Psycho Las Vegas – the greatest American heavy music festival of all time? Probably. Freaks from all over the world gathered to see one of the most riotous and brilliantly put together lineups of all time. For a couple of days, The Hard Rock Casino was turned into a stoner and doom metal fans paradise. We had come for the music and stayed because we were a part of something that was surreal. In a world where metal festivals have started to blow up, but often with lineups that alienate those of us deep into the darkest corners of the music world, Psycho Las Vegas catered to us. It was a festival that showed us there is a way forward and represents the demented clusterfuckery of this whole world. We got together, did drugs, drank beers and then turned psychotic. This is what rock and roll is all about.
It was my first time in Vegas, I got picked up from the airport by my friend Lou, one of the most controversial liberal political writers in America right now. After a short car ride we arrived at his place – a modest duplex. Within two minutes of entering Lou had offered me a double shot of Hennessy and was doing cocaine off of his kitchen table. This is what Las Vegas is supposed to be about. I had been awake for way too long already and knew that the night wouldn’t end before five in the morning at the earliest. This was going to be an adventure of a truly epic scale, one which I would never forget and which would leave me broken and sad – a fragile husk of a man – but one who had seen some of the most triumphant rock and roll known to this world.
Getting into the festival was an ordeal in and of itself. Lou and I wandered around the casino for two hours unable to figure out where we needed to be or why our passes were getting messed up. This was a running theme for the weekend. I don’t want to undervalue the work put in by the organizers – but there definitely comes a point where it’s a little frustrating. There was a lot of running around and trying to hook things up. I will point out though that most of this came from a journalist, artist and photographer perspective. The normal festival goers seemed to have a good time and not feel too stressed out. The only major issue was that some of the lines got out of hand – having to check bags all the time was frustrating and made peoples lives a bit difficult.
In fact – one of the key elements of the weekend was the bizarre mix between psychotic bands and face tattooed hippies playing loud guitars with the Hard Rock Casino’s corporate structure. As a general rule things went a lot better than I expected and I think everyone was pretty happy with the overall execution of the festival. Still – it’s strange to be watching a band with uniformed security guys casting a suspicious gaze over you. That being said – Vegas is always weird so maybe this just was a key part of the experience.
Of course – I still hadn’t gotten to the bands. I moseyed on over to the stage – starting off by watching some small no name acts have the time of their lives rocking out for the few hundred people who had arrived early. This alone was really cool to see. Sure I don’t remember a lot of their sets but people were there – the magic was in the air. I bumped into friends from all over the world, even dudes I hadn’t seen in years. If you can’t get behind something like that I don’t know what you can dig. Rock and roll is a weird and magical thing and even though there weren’t bands I knew about yet, I was warm, drunk and feeling the vibes.
The first band I truly cared about seeing at the festival was of course the almighty Electric Citizen. It had been a hot minute since I’d seen these fine young folks and was impressed as always with their performance. The band is amazingly tight – exciting to watch and full of rock and roll energy. Their Pentagram worship is obviously clear, but there is so much more to their sound. Laura Dolan is a golden god – her stage attire is merely the icing on the cake. This is a band who are passionate and proud. Electric Citizen are the kind of rock and roll band who take no prisoners and elevate the entire dialogue around the genre.
Up next were the fabulous dudes in Mothership. This is one of my favorite live bands on the planet right now and this show saw them live up to that reputation. Mothership rock hard and ride free. Their live performance is always stunning and watching Kelly Juett rip out insane solo after inane solo while chilling in a pool drinking a beer was a glorious experience. Mothership were the perfect kind of band for this festival – they have that seventies attitude that so many of their peers try to emulate but also bring out a killer live performance that leaves you with your fist in the air. If you’re looking for a helluva good time this is a band who will never disappoint.
Mac Sabbath has long been one of my favorite live bands. They are a band who understand what it means to deliver a truly funny and inspirational live set. Mac Sabbath understand the magic of live music and the fact that a lot of heavy music fanatics are fed up with how serious this whole scene is. So what do they do? They fucking party. They wear stupid costumes and pull off ridiculous stage shows. It’s a good time. It’s a dumb time to be sure, but it’s something that anyone can love because Mac Sabbath is universal. They are a band who speak to the human condition inasmuch as our need for levity even with the darkest arts. It makes me want to come back and see these strange clowns again, and excited I have the chance to do just that in less than ten days.
I wandered over to the bar and started drinking with the Chrch dudes. Las Vegas is a fun city to get lost in. It’s a city of fallen angels, of people who have gambled their lives away and who don’t mind paying for it. In other words it’s kind of my dream come true. When you dive into the madness of Las Vegas you dive into the madness of self. You have to cope with a sort of internal drama, demons torn from the heart of the doom freaks soul and cast unto the earth. In other words – though Psycho had just started I knew I was going to go insane.