‘The hardest-working kid in our business, period’
From his band to his booking, Pulsar is Vegas music’s rock
Thu, Apr 16, 2009 (midnight)
Photo: Beverly Poppe
Badass scene mainstay: Patrick “Pulsar” Trout
“He was always like everyone’s retarded little brother. Now he’s, like, Rain Man.” –Anonymous
Twenty-five minutes before his band takes the stage, Patrick Trout is still promoting the gig. Barreling out of the side entrance of the Box Office, a stack of fliers in his sizable fist, he greets the door guy, the security guard and the two sullen high-school girls gaining entry. The 23-year-old guitarist/booker/promoter/scene staple who goes by “Pulsar”—as in, “Pulsar Presents: Vegas Shows and Tour Booking”—is somehow taller than you might remember, the black glasses not as chunky, his explosion of curly hair no longer as wild. His damp yellow T-shirt declares, “I Can’t Pay My Rent but I’m Fucking Gorgeous.” He knows the boys with the flat-ironed hair; he throws the “What’s up?” nod to the muscle-bound goons in from the parking lot. Even the kids who can’t quite identify him, they’re nevertheless aware that he’s ... someone.
“It’s smaller than I thought,” he shrugs of tonight’s turnout at the half-full Box Office. “This is one of a few all-ages shows this weekend, and it’s a school night. I think more people will be out for [closing acts] Destruction of a Rose and Eyes Set to Kill.”
Two shows fall under his responsibility this Neon Reverb weekend in March, not a huge workload considering he averages eight to 10 booked nights a month. And not a bunch of dinky, small-potatoes shows, either. For every Bleachers gig at the Bunkhouse or Vermin hell-raising at Beauty Bar, he’s brought bands like Poison the Well to town. Evergreen Terrace. Bleeding Through. Bane. Circle Takes the Square. Even Canadian alt-metal female foursome Kittie, which he loved as an impressionable teen. Shows that music connoisseurs are not merely happy, but downright thankful that he delivers. Less than two weeks from now, following an eardrum assault by Israeli garage-rockers Monotonix that spills into the street, locals will approach Pulsar to gasp, “Dude, thank you so much for bringing this band.” His reaction? “It just makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.”
The nickname came from an episode of ’90s sci-fi series Sliders, in which the version of Earth Jerry O’Connell landed on was getting bombarded by the fast-spinning stars. Pulsar found the concept fascinating and began using the moniker as a log-in name at oft-vicious Vegas music-discussion board Team Airbag. Airbag posters may have long been indifferent to his show postings, ridiculed his taste in music, criticized his original songs, poked fun at his inability to properly secure touring vans, mocked his sorrow when favorite groups disbanded and broken the news that he’s died every April 1. But they’ve also bought his equipment, CDs and DVDs when he couldn’t make rent. Once his burgeoning booking career took root, he wanted due credit. The handle stuck.
Pulsar began attending local shows around 2002, soon learning the basics of flier distribution through a disadvantaged-youth program spearheaded by Shoestring Promotions’ Nicole Sligar. “When you work with teenagers, it’s hard to find kids that keep their word, and he’s always done something when he says he’s going to, really reliable, into what was going on, asked a lot of questions, very observant and very bright, even when he was really young,” praises Sligar. “He’s just watched, listened and learned. He’s always been attentive to doing a little bit more.” When promoters failed to bring around bands he liked, Pulsar simply decided to do so himself. Though the late Balcony Lights record store was the site of his first success (July 2005), coffee shop venue Rock N Java eventually offered him carte blanche. He got an even bigger break when larger venues the Roadhouse and Gameworks nixed performances. Three months into Pulsar’s career, suddenly RNJ was the place to play. Within a year he was regularly offered both bigger packages and a wider variety of talent.
“I was managing and booking at the Emergency Room Lounge. My Thursday nights were struggling, and I hired Patrick to revive the night,” recalls Iconoclastic Entertainment’s Case Colchord, who now books and promotes for House of Blues, Diablo’s and, alongside Pulsar, Hard Rock’s Wasted Space. “Now we’re rivals, but we’re also very good friends. When I need fliers distributed, I hire Patrick. You’re not going to have anybody say anything bad about Patrick. He’s the hardest-working kid in our business, period.”
“Promoters are really vulnerable to criticism, and if anything’s going wrong, it’s always their fault. When everything goes right, everybody else wants to take credit for it,” Sligar muses. “It’s not an easy job. He’s taken on something difficult in a market that’s really unique and extremely difficult to deal with, trying to take on the all-ages market. I really admire him for sticking with it.”
In the meantime, a handful of high-school bands in which Pulsar dabbled failed to gain traction, but a late-2005 offer to join Slam Dunk! (now The Stript) led to another turning point. “Instead of flying blind, trying to book shows out of town for tours, it was, ‘Hey, we’re this band. We need a show. But by the way, I book shows in my town, so I can hook your band or agency up,’” Pulsar says. “That made it a lot easier. I’m now at a point where I can book Ministry of Love full time.”
Then-foursome Ministry of Love formed in autumn of 2006, taking its name from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984—wanting something a bit misleading, “like Joy Division,” with the impression of a movement or a cult. Featuring ex-members of False Verdict and Avalon Dies, MOL recorded a five-song demo and snagged a spot on the 2008 Extreme Thing lineup. The highlight moment wasn’t something the band got through connections, Pulsar emphasizes; it had to be earned.
By then he had graduated to working with University Theatre and Jillian’s, though he balks at the notion he’d done it on his own. Pulsar credits his mother, Helen, who appears in the “Heroes” box of one of three MySpace pages he maintains. “When I told her in 2005, ‘Hey, I’m going to take a break from school and play in a band and book shows full time,’ her reaction was, ‘Cool. Let’s make it happen.’” The former accountant lives with her son, running shows in his absence, fliering when he’s needed elsewhere and making food for touring bands. “If I’m the brains of the operation, she’s the heart,” Pulsar says. “She’s kind of the band mom. I think at this point people on the scene know and like her better than they like me.”
“We’ve been a band two years, and we played a lot of great shows with the old lineup, but I consider the lineup we’ve had since July to be our real lineup,” Pulsar offers the next evening, eager to take the stage with MOL 2.0 as openers for The Start, whom he’s booked at Beauty Bar’s back patio. “We got a new singer and guitar player in July, and we’ve been writing nonstop since then. It really became a whole new band.” In only nine months together, and Pulsar, vocalist Meg Vitale, bassist Bryan Hill, guitarist Devo Fresh and ex-The Higher drummer Pat Harter have shared the stage with Hawthorne Heights, played Hollywood’s legendary Viper Room and been covered by AMP magazine.
Vitale (formerly of This Bitter End and Silhouetta) remembers running into Pulsar around the Castle, the Huntridge, Tremorz, Doggystyle, Sanctuary and Skate City back in their “show junkie” days. “He is still that same curly haired kid with glasses, standing out at the show, singing every lyric and hardcore-dancing in the center of the pit,” she says. “Except now he knows how to make a living out of it.
“We would have nothing if it wasn’t for Pulsar. He is incredible when it comes to booking shows. They’re always a perfect fit, and it makes it so much easier to get where we need to be without someone else taking a cut of our earnings—which aren’t much yet. Being in a band with Patrick is like having a free manager and booking agent, plus we kinda like him. In all honesty, he does everything for us.”
For all of his high-energy, occasionally over-intense offstage chatter, Pulsar noticeably backs off onstage. Bent over his black-and-white-swirled ax, he’s more of a workhorse to Hill’s devil-horns-tossing, headbanging, girl-flirting hype man. “Let’s all get drunk together, yeah?” Vitale hollers at set’s end, and the band moves to complete its changeover and do just that. All except Pulsar, the nondrinker of the group. Not that he discourages others from partaking. As Vitale assures, “He never gets upset with us, and he has no problem with it, actually. I think we keep him pretty entertained with our escapades.”
Post-set, beneath a portable heater that does no favors for his sweat-drenched tee, Pulsar’s trademark chatter returns, confirming his is an operation recognizing no genre boundaries; whatever rap, alt-country or death-metal bill it takes to achieve monetary success, he’ll book it. “People ask me all the time, ‘How do you book all these eclectic bands and play pop music?’” He’s unashamed to admit it: “Because that’s what I like to play.”
Having started as a melodic hardcore-punk outfit, MOL currently identifies as straight-up rock, exactly as Pulsar says he always hoped things would sound. “I love punk and metal and hardcore, but my favorite bands going back are a lot of rock bands from the ’90s, like Smashing Pumpkins and Green Day and Soundgarden, bands that just had great songs. Definitely The Cranberries. I’ve always been a huge fan of female vocals. I’ve loved sung vocals over screaming vocals. Someone who can really sing, to me, that’s really special.”
MOL is on a “30 Cities in 30 Days” stint, an April 3-May 2 trek covering the West Coast, Southwest and a good chunk of the South. It’s the third DIY tour since the band’s reformation, and its most ambitious to date.
May sees Pulsar & Co. finishing pre-production for MOL’s year-in-the-making full-length debut. The band will record locally in June and self-release the effort, with an eye toward shopping it to labels but retaining ownership of the songs. Says Pulsar, “We don’t want to send a few tracks to somebody who says, ‘Write 10 more songs like this one or it’s not coming out.’ I spent the last 10 years learning from the mistakes of local bands who signed record deals.” A full U.S. tour follows in July and August, while autumn might offer a few opening slots for larger national bands. Ideally MOL will have completed between 125 and 150 shows by year’s end, and if all proceeds as planned, MOL will spend eight or nine months of 2010 on the road. It might be an outlandish goal for others, but in terms of local bands, Pulsar prides MOL on having one of the strongest work ethics.
“Maybe five to 10 years ago you had bands like Curl Up and Die and Faded Grey and Hemlock that would tour a lot—the Happy Campers would tour on a regular basis—but in the last few years bands really don’t seem to do it anymore. Of course there are exceptions, but it’s this pervasive attitude that in the days of MySpace all you need to do is worry about getting X amount of plays a day and have a spiffy-looking profile.
“A lot of bands locally are too concerned with getting the right management and the right publicist. I think the most important thing is getting out there and having fun.”