Article by Tim W Merrill
Photogtaphs courtesy of David DiCianni
Band managers are sometimes the unsung heros of our beloved, ever-growing live music world. Fanbases, even of the most devout variety, might at times not know just all of what the manager of a touring music act might be responsible for. Schedules, meet and greets, gear transport, hotel arrangements, festival itineraries—the list goes on and on for what an artist manager might be in charge of keeping together. And it’s all in service to that sacred hour, or two hour or three hour, live set that we all do get to see. In our appreciation towards artist managers and what they do, we’ve set out to interview those in the trade to learn about their backgrounds.
Our interview today is with Dave DiCianni, the man in charge, so to speak, of several hot names in the jam scene, including Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Kitchen Dwellers, and Cycles. In addition to that, DiCianni works with Papadosio as well as helps to manage the music events Northwest String Summit and Arise Music Festival.
What was the first concert you ever attended?
Dave DiCianni: My parents and family members took me to lots of concerts as a kid. The first memory I have at a show was seeing a local New Jersey band called The Partners. I was probably like 3 years old. Not sure how I remember it but I do. The first concert I attended on my own accord and without parental
supervision was Phish in 2003 at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ.
What sticks out to you most about that experience?
That first Phish show came with a sense
of freedom and adventure. I was 14 or 15 so I sort of felt like I was going out into the world on my own for the first time. I felt cool as hell, I remember that.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
There’s so many. I could probably list
10 but the first thing that comes to mind is seeing James Brown come on stage with Dave Matthews Band at Madison Square Garden not long before he died. I think it was 2002. It was a very formative moment in terms of my love for live music. At that point in my life I had never experienced that much energy in a building. Around the same time I saw The Dead for
my first time. I think it was summer 2002 and they were touring with Joan Osborne. I’ll never forget the Sugaree they played that night. It wasn’t necessarily a spectacular performance, but this woman next to me was just balling her eyes out the whole time.
Seeing that made me realize the power live music had over people.
What are your favorite 5 albums of all time?
Hunky Dory – David Bowie
Waiting For Columbus – Little Feat
Europe 72 – Grateful Dead
People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths
of Rhythm – Tribe Called Quest
The Band – The Band
Do you play any instruments?
Not well. I play a bit of guitar, but
was never very good.
What inspires you on a daily basis?
I think in general music’s ability to transport
people, especially live music, keeps me inspired. For many people a concert is their sanctuary, often it is a place to celebrate and have fun it’s also a chance to temporarily escape from whatever it is that’s got them down. I play a very small role, but knowing
I had a tiny part in facilitating a better day for a someone who might really need it definitely keeps me going.
What did you do before entering the music industry?
I pretty much got into the music industry
right out of college, but I did work in accounting for a little while. I have an accounting degree, so immediately after college I had a very brief stint working in Public Accounting. I’ve never been much of a cubicle guy, way more comfortable in a dirty van. Traditional accounting gigs seemed like they were going to drive me insane, so I moved to Colorado and got a job handling business management for some larger Colorado based acts.
When did you first discover the Kitchen Dwellers?
I think I first saw them in 2014 at Beanstalk
Music Festival in Colorado. At that time they were still in college and not really touring nationally, just coming down to the Rockies and playing shows in their home state of Montana. I really dug their sound, but at that point they were still in school and I was working a salaried job while managing Pigeons in my free time. I had too much on my plate to take on any other acts and they weren’t at a point that they were looking for management.
How long have you been working with them professionally?
It’s been about 2 and a half years. After
seeing them at Beanstalk I kind of kept an eye on them. They were getting close to finishing up college and beginning to tour more regularly, and I was getting close to leaving my full-time position to focus on managing Pigeons and a few other acts, the timing was serendipitous.
How would you describe them in one sentence?
I’m not good enough at English to know
if this is a complete sentence, but here it goes: High-energy, in your face, bluegrass.
When did you discover Pigeons Playing Ping Pong?
In 2011 when I was in college at James Madison University. I had a great group of friends that loved live music, every Friday night in the basement of this big old house we’d throw parties and our friend’s bands would play. The Pigeons guys went to University of Maryland in College Park. At some point one of my friends went home for winter break or something and saw them at a bar near UMD, they came back from break and were like “We need to get these guys down here for a Friday night party.”
I can’t remember if the first place I saw them was the house we were always throwing parties at or at a neighboring frat house, but they quickly became regulars down at my school. Over that time I got to be friends with the guys.
How long have you been working with them professionally?
When Phish played Bader Field Atlantic City in 2012 I chartered a deep-sea fishing boat for an after party and had Pigeons play on the boat. I think we sold like 150 tickets in the matter of minutes and all these people were reaching out trying to find their way on the boat. At that point I kind of knew there was something way bigger than college basement parties going on, and I wanted to eventually work with them.
A little less than a year later – March 2013 – they were on their first Colorado tour and I had just moved there to find work in the music industry. They might have stayed with me in Boulder, I know we went skiing, but by the end of a weekend of hanging out we agreed that I would start managing them.
They recently played during halftime of a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. What was that experience like from your point of view?
It was surreal. I grew up watching the Knicks, and being from the New York area MSG has always been a mecca of both entertainment and sports. It was wild just to walk on the court and see Walt Frazier walk by in his leopard print suite… but then watching the band play a song I have been hearing them play since the basement days, surreal is the only word.
You also have something to do with the lesser known Colorado based band Cycles. Correct?
Yes. Their manager Evan Marks works for me and helps with Kitchen Dwellers and Pigeons, and I oversee and help him out with Cycles.
Shed a little light on them. I’ve heard plenty of good things.
They are a great young band from Denver, a jam act but very different from PPPP. They get a little dark and proggy but at the same time can keep it funky and light. They are a 3 piece – drums, bass, and guitar – which lends itself to a different approach than most bands you see. It’s shredy for sure.
You have your hands full with P4, KDs and Cycles. Are you involved with any other bands on the professional level?
I sure do. Like I mentioned, I have a team who helps carry some of the load. I also work with Papadosio, and I handle business management for Arise Music Festival and Northwest String Summit.
You recently announced the formation of the Mammoth Music Group. What is your role in MMG?
I am just managing the acts that I already work with. Mammoth Music Group is a boutique artist management firm made up of a collective of different managers. Other than myself and my clients Pretty Lights, Papadosio, Manic Focus, So Down, John Brown’s Body and a bunch of others are all working with Mammoth. I will still be relatively autonomous within the umbrella that is MMG, but MMG will provide me and my team with resources, an expanded network, and a sounding board and think tank of sorts. It’s the 2 heads are better than 1 philosophy, but in this case it’s more like 10 heads are better than 1.
Congrats on selling out Domefest! I’ve never personally attended the festival. What would you like to tell anyone who might be thinking about attending in 2019 for the first time?
Well first, you should definitely come. Second… buy your tickets in advance. I actually just got back from Domefest and it is such a special event that I am very proud to be involved in, I am even more proud of Jeremy and Greg (Pigeons lead guitar and vocals) for curating and putting so much love into the weekend. I can’t say enough about it. A lot of people are blown away when they see the level of involvement that Jeremy and Greg have in the event, I haven’t seen a band doing anything quite like it. On Thursday afternoon as the gates were opening I’m standing at the festival entrance with Greg and Jeremy directing cars. The look on people’s faces was priceless, like, “Welcome to Dome… holy shit the band is going to get us parked.” Some people might think it’s a little crazy, but the band genuinely loves their fans and the community that has grown around them, it is their heartfelt way of thanking The Flock for their endless support.
As a fan of music, what is your favorite venue to experience live music in?
Saying Red Rocks or The Gorge feels like
a cop out, but those are two world class venues. There’s almost no comparison when it comes to the live experience. Some smaller more intimate venues and theaters I love are Brooklyn Bowl, The Capitol Theater, 930 Club, Fox and Boulder Theaters, and Georgia Theatre.
Tim W Merril’s personal note to Dave DiCianni: Much love and many thanks to Dave for taking the time to take part in this series. I appreciate you and all that you do.