Text & Photos: Bobby Cochran
In its second year running, Psycho Las Vegas has become THE premiere metal gathering in the United States, drawing worldwide performers and fans alike. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is a surprisingly ideal venue for this jam-packed, expertly-curated festival, with three different sized venues all within a stone’s throw of each other, and an opportunity for many fans to fall into bed a short elevator ride from the club they just walked out of. Even if you’re a person who isn’t excited to immerse yourself in the 24 hour party lifestyle that Vegas embodies and promotes at every turn of the head, there’s no arguing with the convenience of air conditioning, restaurants and bars, PLUS three venues full of amazing bands playing all day and half the night all in the same spot.
While a large portion of acts playing PLV might fit snugly and squarely in the “metal” genre, there’s an interesting and boundary-pushing cultivation of non-metal performers as well, including Friday headliners The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Ethiopian jazz great Mulatu Astatke, Psychedelic pioneers Psychic TV, Avant-experimental legends Swans, and garage rock masters The Murder City Devils. Regardless of how non-metal some of these bands were, they still found large, enthusiastic audiences respectfully (and sometimes enthusiastically) giving them their attention.
Upon arriving, it was immediately clear that it would be a challenge to see and photograph all the bands on the schedule. Music started at 1 PM and was scheduled until 1 AM, with every band overlapping to some degree. The 650 capacity club Vinyl hosted a powerfully stacked lineup of doom, sludge, prog and straight-up rock & roll, including Usnea, Mouth of the Architect, Toke, Khemmis, Royal Thunder, Fister and Black Anvil.
SONS OF OTIS
In the 4000 seat capacity The Joint, the early afternoon included psychedelic doom masters Mothership, PNW black metal kings Wolves In The Throne Room, stoner vets Slo Burn (re-forming for their one and only US performance after their 1997 breakup), and goth queen Chelsea Wolfe. Afternoon turned to evening, and sludge vets The Melvins pushed the sonic envelope to the brim. They were followed by the freakishly compelling Euro-prog ensemble Magma, who had the benefit of playing to a room slowly filling in anticipation for the mighty Sleep. Operatic, dynamic, and totally unconventional, Magma made believers out of more than a few attendees.
The pool stage launched at 7:30 PM with a ripping set from North Carolina’s Young And In The Way. Stage flanked by hooded, topless women hoisting YAITW flags, the Vegas heat did nothing to temper the power and magnitude of their set, and also provided inspiration for the first mosh pit of the festival. Prog-thrashers Vhol were up next with a crushing 45 minute set, and masterful doom trio Sumac brought a power and commitment that very few could compete with. The pool stage wound down with Portland’s Dark Castle, and headliner Pelican closed things down with a brilliant and masterful post-metal set.
YOUNG AND IN THE WAY
Inside The Joint, Sleep got off to a late start due to some technical difficulties but blew the roof off the place nevertheless. Bathed in green light, and pummelling eardrums with the opening chords of “Dopesmoker,” Sleep was clearly the pinnacle of the evening with their hour-plus set of seminal anthems, including “Holy Mountain,” “The Clarity,” “Dragonaut” and “Cultivator.” Mulatu Astatke was up next, and his six-piece jazz ensemble brought things to a more chill level and soothed the large crowd still reeling after Sleep’s set. Brian Jonestown Massacre went onstage over an hour after their scheduled start time, and managed to entertain the slowly thinning crowd till well after 3 AM.
And that’s just the first day.