I wake up. Another day. Another strange bed. Minimal sleep. The usual. I knew I’d have to go do some interviews and maybe get some food down my gullet but as for now I just wanted to meander around the strip – watching the hungover white girls who didn’t get laid wander home. Watching the weird drunk bros look around with confused faces. It’s the sort of thing that a guy like me can’t help but to love. It capitalizes upon the surreal magic of Las Vegas – something that added to the mystique of the festival. This is mad all the more prescient as I write this in the Vegas airport where the slot machines are set up so that once you get out of the plane you can immediately start gambling. There is nothing quite like Las Vegas.
The Hard Rock Casino is a cool place to have a show and I was excited to discover The Joint and Vinyl stages. Though the Paradise Pool was surreal and beautiful it was nice to get a chance to hang out at venues that felt a little more… venue-y. The Joint of course was a massive three thousand-odd person arena that made for some truly exciting performances. Meanwhile – Vinyl has a much more club feel – relatively speaking of course. It can still hold 850 people and it was jam packed for many of the sets that would grace it throughout the weekend.
As I waited for friends to arrive and wrapped up the few interviews I was able to put together before anything too important started, I got the chance to watch some of Holy Grove’s set. It was exciting to witness what these guys had put together – all the moreso as they prepare for their first European tour. With massive vocals, a fat bottom end and songwriting that borders on the transcendent it became clear to me that Holy Grove are the sort of band who can take the scene by storm. As opposed to many of their peers they have a healthy respect for the old blues tradition and they take it to its logical extreme with potent songwriting that makes me curious about what more will come from these Portland heavy rockers.
Trying to get into Yob saw the first real problem of the weekend – the line to get into The Joint. With every fan having to endure a security check, many folks missed half of the bands set, having assumed that they could just get in two minutes before the band started. Given Yob’s status as one of the most highly vaunted bands of the festival in a subpar time slot this led to a lot of frustration. That being said – Yob’s performance was stunning. Sure I had to drink a fifteen dollar beer while watching them but it was worth it. Why? Because Yob is love and Yob is life. Yob proved once again they are one of the best things to ever happen to music. This set was extra special because they focused a lot more on older material – a nice change from the recent Clearing The Path To Ascend centric tours. Sure I love that record but I was happy to see the band offering new stuff in a live setting.
Up next for me was the almighty Elder. They are the rare band who I have always preferred to watch on big stages simply because their music, especially the new material, makes a lot more sense in that context. It’s only a matter of time before they get pulled onto an arena tour. As is – it was a lot of fun to watch skinny Jesus and his bearded disciples shake, rattle and roll their way through an hour long set. Elder have managed to turn their live performance into something truly special, the Boston visionaries working together to refine the sort of sound that many of their peers can only dream of one day being able to emulate. Elder left me, and the gathered masses in awe – because this is what rock and roll should really be about.
Part of the magic of Psycho Las Vegas is that you have pretty much every possible fan of certain bands in the same place. A perfect example of this would be Crypt Sermon – a group who due to familial and work obligations are pretty limited from touring but have managed to play one offs at some very cool festivals. The last time I saw them was in a tiny basement in Philly so it has been really cool to watch them grow up like this. Their frontman is like a young Rob Halford, his massive pipes guiding the top notch doomy, NWOBHM inspired riffs forward through crushing track after crushing track. Crypt Sermon left even the uninitiated in awe. I would go so far as to say that they were one of the most raved about artists of the weekend.
Of course – I had yet to see one of my truly underground darlings. There aren’t a lot of bands who I’m as deeply in love with as Sacramento’s Chrch. They are the kind of band who have managed to perfectly refine all of the current trends in the doom scene to create something magical. The crushing melodies, haunting vocals and pulsating rhythm section draw you in and refuse to spit you out. Their frontwoman puts on a stunning performance, her veiled face a perfect allegory for the power behind the music. Though I was extremely stressed, scouring the festival for interviews, Chrch were one of the few moments that I could truly relax and find some sort of peace. They are one of the most perfectly balanced doom bands going right now and it will be fascinating to watch them grow over the next few years.
I realize that throughout this festival I probably skipped a handful of ‘classic’ bands that many readers might never forgive me for having ignored. I don’t regret this at all. Aside from the fact that many of these classic bands still tour a lot and I’ve seen them already, I feel like the way Psycho was set up was not about the major bands. Psycho existed to showcase some of the smaller and more fascinating acts that have started to find a very significant place in the scene. The big boys were merely there for flavor, and occasionally to provide truly life changing performances.
So perhaps that explains why I skipped Pentagram and Down so I could go see Satan’s Satyrs play the pool stage. It’s been a pleasure watching these guys grow up over the years, especially now that they have added a new guitarist. As they came off the stage they were all raving – why? Because it was one of their best performances to date. Satan’s Satyrs are the sort of potent rock and roll force who should be playing open air festivals to three hundred thousand people, or doing things like this. They capture the essence of rock and roll and have made for something that was fun and passionate in a way that few of us could ever properly understand. Satan’s Satyrs are a guaranteed good time, only accentuated by drinking martinis and sitting in a cabana.
Another can’t miss band on the festival, especially in the poolside context, came on next, the almighty Tribulation. These androgynous glam metal vampires never fail to deliver and they have the same sort of transcendent magic playing to a pool full of people as they do in massive rooms. Tribulation understand their own inherent bombast. They understand what it means to capture an audience and make them truly excited for black metal again. In a world where corpse paint is largely a joke, Tribulation give it legitimacy. Their swooping stage gestures and blistering riffs are exciting, hyper speed and doomed to make you fall in love.
I was thrilled to have the chance to finally see Death. Under the big city lights they couldn’t help but to impress. It was awesome to see a group of dudes with as much of a history behind them as they do play a show with that much energy. Psycho was the perfect setting for this kind of thing too. Everyone in the crowd was a vinyl freak and we all knew this bands musical heritage. They kept us in thrall, reminding us where we come from and providing a weird link back to the music of so many of our heroes. Death are a rock and roll band for the ages – bridging the gap between blues and punk and helping us to see so much more beyond that.
The night was to come to a close with one of my most hotly anticipated groups of the weekend – the almighty Arthur Brown. This was a guy I had NEVER imagined I would see – and yet there he was – somehow out on the mainstage dancing around ferociously. The God Of Electric Hellfire hasn’t lost a mote of his charm with age, wearing garish costumes and unleashing an at times frightening stage show. The climax of course came when he pranced through the audience. It was a moment of intimacy that many of us could only dream of. The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown is massive and freakish. Full to the brim with dancing women, elaborate performances and exciting deliveries. The audience held on rapt to his every word – he is the kind of all that we hold dear and we know we wouldn’t have any of this without him.
As Arthur Brown wrapped up we found ourselves whisked back to the neverending party of the center bar. Everyone who was anyone in the metal scene was there, from Phil Anselmo’s bodyguard to Brian Slagel, CEO of Metal Blade. Yet I got the distinct impression this wasn’t really supposed to be a networking event. It was more of an opportunity to hang out with some of your closest buddies and shoot the shit. It just so happened that some of the people you were shooting the shit with played in bands like Death. That was to be the highlight of the night, or so I thought, and then Arthur Brown showed up. Quiet, discrete and happy to just have a long chat with anyone who happened to spot him it was perfectly in character. It spoke to the magic of the festival and made me excited about how much more there was to come.
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