The appearance of Los Angeles-based Particle on the cover of Pollstar brings the band full circle, in a way.

The foursome first came to the attention of major agencies and talent buyers when its manager, Jonathan Shank, decided that booking a showcase gig during the 2002 Concert Industry Consortium in Hollywood was one way to get some relatively undivided attention.

After all, the CIC isn’t traditionally a venue for showcasing artists, like South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, or the CMJ conference in New York.

But Particle likes to do things a little differently, so Shank rented out a club called 5150 Vinyl and invited the suits from CIC to come by and check them out. The rest, as they say, is history.

“We had all these talent buyers, agents, everybody was there,” Shank told Pollstar. “I think every major agency was represented there, and major festival buyers

people that went on to work with Particle, and still do today.

“It was a sold-out show, and the talent buyers were enthralled; here’s this band that could sell 600-700 tickets in L.A. and they’d never even heard of them before. (Monterey Peninsula agent) Jonathan Levine was at that show. I remember him introducing himself to me that night.

He just kind of came over and said, ‘This band is unbelievable. We’ll have to stay in touch’.”

And they did. Levine signed the group to Monterey Peninsula two months later. The festival buyers stayed in touch, too.

Despite the fact that Particle hadn’t even recorded an album yet, the band scored an unequaled hat trick by playing at the Bonnaroo, Coachella and Austin City Limits festivals the next year.

Particle’s first studio album, Launchpad, was just released in March. The band’s reputation, though, has been built for the last three years on relentless touring and its “funktronic” sound, blending spacey electronica with funk grooves and a heavy dash of good old rock ‘n’ roll.

Over the last couple of years, Particle has earned a reputation as a jam band, and their five-hour set at Bonnaroo may have helped cement that image.

But it isn’t a group to be easily labeled, as evidenced by its decision to tour earlier this year with a Guns N’ Roses escapee, guitarist Buckethead, opening.


“That was a blast,” Particle keyboardist Steve Molitz told Pollstar. “That was definitely a creative package and we did take a risk on that. And you know what? A lot of people didn’t like it. I went on Buckethead’s Web site and people were just ripping us to pieces. Over on our site, our people were just ripping on him. But the overwhelming majority of people thought it was really cool!”

Darren Pujalet also points to the tour with Buckethead as a watershed.

“It was very out of the box. It wasn’t the kind of thing people expected. For us, it was really a treat, and brought a different vibe to the show each night,” the drummer told Pollstar.

“It helps also from a perception standpoint. We try to go in different directions that kind of allow us to be in the jam band community, but also allow us to travel around to more of a, not mainstream, but more mass market style of music,” Pujalet said.

“But we try not to be pigeonholed in the jam band community because I don’t think that’s what we’re really about. It’s really more of a root of where we’re from.”

Not that Particle isn’t still very much part of the jam scene. The band has a fiercely loyal fan base that calls itself the Particle People that formed around the group’s live shows. The only recordings prior to Launchpad were four-song EPs sold at concerts.

The legion of Particle People has certainly grown since Pujalet, Molitz, guitarist Charlie Hitchcock and bassist Eric Gould played their first gig on a party boat cruising San Francisco Bay in 2000. And with the bigger audiences came bigger rooms, bigger budgets and more elaborate staging.

“When we first started, we were the old story of four guys in a van with just enough gear to get by,” Molitz said. “The business started progressing and we added more instrumentation, which for me meant going from two keyboards to seven on stage.

“We’re at the point where we have a full-time lighting rig on the road with us. It’s just that much more production and on the next tour, I’m sure we’ll add something else. As the band grows, so will the production values.”

Particle continues to branch out in unexpected ways. British dance wizards The Groove Armada just remixed Launchpad’s title cut and the band is looking forward to expanding its reach globally with tours of Japan and Europe this year, with stops along the festival circuit including Milwaukee’s Summerfest and the High Sierra Music Festival in the California foothills.

And it all started at CIC, according to Shank.

“There’s an example of how a band broke, literally, by playing during CIC,” Shank explained. “The Agency Group, William Morris, literally all the agencies were calling after that gig. It really turned a lot of people on. It worked, as many things do for Particle, the way it was supposed to.”