The 15 Most Awesome Things We Saw At Psycho Las Vegas 2016
Last weekend's Psycho Las Vegas festival brought nearly 100 hard rock and heavy metal bands together for a four day celebration which proved that these genres have much more diversity and forward momentum than some in the media would have you believe. Here are just some of the highlights that have us already dream-booking next year's gathering:
1. Matt Pike for President!
Metal's current reigning guitar riff lord had both of his bands - stoner-rock pioneers Sleep and the more pummeling High on Fire - perform at the festival. Approximately 30% of the shirts worn throughout the weekend by festival attendees featured the logo of one of those groups (particularly Sleep), which is pretty ironic considering his own "never wear a shirt on stage" policy. But regardless, Pike and his bandmates rewarded the fans for all these public displays of loyalty with powerful sets on both nights.
2. Seniority Rules
Two of the most amazing, energetic and well-received shows of the weekend were delivered by Pentagram (fronted by 62-year old Bobby Liebing, effortlessly commanding the stage and absolutely resplendent in his new puffy-sleeved throwback shirt) and the apparently timeless 74-year old Arthur Brown. Take THAT, Roger Daltrey!
3. Midnight Brought the Fire
The editor of our new sister publication CLRVYNT made us promise not to miss Midnight's set, and after half an hour of getting our heads set straight by their bare-knuckled blend of Venom and Motorhead, which concluded with the executioner-hooded band setting a guitar on fire, carrying it through the crowd, and putting it out by cannon-balling into the Hard Rock's pool, we were very grateful for the tip. See it all for yourself here:
4. Black Mountain Stands Tall
After an exceptionally long travel day, three-hour time change and with eight hours of standing up for rock and roll already under out belts by the time their opening night 1 AM set came around, we were a little worried about mustering up energy worthy of Black Mountain. Of course, about two minutes in their absolutely perfect blend of hard rock riffs, dreamy folk vocals and proggy space keyboards had us wishing they'd play twice as long.
5. Can Someone Introduce the Budos Band to Neil Fallon?
Soon after being mesmerized by Budos Band's unique blend of fuzzed-out rock, soul and irresistible horn lines, I asked my buddy what singer could possibly hang with them. Expecting this question to stump him for the rest of the day, I was instead immediately hit back with the perfect answer: Clutch's Neil Fallon, whose booming voice would fit in (and at the right moments, stand out) just amazingly. Have your people call each other!
6. New Favorite Band: Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
We already knew Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats were cool based on their albums, but seeing them live was a whole new kettle of fish. They had the clearest, crispest sound of any of the bands we saw this weekend, and it's a shame that scheduling problems (unusual for this highly organized weekend) caused their set to be cut short about 15 minutes, because we were hanging on every note. Don't miss them if their current tour is coming to your town!
7. Proper Parenting Begins in Las Vegas
Major props to the highly expectant mother-to-be (and her extremely caring partner) who we sat next to twice at poolside, for carrying her unborn child all over the festival and exposing them to excellent, unconventional music right from the get-go. Your kid's got a big head start on the pop-radio drones out there!
8. Electric Wizard Brought the Heavy
We kept waiting for the Joint's stage to collapse under the immense, trudging weight of Electric Wizard's wondrously monolithic riffs. Or for a herd of dinosaurs to crash into the venue, or maybe that big black stone whale ship from Star Trek IV. We're pretty sure none of those things would have fazed the band in the slightest.
9. Rant of the Weekend: All Z-Tuners Must Die!
In between delivering incredibly precise, powerful metal songs as the frontman for Danava, Gregory Meleney took a series of extended, possibly alcohol-fueled and extremely profane shots at down tuned peers - as his bandmates alternately laughed and signaled someone backstage to cut him off. The most concise quote we remember is: "F--- you if you tune down to z, we hate you!"
10. Down Stays on the Down Low
Meanwhile, Down made their first US festival appearance since singer Phillip Anselmo's controversial on-stage actions earlier this year, and they marked the occasion by... simply rocking the hell out, trouble-free! Hopefully their 3rd "IV" EP is on the way soon, and we also can't wait to hear the album Pepper's cooking up with C.O.C.
11. Blue Oyster Cult Flies the Old-School Flag Proudly
With anywhere from one to three guitarists depending on the needs of any particular song, Blue Oyster Cult represented Long Island and the rock's early days quite proudly with their impeccably tight and powerful show. We just wish they had laid into the main riff of "Godzilla" a bit more prominently than they did on their overly gimmicked-up version of the song. We don't need the same sing-alongs and Led Zeppelin musical quotes as the masses, sirs - you had us at hello.
12. Boris' Wata Brought the Speed
In Bull Durham, Crash Davis tells Nuke LaLoosh, "When you were a baby, the Gods reached down and turned your right arm into a thunderbolt." Well, they must have done the same thing with Wata's right hand because, holy hell...
13. Fu Manchu Blast Off
Another clear weekend highlight was the dynamic set delivered by Fu Manchu Sunday afternoon. The group seems to be exploring the spacier side of their music a bit more in concert lately - as they did on their most recent album, Gigantoid. It'll be really interesting to see if this trend continues with their next studio effort. Of course, have no fear, this only gives more weight to beloved riff-rockers such as "Pigeon Toe" and "King of the Road."
14. Alice Cooper Brought... Everything
Fresh off his tour alongside Johnny Depp and Joe Perry in the Hollywood Vampires, Alice Cooper's already back on the road with his own band, and of course you won't be surprised to know that he had the charisma, the band, the stagecraft and most importantly the songs to more than justify his lofty festival-closing spot.
15. All Roads Lead to Psycho Las Vegas 2017!
As best as we can count, we saw 42 different bands over the four-day weekend. There was not a lot of sleep on the agenda. Two days later our old-man necks and knees still ache, and despite our earplugs there still seems to be a doorbell constantly ringing somewhere in the distance. And yet the only question we have is.. how soon until we can go back for Psycho 2017?