A chat with Phil Pucci and Shirley Griffith, the architects of Reverb Fest.

Reverb Fest Marquee
Photo by Jake Yount.

 Story by Mike Rice.

Visualize this scenario. It’s a springtime Saturday afternoon in Charlotte. You have the day off with nothing to do. Your friend hits you up because his band is playing a show, and says you should come. You go through the typical list of questions surrounding such a proposition…

– Is it cheap
Yes. Incredibly so.
– What time does it start?
– That’s weird and early. I like to make an entrance. Why does it start so early? Not that I have anything better to do today anyway.
Because there are A LOT of bands playing. It’s some kind of festival.
– Cool! I like music I guess. I’ll see you there.

You go and meet up with your friend. You see some other people you know. Bands start playing. As the night goes on, it hits you that there is something about this show that you have not experienced from any show in quite some time… variety. Some bands are heavy. Some bands are heady. Some are vets. Some are fresh. Come to find out all of these bands are playing for charity. Say whaaaaat? Could it be? The long lost purpose of cultivating a local music scene in the first place… what is the word for it?… Community? Holy shit I think it is! And in a very true form indeed. But who would be so bold as to think they could get away with imposing such a radical idea on such unsuspecting clientele?

In step Phil Pucci and Shirley Griffith, the brilliant minds behind Reverb Fest, that are bringing the second installment of the event back to The Neighborhood Theatre on January 30th. Like the first, all proceeds will go directly to the Chronic Illness Relief Fund. I got up with the couple at their new Plaza-Midwood home, to find out more about CIRF and what we can expect from the sequel to the first Reverb Fest.

Whats new guys?

Shirley Griffith: Happy New Year! We just moved so that’s exciting.

Phil Pucci: This house is cool because the first show my band Serfs played was here in the back yard for a Halloween show like three years ago. And we were looking for a house and Shirley showed me this one and it looked familiar, and we came and I saw that the stage was still set up in the back and everything. It’s really weird to move into a house where my band played but it’s cool. That’s about it really.

S: I’ve been doing the CIRF monthly vinyl swap. And The Daily Press wanted to do this handmade market around the same time, and I don’t know anything about handmade anything, but I’m curating that too now. The first one was last Sunday and it went really well. That’s the newest thing I have going on.

Nice! How did Reverb Fest come about?

P: I came up with the idea when we were hanging out, and I wanted to do a music festival. And she (Shirley) volunteers for CIRF on a regular basis, so she suggested making it a benefit show, and from there that’s pretty much how it came to be. The first Reverb Fest was pretty much a lot of my favorite local bands. I had never booked a large scale show like that before so I didn’t want to get in over my head with looking for bigger headliners or anything, so I thought it would be a good idea to just get a lot of local bands to play for charity, and it worked perfectly. This time around, Alex, over at Neighborhood Theatre, kind of pushed me to broaden my scope a little bit when it came to bands. So I came up with my dream lineup, and I got exactly what I wanted. All six bands that are playing are the first six that I thought of. We have a couple official headliners this time, which is great, Diarrhea Planet from Nashville and Junior Astronomers from Charlotte. It should have the same spirit as the first fest, but just a different setup with bands. The reason I thought the first one was so great was because the lineup was so eclectic, at least in the realm of rock and roll music. But this one is more focused on more punk bands. I wanted it to have more of that kind of feel this time.

S: I’m also really excited about Bo White’s new project, The Patois Counselors, playing. We saw him play solo at The Milestone a couple weeks ago and he killed it, as always.

P: Yeah! I’ve seen Bo White so many times but for some reason I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that show. It’s the same setup he’s had for a while but for some reason this show just stuck out to me, the energy in the venue was perfect.

S: Bo White for prez.

Flyer designed by Nicholas Holman.
Flyer designed by Nicholas Holman.

For those who might not know, what is CIRF?

S: CIRF stands for Chronic Illness Relief Fund. It’s a locally based charity that was started by Taylor Slaughter in October of 2012. A chronic illness is a wide category of illness, but some examples are fibromyalgia, MS, lupus, things like that. Mostly auto-immune disorders. They’re called “invisible diseases” sometimes. Like if you see somebody walking down the street with a broken arm, it’s pretty apparent that they’re sick and that there’s something going on with them. But with invisible diseases they have flare-ups, usually on a monthly basis, and it’s all internal. So you might look fine but inside your stomach is going crazy or something like that, so it can be hard to hold down a job because your boss might not believe that you’re sick and just think your lazy or something. There are really unfortunate stigmas with invisible diseases; that somebody could just get over it, or they’re just pretending, or they’re out for insurance fraud, things like that. But one in four people have a chronic illness, and there’s not a lot of information or education about them as a whole. So, a lot of people are misdiagnosed, or doctors can’t figure out what treatments will help, because you just can’t see inside a body and know what’s actually happening. A lot of people with chronic illness file for divorce because their partners can’t see it either. A lot of people get diagnosed in their 30’s, and by the time you’re 30 you usually have your life together pretty much, so to all of a sudden be struck with some debilitating disease that doesn’t even show itself three out of four weeks of the month can turn your world upside down. There are a lot of organizations that help the medical side of chronic illness, but what CIRF does is work with the affected. We are one hundred percent donation based. And if someone has or knows someone with a chronic illness, all they have to do is send us their most recent tax information and some proof of income and responsible spending, and we help them with cost-of-living expenses that are hard to come by if they’re sick and out of work. We’ve helped pay people’s rent, or given out grocery store gift cards, or helped buy clothes for people’s kids, things like that. It’s a really great thing because it is a real issue. Chronic illness is just a somewhat untapped area of medicine that we’re trying to raise more awareness for.

P: I think it’s a good charity to go with something like Reverb Fest because it is locally based. If people playing or going to the show are curious about it they can talk to the people that are already involved and learn more about it at the event.

S: Reverb Fest really propelled CIRF onto more people’s radars. More people know about it now because of the first one.

Phil, Serfs is playing this fest, and you guys are recording a new LP right now. How is that going so far?

P: Recording is going well. We are recording with Danny Hodges at Old House Studio. We started writing the songs in April of 2013 when our old drummer quit, and we pretty much scrapped everything we had written up until then. This is our first full-length, and we wanted to do it with somebody who was going to be on the same page as us throughout the process. It’s a really laid back environment. Tracking will be done soon, and after that it’s just the waiting game. We’re going to put it out on vinyl and that always has a question mark attached to it as far as how long it will take to press. But it’s going well, and the songs sound amazing, and it’s the best time we’ve ever had in the band has been making this record because we all love just fucking around in the studio and making stuff sound cool. We’re going to play mostly songs from the record at Reverb Fest and maybe a new one that we’re writing right now, that hopefully we won’t be too stoned to remember (laughs).

S: Whenever he runs in to Dylan Gilbert (Hectorina), he always will put his shiny boot on the table and point at him and give him the “Phil Pucci! When are you gonna have something recorded for me?!” Just yells that for like fifteen minutes every time.

P: I’ve known Dylan for like twelve years, and I’ve never put out more than two songs at a time, whether I’m just giving it to him or posting it on the internet. It’s always in these small chunks. And he’s always saying, “am I going to have to fucking croak before you put out your first album?” And he’s released like seventeen (laughs).

What else is cool in Charlotte right now?

S: This might be silly but I really like going to the top of the CPCC parking deck and watching the sunset over the city. I think that everyone should do that at least once, not plan it out or anything, but go on an unassuming day and hang out there for a minute. It’s nice. And I have to talk about food too. Cedar Land on Central is the probably the best place to eat I think. You can get a hummus plate and two falafels for less than twelve dollars. It’s so good.

P: Yarbs is really great! I think people should know about them. They’re kind of a new band. Their songs are really short. And they recorded their record and released it in slow-mo or something like that, it sounds fucking gnarly.

Any closing words?

S: If anyone has a yeti costume hit us up!

P: Oh yeah we need a yeti costume for the fest! There are going to be some cool surprises for people this time, but the yeti costume I need to make public because they are surprisingly expensive (laughs). So any leads on that would be awesome. Did I talk about Southern Femisphere? They’re playing and they are one of the raddest bands ever. They come to Charlotte a lot, and I’ve seen them play Tommy’s Pub and The Strange House, but I think it’s going to be really cool seeing them in a proper venue. They’re really fun.

Thanks guys.

Click HERE to purchase tickets to Reverb Fest.

Click HERE to donate to, volunteer for, or just learn more about CIRF.

Check out some of the bands playing Reverb Fest here…

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