The inevitable question from people when I talk about my experience at any festival is always, “So who played?” My response is usually unexpected for them as I respond, “It doesn’t really matter.” Even though there were copious amounts of great bands playing Psycho, the music always tends to be secondary at festivals for me. I learned a few festivals ago that if the music is your solitary focus, you really overlook the entire experience. If you miss a few minutes of a band you were planning on seeing, it is no big deal. Even if you only caught the last few songs of a band you were stoked to catch, the sentiment is the same. The few exceptions are going to be bands that are once in a lifetime possibilities such as the original Misfits. Honestly, the Misfits stole Psycho from everyone else. As many killer bands that were on the festival, there was something special about the Misfits set. I was more of a passive fan of the band since I didn’t go backward from Danzig, but that has changed after seeing them live. Even with the few technical difficulties that resulted in Doyle not being present for the first few songs, the band sounded great. Danzig was on it that night and the stage production was over the top with two huge Halloween pumpkins on stage and LCD screens displaying old school movie images or the lyrics from “Where Eagles Dare.” I was only going to stay for an hour and go catch another band, but I stayed for the whole set. I answer the “go-to” question now by replying, the Misfits headlined Psycho Las Vegas.
Psycho officially started with the pool pre-party on Thursday featuring Corrosion of Conformity, Lucifer, Primitive Man and ASG to name a few. The atmosphere for this show was chill and completely different from other metal shows. It’s always a bit disarming to see the supposed hard-ass metal men and women in bathing suits looking out of place at a pool. People were blasting beach balls across the pool and dancing in the water flipping it everywhere to the beat of COC. It was a bit of an early show that ended before 11 so that gave us plenty of time to go and wander the casino. We hit some bars and just had a fun time in Mandalay before staying up excessively late and realizing that we would eventually have to get up the next day. Again, this is the rest of the festival enjoyment that isn’t music related I always mention. I call it the full festival experience.
Even though it was a three-day festival, anyone who has been to these types of shows before understands that it is actually one long day with a few occasional moments of sleep. It also doesn’t matter if you don’t know every band at the festival, just go watch random ones and you may find a new favorite artist. I turned my friends on to ILSA, Devil Master and Tomb Mold while one of my friends turned me on to Truck Fighters. Since I haven’t been to the other years of Psycho, I am not sure how easy or difficult it was to jump from stage to stage, but it felt seamless at Mandalay. The different stages also gave off unique vibes for the bands and made all these various shows appear like individual concerts with their own feelings even though they were all technically crammed together in one spot. I guess that is the wonderment of Vegas, perhaps why the festival was moved here a few years back? Regardless of the reason, because I don’t actually know, I feel like Vegas really is the perfect spot for a festival like Psycho since you can get the big feel of an outdoor festival in a central location with easy access. There were some great moments when other convention-goers witnessed the Psycho attendees as they passed by each other in the walkways. Watching their faces trying to interpret what was happening was priceless. The House of Blues is a great mid-range size venue that gave a good club feel to shows while the Events Center gave a great arena feel that fit the Misfits, Opeth, Uncle Acid, Clutch, and countless others perfectly. One of the more special stages is outside on the “beach” at a wave pool. Some bands fit the beach atmosphere great, but even better were the bands that didn’t meld with it at all. Having the Norwegian black metal band 1349 reverberate my eardrums with pure bliss as I was wading in ankle-deep water was a once in a lifetime experience. The unyielding dichotomy of that moment will live in my mind forever. The permanence of that moment is also because other black metal fans were all lined up at the water as if it was an uncross-able moat. They just couldn’t roll up their black pants to get in the water.
Moments like this are what you can expect, music memories from some of your favorite bands in unexpected scenarios and walking away impressed by a band you never heard of before. Good times with friends, meeting new people from around the country and the world that share your same musical taste, gambling until the sun comes up, or not even seeing the sun for almost 48 hours (which I had done) and walking two miles to White Castle at 3 am (also did). While wandering around the casino you can see random musicians of bands that weren’t even playing. They were there as fans, also to have a good time and support some of their friends playing. I walked behind Mikael from Opeth going into the Misfits show and he seemed excited to see them as well. Full festival experience in effect.
This is the first year I have attended any incantation of a Psycho festival and I didn’t really know what to expect. With all of the venues located in Mandalay Bay Resort, it made going from show to show almost too easy. Even with short times between bands or even overlapping times, there wasn’t a worry as the other venue was literally a five or ten-minute walk away. Mandalay Bay and their staff were courteous and helpful as well. I have never been called “sir” so many times in my life. The staff and Psycho organization deserve recognition for how well this festival was run and how smoothly everything went on the concertgoer side. Even if things had gone awry or if there were any issues on the back end, no one would have ever had an idea there was a problem. Even when bands dropped out like Rotting Christ or Megadeth due to Mustaine’s health, Psycho stepped up with great replacements like Weedeater and The Misfits. They made it seem as it wasn’t even an effort and they had great bands just waiting around for their phone call. It was very similar to a well-run festival overseas, well done Psycho. If you have never been to Psycho Las Vegas, you need to go to at least once. That one time will probably make you want to go back. I will be there next year and the year after that for as long as I can. If it is moved to a different city, I will follow it there too. Viva Psycho!
Band highlights for me in no particular order:
- Tomb Mold destroying the House Of Blues and realizing that the secret is out about this band, HOB was packed. Check these guys out!
- Goatwhore at HOB, these guys just don’t know how to suck at metal. Never disappointed me, solid band, since forever.
- ILSA is a doom band I hope gets bigger as their talent deserves it, look into them for quality doom!
- En Minor is Phil Anselmo doing throwback sounding acoustic tunes with a bluesy/jazz feel at times. Phil at his most mellow and I dug it, a good changeup.
- Finally being able to catch the band Old Man Gloom, I was happy to see them with a million-dollar sound system behind them.
- Beach bands: YOB, Truck Fighters, Bad Religion and of course 1349 which I will remember forever.
- Rushing out of the killer Misfits show to see Full of Hell push the intensity level to the extreme at HOB.
- Watching Vio-lence create the biggest pit I saw all festival at the HOB with their insanely fast riffage and chaotic sound.
- Can’t forget Carcass blowing out eardrums, the most fun crowd participation during Clutch and just a damn good time with High On Fire’s powerful low end chugging invading your soul at the Events Center.
- All the rest of the bands that I didn’t mention, you were all amazing as well. Thank you all for coming out to participate in Psycho Las Vegas and I hope you had just as much fun as I did!
Host of Into The Pit