The Downtown music scene showcases local and national acts from indie and garage rock to hip-hop and EDM. And with a handful of venues in Fremont East and the Arts District hosting live performances throughout the week, along with local and national festivals taking over the city’s streets throughout the year, the music community continues to grow. Let’s meet who’s responsible for bringing sonic waves to our town.
Bad Moon Booking
Originally from Bulgaria, Tsvetelina Stefanova is the co-founder of the local garage band Same Sex Mary. But she got her start booking and marketing in 2011 at a Boulder City restaurant, The Dillinger. It was here that she launched a one-stage festival dubbed the Block Party that takes place right outside the pub on Arizona Street.
In 2015, Stefanova was inspired to start her own music booking agency, Bad Moon Booking. “Having been in independent bands myself, I know they end up having to do everything [themselves],” she says. “I realized I enjoyed doing our booking—the business and management side of it.”
On the road with Same Sex Mary, Stefanova began meeting out-of-state bands. Through touring connections, she was able to help groups hoping to play Vegas land gigs. “There’s not a lot of money in it so we have to support one another,” she says. “I know the venue’s perspective and the band’s perspective, and I know what’s fair for both.”
Stefanova likes to open people’s minds to new music when booking shows, typically appealing to garage and psychedelic tastes. In the past she’s booked bands such as Froth, Summer Twins, Adult Books and the Blind Pets.
”If it is interesting and different, I want to book it. I’m not asking much from the community—just show up and have a good time. That’s all you have to do.”
The next Block Party is on May 13 with the Junkyard Dogs, Black Camaro, Lenguas Largas, Sandy Nelson, The Dirty Hooks, Same Sex Mary, Fuzz Solow and Dog Year. Free entry.
Bunkhouse | Ryan Pardey
In Vegas, people want things for free. If you can spend $5 on a drink, you can spend $5 on supporting local artists.–Ryan Pardey, Bunkhouse operator
Ryan Pardey’s been involved with the local music scene since the late 1990s/early 2000s—booking acts, writing and playing for his band Halloween Town; managing the Killers in 2003 and working with the band through 2008. Nowadays, Pardey is the “right-hand man” to Jillian Tedrow, who owns Bunkhouse Saloon on 11th and Fremont Streets. Because the bar is out of sight from the main drag, it can be a challenge to pull in foot traffic.
“We’re a hidden spot, but that makes it a special, underground and cool place to check out a cool band and hang,” he says. Pardey books acts for the Bunkhouse, sometimes he works the front door or behind the bar, makes sure the bartenders are happy and takes care of the bands.
“I decided to take on the Bunkhouse because of my interest in music, connecting with the community and curating,” he says. “I get satisfaction out of these people’s passionate ideas and I get to create them. We want to provide a live music experience you don’t see anywhere else on Fremont.”
The Bunkhouse usually hosts rock shows such as Built to Spill, Rooney, Guantanamo Baywatch, The Ataires and Rusty Maples, but Pardey is bringing in different genres as well. “I like to have people working together who don’t usually work together. It’s a small scene. We really have to rally the community to support one another.”
And Pardey makes sure to pay the musicians. “In Vegas, people want things for free. If you can spend $5 on a drink, you can spend $5 on supporting local artists.”
Upcoming shows at Bunkhouse include Rayner on April 14, Downtown Boys on April 19, and Life Is Beautiful Battle of the Bands on April 23.
Legends Never Die
David Jones has been involved with hip-hop since he was a teen. He noticed many big hip-hop artists weren’t performing in Vegas and venues didn’t want to host them.
“Venues used to think hip-hop shows brought violence and gang banging to the area. It’s the opposite. It’s a harmonious gathering to lift up one another and hear the music they’re passionate about,” he says.
Jones took that upon himself to get these artists on local stages. In 2011, he began to book hip-hop artists he and the community wanted to see under his brand, Legends Never Die Promotions. “People that come to my shows are there to build—they’re producers, rappers [and] beatmakers getting their art out in the open.”
Booking famous national hip-hop acts at a small Downtown venue can be a challenge for Jones, but he’s determined to build his brand into something larger.
“Bigger artists find it more enticing to perform on the Strip because they’re offered more money. I give them the biggest offer I can. Nine times out of 10, I only break even. But I don’t do it for the money,” he says. “I do it to grow my brand. I do it out of passion. I do it for the local community.”
Upcoming Legends Never Die shows include Sadistik, Nacho Picasso, a screening of the documentary, The World Has No Eydea and more at Beauty Bar on April 14 and A Notorious B.I.G tribute with Hassan and Brother Mister on May 22 at Brooklyn Bowl.
Beauty Bar | Patrick Pulsar
I want to give people the shows they want to see and also give them access to something new and different.–Patrick Pulsar, Beauty Bar booker
Patrick Pulsar Trout began booking shows over 10 years ago, right out of high school, as a hobby because he wanted to see bands he liked play in Las Vegas. His love of live music turned into a full-time job. Pulsar now books exclusively for Beauty Bar and the Viper Room in Los Angeles.
“The cool thing about Beauty Bar, is they’re down for anything, as long as it’s good music.” In the past, he’s booked Deafheaven, TSOL, Guttermouth, Adolescents and Black Dahlia Murder. “There’s a lot of diversity [at Beauty Bar], so I can try a lot of different things—from EDM, hip-hop, obscure indie, metal and punk,” he says. “I want to give people the shows they want to see and also give them access to something new and different.”
At times, getting a decent turnout for a national band can be a challenge since Downtown has to compete with the Strip. “You get a lot of agents that assume because Vegas is an entertainment city, that they’re going to get the same turnout and money they’d get in a city like L.A. or New York. The truth is, if we took the casinos out, we would.”
Aside from the challenges, Pulsar is optimistic for the new era of the scene.
“I really feel great about the Downtown area, as far as music that’s going on at places like the Beauty Bar and Bunkhouse, [and] people like Tsvetelina doing Bad Moon Booking,” he says. “You’ve got a lot of really great people, all of whom have different styles of music they specialize in, who are all focused on the same thing: making the Downtown area awesome for music. Because of that, things are really looking up.”
Patrick Pulsar’s upcoming events at Beauty Bar include Russian Circles on April 22 and Face to Face on May 5.