I woke from my secular haze and stumbled into the haunting Las Vegas morning. I had passed out at 6 in the morning on a couch the night before and wondered why my whole body hurt. Maybe standing in the sun for days on end with minimal sleep isn’t good for you – who would have thought! Yet this was only the second real day of the festival, so even though my body said no, my spirit cried never. I made my way back to the Hard Rock, over those blasted Las Vegas hills, drinking that awful Las Vegas water and hoping that I could possibly locate some free alcohol to toss down my gullet before once more becoming a thrall to the madness.
Part of what I love about Psycho Las Vegas is that it feels like one of those cruise ship metal shows, inasmuch as it is in a resort and there is minimal separation between artists and fans. Yet it doesn’t have a lot of the limitations those sorts of shows tend to have. Namely – you can leave. Not everyone gets sick. Your hotel room isn’t ridiculously small. It created a powerful overall vibe that left many feeling like the festival was a sort of land out of time – a doom metal mecca for the modern man to escape into.
These were the thoughts going through my head as I made my way over to see my favorite band currently going the almighty Subrosa. It was my first time watching them play new material and I was in total awe. This was an especially stunning and emotive performance from a band who are known for being stunning and emotive. These guys have been through a lot over the last year and seem to be destined for far greater things but they have also have to face the harsh limitations that impact all bands in the modern age. They are perhaps the band that will save the world, but that’s a lot of pressure to have on you. When all comes undone a band like Subrosa have the potential to stick around and provide ascension for all of mankind. Their set left me with goosebumps and even as I think back to it now I can’t help but to shiver.
I was disappointed that I missed Budos Band – but then how are you supposed to see everything you want to at these sorts of things? Instead I had to go prepare for an interview with Death Alley which gave me a chance to watch Demon Lung for a few minutes. One of the few bands on the festival I wasn’t previously familiar with, Demon Lung had a sort of thrilling majesty that kept the audience enslaved to their triumph. It’s the bands like these that truly excite me, they hint at other potent futures and make me curious about how this life, and this scene, will unfold.
Fortunately I got out of my interviews in time to catch some of Boris’s set. This is a band who are simply immense in their sound, transcendent in their delivery and seemingly doomed to carry us all to greater heights. Watching how they control sheer mountains of volume is inspiring and it suggests to me that there is far more to Boris than might initially meet the eye. They played with the same sort of intense live energy that has made them so popular and successful over the years. They aren’t really musicians at this point as much as they are sound architects. They take what they want and slowly craft the waves of noise into something that travels beyond the realms of death.
Of course – I’m getting too poetic. What matters is the next batch of bands I saw. I left Boris early so that I could catch some of Ides Of Gemini (Shoutout to the promoters for stacking things so that you could usually catch at least half of every set!) They are a band who I had never expected to see on the East coast so I was excited for the chance here. Ides Of Gemini bank on the same sort of transcendence as a band like Chrch. Sure – they might not totally be there yet, but at the same time they just had a pretty major lineup shift. They still have some of the strongest songs in doom today and watching those unfold was a real pleasure.
Saturday once again saw some problems with the lines. This time with the Pool stage. Whereas the crew manning The Joint seemed to abandon their desire to search everyone, the Paradise Pool’s folks seemed to maintain vigilance. Of course I can’t fault them for doing their jobs, but it was just frustrating to miss Jucifer because the line I was in was so long that by the time I got anywhere near the door they had finished. I know some of this is my fault for not planning ahead, but I really would like to see the festival streamline access to these areas next year. Tied into this was some of the confusion over different levels of access. Even folks with all access passes had a hard time getting from place to place. I appreciate that Psycho is a massive machine, it was just concerning to see it straining at the seams so often.
I dipped out of the hellish pool line in time to see Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats. I had forgotten how much I loved this band. It had been a while since I had even listened to them, but as soon as you get into the room and feel their trademark throb come over the whole crowd you can’t help but to fall in love again. The have one of the most impressive and immersive live shows in heavy music today, it’s no wonder that they had one of the best attended shows of the festival with everyone fully embracing the twisted majesty of what they had refined. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats might be anti-rockstars for a new generation.
As Uncle Acid wrapped up I made my way over to the Paradise Pool stage to watch Acid King’s stunning set. They have long been one of my favorite bands and I had never previously had a chance to see them. Watching them tear it up with their distinctive brand of sludgy metal madness was delicious. With guest spots from members of Black Cobra and demented growls that seemed torn from another world it was surreal to watch a band this enormous sounding play to such a cheery looking environment. The crowd was entranced though. I sat there watching the ritual with the dudes from Belzebong and Tombstones and couldn’t help but embrace the strange magic of the music. This was the sort of set that made PSycho shine, slowed down, tripped out and overwhelmingly beautiful.
As you can probably tell the schedule had started to blow up around this point. That’s the beauty of festivals like this – you get band after band coming on stages all across the grounds. It should come as no surprise then that I had to run off afterwards to see Blue Oyster Cult – a band who fulfilled pretty much on every promise I had ever heard about them. This is the sort of band who truly deliver on the rock and roll dream. They understand the core concepts of a genre that has spiraled into something far greater. Blue Oyster Cult are simply fun to watch live. They understand why nerds like me are in love with their music but are still fundamentally a pop band. They unleash some powerful tunes that will get your fist in the air – a slave to the inherent magic that this kind of music has always had.
Coming on immediately after Blue Oyster Cult was of course the mythical Electric Wizard. Most people have never seen this band – especially not since this whole scene blew up. As one would expect they were utterly annihilating. It’s rare that you have a band this purely heavy and able to control so much raw sound. It was weird to see a generation of bands that descended from them play all day before watching the forefathers themselves – and in some ways I was a little too primed. There had been too much stoner doom in my diet making this just a bit redundant. Still – any Electric Wizard is good Electric Wizard and I will never tire of watching their mastery as it unfolds across stages all across the globe.
On this particular evening bands played until seven in the morning at the Vinyl stage. Though I have no clear memories of any of these bands (I got drunk to the point that it caused me physical pain) I was just stoked that I could wander in and out of a killer doom show while getting hammered with all my best buddies. It’s a cool vibe to have and adds to the timelessness of Las Vegas. There is no time to sit down and chill out because all of the coolest stuff is going down all the time. Psycho Las Vegas just so happens to be the stoner metal equivalent of that – all of your favorite bands and the best people in a tiny and strangely comforting space which we all want to be a part of because for once we are finally united in our passions.