Everyone knew Pete Dougherty would be successful.
After graduating as Staples’ 2002 salutatorian — he also ran cross country, swam, competed on the math team and played piano in the jazz band– Pete headed to Princeton.
Today he is zooming up the career ladder. But it’s not finance, business or law — traditional paths for decades of Princetonians.
Pete plays keyboard and synthesizer for Hey Champ, a fast-rising electro/indie-rock band.
Tomorrow afternoon they take the stage for their biggest gig ever: Lollapalooza. Also on the bill in Chicago’s Grant Park: Lou Reed, Depeche Mode, The Killers, Jane’s Addiction, Ben Folds, Fleet Foxes, the Kaiser Chiefs and Snoop Dogg.
Pete did not set out to be a rock star. He entered Princeton as an engineering major. But after a year he realized that wasn’t him. He switched to music.
His parents had a few misgivings. But, Pete says, “They were English majors. That’s not practical either — but you can use the degree for lots of things.”
Eventually, Pete’s parents came around. And, he notes, “Princeton isn’t a conservatory. It’s a liberal arts school. Either in spite of or because of that, music was a great program.”
After graduation Pete traveled around Europe. In the fall of 2007 drummer Jonathan Marks — a fellow Princeton musician — asked Pete to join his band. It was folk/indie-rock, with dance elements. Pete brought the synthesizer sound Jonathan wanted.
For a year, Hey Champ — a trio, with Saam Hagshenas — struggled for a foothold.
Suddenly, a year ago, a Chicago DJ started playing “Cold Dust Girl.” Hey Champ attracted a following. Hip hop artist Lupe Fiasco discovered them.
Within 2 or 3 weeks Hey Champ signed with a label. They toured. A Halloween show drew 4,000 fans. They recorded an album, for release this fall.
“The game definitely changed,” Pete says.
Now they’re ready for Lollapalooza.
“We’re insanely excited,” Pete says.
But like the professional musician he is, Pete is already looking ahead.
After Lollapalooza, Hey Champ goes back on the road. They hope to arrange winter tours of Australia and Brazil.
What about Westport?
“That would be great!” Pete says. “My mom keeps asking us to play at her store — Doc’s Cafe.”
First Lollapalooza. Then Doc’s Cafe.
Life doesn’t get any better than that.
(To hear Hey Champ, click here.)