America's Best Metal Festival - Psycho Las Vegas 2017
Band Photo: Diamond Head (?)
Psycho Las Vegas recently wrapped up its second edition in Sin City after moving away from its Californian roots in 2016. Psycho Las Vegas 1st edition was outstanding. The second? Well, I’m trying to find an adjective that tops outstanding… The whole experience of hosting some of the heaviest/hottest/weirdest/loudest bands in the storied Hard Rock Casino is practically a religious experience. My short anecdotes cannot and will not do it justice. You, the reader, will need to make the conscience decision to go next year to experience it for yourself. Or, if you’ve been already partaken, well, I’m sure you can vouch for me in addition to having your own stories to tell. Here’s a brief rundown of my four days.
Thursday: The first day of any festival is always the most dangerous when trying remember details. It’s the day you usually celebrate breaking away from your job/your significant other/your home/your life. It’s probably a statistical fact, the day you tend to overindulge in adult beverages.
By the time I arrived at the Pool Stage, Goya had already started. After a couple of minutes of nothing coming through the PA system, the Phoenix, AZ doom lords were off and fuzzing up the already buzzing crowd. Next up were Conan. I have to admit, I kept running into friends throughout the pool area and I was only was able to listen to them through breaks in conversations with said friends. I did catch the crowded pool stage’s reaction to their set and it the applause was loud after every song. So, I’m going to say they had a great set at this point.
Friday: After starting my day by losing around $150 in about 15 minutes at a roulette wheel, I headed to the Joint to catch Slo Burn. This was my first time seeing them and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. Fronted by John Garcia, they remind me of…wait for it…Kyuss! With this being my first exposure to Slo Burn, I just soaked it in. Next up was Chelsea Wolfe. One of the greatest things about Psycho Las Vegas is the variety of bands that are mixed together. Chelsea Wolfe was an absolute gem of an addition for this fest. The sound mix was perfect and the band pulled most of their set from 2015’s “Abyss” to the crowd’s delight.
One of the bands I was most looking forward to was Denver’s Khemmis. I arrived in a packed sardine can Vinyl room with barely enough room to extend a devil’s horn salute. The amount fandom along and the energy the crowd was sharing with band, I’ll guarantee the next time they return to Psycho Las Vegas, I’ll be surprised if they don’t play at the amphitheater sized Joint. France’s psychedelic rock legends Magma were one of said gems in the Psycho line-up. The number of musicians that were onstage amounted to enough to encircle a craps table. They brought the psych to Psycho Las Vegas.
The last band of the night for this writer was St. Louis’ sludge hammer, Fister. The first and foremost thing I remember was that they were loud, probably the loudest band I heard all fest. After rubbing it in to a friend in St. Louis that I was checking out his friends in Vegas, he confirmed that they are the loudest band in St. Louis. No earplugs for me, hello tinnitus! That was it for me, and looking ahead to what was to be my busiest day on Saturday, I called it a night, but not after about…well…some more losses at the roulette wheel and some free drinks to lessen the sting.
Saturday: A cool thing about the location of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is that it’s very close to several good restaurants, economical hotels, dive bars, a CVS pharmacy, and a liquor store. Even though you can get just about anything you need at the Hard Rock, it’s nice to be able to step outside and take a break from the stimulation overload.
My first band of the day was Virginia’s doom masters, Cough. After a terrific mixed set from their spread of full-lengths, I then caught some sludge from Florida, via Hollow Leg in the Vinyl room. They were punchy and you could tell by their body language, stoked to be playing Psycho Las Vegas. After catching a few songs, I wasn’t going to miss Diamond Head for anything.
Diamond Head is one of those bucket list bands. I can say without a doubt after catching their Psycho Las Vegas set, I will probably go see them if they’re within 5-hour drive from me. If you were wondering, of course they played several songs that Metallica made famous. They also played several from last year’s self-titled album, which is great by the way. And you probably saw this coming, the crowd went ape shit when they ended their set with “Am I Evil.” They were truly one of the shining stars of this fest. Check out our interview with Diamond Head here.
Myrkur was next on my schedule and I must say, the controversial Norwegian pop star that moonlights in black metal, was my favorite act of the festival. Why??? The set just moved me. Everyone that’s a fan of music has experienced it when music is so powerful, it hits your soul and you become overwhelmed with emotion. This was the band that did it for me. I listened to “M” a lot during a rough patch in my life. To hear those songs live was captivating. Not only was Bruun spot on with her vocals, she politely thanked the crowd during every break and even curtsied onto the stage at the end of their set.
Between wine and Jaeger breaks, I managed to lose some more of my merch budget at the Roulette wheel and even place a couple of bets at the sports book. This festival rules! Stumbling on (a little bit…), I made it to Ace Frehley. This was a fun set. Kiss songs! New York banter! A smoking guitar solo! Yes, it was as cool/cheesy as it sounded.
Gojira. Now, I’ve seen Gojira a handful of times at different festivals so one thing I will say is that Gojira handled the Joint stage with ease. Between their pyro and light show domination and performing their songs live to perfection, Psycho Las Vegas was no different from the other times I’ve seen them.
I headed over to the Vinyl to catch some of The Skull for the first time. I loved Eric Wagner in Trouble, but if I had to pick between the current line-up of Trouble and The Skull, I’d pick Trouble. Yes, I know that they’re different bands, but The Skull will always be the “other Trouble” in this writer’s mind.
Another bucket list band was next for me. I don’t know how I’ve never been able to catch Neurosis for so long, but it is what it is. That changed for me on Saturday. I grabbed a seat on the upper balcony and soaked it all in. My Captain Obvious summation is that they’re a complex band and it’ll take more than seeing them once to fully appreciate them.
The headliner for Saturday, and for this edition of Psycho Las Vegas, King Diamond was as outstanding as you would expect at this point in his career. His vocals were on point, the theatrics were amazing and the musicianship was top notch. “Abigail” was the mainstay of the set, but there were a couple of Mercyful Fate song and other solo work included in the set. With the sheer number of killer bands that played on Saturday, would Sunday be as good??? I think not.
Sunday: Today was the day Las Vegas caught up with me and I paid for it. After grabbing a late breakfast, I was off to see Cough’s cousin/brother/sister, Windhand. Playing much of their set from 2015’s “Grief’s Infernal Flower”, they knocked the cobwebs off the lunchtime crowd and really set the tone for the rest of the day. The second band on the day for me was Abbath. You don’t have to be a black metal fan to enjoy Abbath; you would be just as entertained, if not more, if he was a bluegrass act. There was the crab walk, there was the banter and there was the…banana??? Some lucky fan caught the edible parthenocarpic souvenir that Abbath threw into the crowd after their set. The banana incident is already legend in Psycho Las Vegas lore.
I stuck around after Abbath’s set to catch another bucket list band, 80’s heavy metal legends, Cirith Ungol. There’s a huge amount of respect and admiration when a band such as Cirith Ungol, is a relevant now as much as they were in their heyday. Playing a lion’s share of tracks from the re-released album, “King of the Dead”, the crowd responded enthusiastically. If you haven’t paid your respects to Cirith Ungol, put them on your bucket list now.
So…this is where Las Vegas caught up to me. Somewhere between a vodka tonic, wine, some shots of Jaeger, a 12% ABV ale, and other assorted beers, I remember that I did indeed see Corrosion of Conformity and Gatecreeper. Unfortunately, what I remember more was sprinting down the casino hallway and barely making it just in time to ruin whomever was in the next stall over’s, bowl movement.
That was it for me, TKO’d like McGregor in the 10th round! Fortunately I made it to my room with everything intact. I woke up around midnight-thirty to the horror and disappointment that I missed both Slomatics and Mastodon. Fuck my life! So, that's all I have for you. Not everything that happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas all the time. Thank you for the memories and see you next year Psycho Las Vegas!!!
Metal isn't just a type of music, it's a lifestyle for Nikos Mixas. In addition to playing guitar for the Phoenix's own Mosara, he's a contributing writer for V13 and The Sludgelord. And when he's taking a break from it all and on vacation, you can almost be certain he's banging his head at a metal festival somewhere interesting.
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