Day 1 – Thursday August 25th Destination Pool Party and Black Mountain
Text & Photos: Tiina Liimu
It was that gut feeling, deep in your belly. A Vegas destination coupled with an impossibly amazing four-day bill. One that showcased some of the heaviest rock and groundbreaking acts circling this planet. You just knew that there was something intense about to happen, a steep descent into a psychotic ride. Never mind the 48 hours of sleep deprivation to get there, even before landing into LAS. So, given the choice of the red pill or blue, and since the effects of the former were wearing thin, it was time pick the blue pill. Once the hotel security checkpoints were cleared to the pool deck, there was no turning back. The Thursday night shows dialed in the tone, a little closer, in preparation for the subterranean procession, which was about to unfold over the next 72 hours.
It was all true. A rock n roll oasis lay beyond those doors. Picture a meandering trail of pools, waterfalls, lined with date palms, and beer-stocked cabanas leading up to the stage. Partying rockers escaped the Vegas heat by taking in the waters as the thundering PA roared. By happy hour, Mothership had landed. These Texans hit the stage under the influence of a heavy 70’s golden mash. Name dropping Hatchet, Sabbath, Maiden and Top as essential ingredients. These contents intermingled and distilled into a whiskey hued sunset, and definitely the fuel for this trio’s Rock and Roll torch. Burning bright into nightfall. Meanwhile, at the other end of the complex, beyond the museum like, guitar lined halls and plazas of slot machines, one of the Hard Rock venues, Vinyl, had finished sound checks and an epic array of bands had started to roll into the hotel.
So, back to the oasis, and yes, things are feeling hungry; despite that, a decision was made to remain poolside amongst a growing and thickening crowd. Mac Sabbath was set to go and I’m thinking, well, not one for cover bands, despite rave reviews from others. Much to my surprise, I was dead wrong; maybe it was time to lighten up. The hijinks and parody flowed freely as the clown suited front man marched onto stage with his costumed ensemble. There was no stone left unturned, nothing, tearing out every out every rock n roll trope as they mocked fast-food by means of the legendary soundtrack. The audience was left completely tattered and gut busted. Captivated by the spectacle interlaced with the love of Sabbath. Between the mischief and the message, there was something rather brilliant going on here. This was definitely a mile marker heading a little further down that rabbit hole.
Mudhoney probably rates high as one of the music geek favorites outta the 80’s and 90’s Pacific Northwest explosion. You know the one – where that coastal music scene was cracked open for the world to hear. Resisting any labels or too much analysis at this point, and their place on this bill? Consider this, the trail they cut for west coast music at the time, the irreverence, and there was something in the attitude – a looseness, and the independent integrity. They obviously still love rock ‘n roll and never really went away nor imploded. The Thursday night set meshed the new and older catalogue. As for the audience, the younger folks had a first time chance to catch them live and the older crew had their opportunity to time travel for an hour or so. They never really lost their humor, either. Witness bass player walking in with uncomfortably small bottoms (swimming trunks?) or the energetic fury unleashed by front man Mark Arm once freed from the guitar and set loose on stage.
As the poolside party thinned and Thursday rolled into Friday, another adjacent event was underway, inside Vinyl. Psychedelia filtered through 70’s heavyweights, Vancouver’s Black Mountain had tainted and permeated the room. Judging by the keen enthusiasm of certain audience members, it played out in a most delightful way. With a 2016 release on the table, titled IV, new sounds were to be expected. One of the odd things I caught live, but would have missed on the recording, was a point where instrumentals and vocal elements seem to cross over or swap. They would chase harmonies between Amber Webber’s and Stephen McBean’s vocals. It was definitely an element of surprise in the performance, in that what I saw and what I heard didn’t jive. I’ve never noticed or caught that before. But, I guess, that is the beauty of live; it was a mad trip, really. Forget the hype and praise aside, and take the time to catch these artists onstage and therein the beauty lies. Pick up the album too, should you choose. Trust this ride.
Stay tuned for more Psycho Las Vegas coverage coming soon…