitely selling out Red Rocks with STS9 their first time headlining there in 2006. (Note: In addition to being a talent buyer for Live Nation, Pirritt also manages STS9, and is the president of his own company, Endit! Presents). That was a huge night for me. It encompassed my success as both a promoter and a manager all in one show.
Most recently being named Vice President of Live Nation of course was a huge milestone for me. I never thought I’d be vice president of anything when I started all of this 10 years ago.
Marquee: Last year you moved over to Live Nation, in a move that surprised a lot of people. Was it worth ruffling the feathers that you did?
Pirritt: I ruffled feathers? Really? Most everyone got it. Those that weren’t supportive at first were just disappointed in the situation more than in me personally — I hope. Bottom line, it was an incredible opportunity for me that I turned down a year earlier and when it came around again a year later I felt like it was a second chance at something few get more than one shot at. I’ve learned more in the past six months than I learned in the past six years. I went from booking a 600-capacity venue in Boulder to promoting Van Halen at the Pepsi Center in six months. It’s been worth it, to say the least.
Marquee: How often do your personal tastes come through in your booking and have you ever booked a band you despised because it was good business?
Pirritt: There are certain acts I’ll bend over backwards for because of personal taste. You can’t truly despise a band as a promoter, that’s good business. But I will say this: Any promoter that says they LOVE every show they book is lying through their teeth.
Marquee: On the personal side, in recent years you’ve gotten married (to your wife Carrie) and had a kid. Is it tougher to be a family man while balancing life in the music industry?
Pirritt: Absolutely. No one in this business makes it unless they’ve got the support of their better half, or no better half to worry about at all! The women of the world that are stuck with husbands in this business are what keeps everything afloat. It can be trying, to say the least, on everyone. As far as having kids (Pirritt’s son Jackson is 17 months old and he has a daughter due in a few weeks), it changes your life in a million ways. You have much more defined perspective, that’s for sure. It doesn’t really matter what you think anymore. Your kids rule you, but in a good way.
Marquee: What’s your dream show? If you could book anyone, anywhere, who and where would it be?
Pirritt: The Police at Red Rocks. Wait, that’s happening. Maybe a great line-up of yesterday and today’s kick-ass British rock bands at a filthy soccer stadium in Scotland.