With “Legalize Drugs & Murder” shirts never far away, Psycho Las Vegas officially began on Friday, August 26. Long hair, black shirts, and patched vests invaded the Hard Rock Hotel. With three venues at the hotel, there were some tough calls to make on each day in terms of who to see. Luckily on this day, there were not any major conflicts for me. They had The Joint, a large main stage, Vinyl, a more intimate bar-sized stage, and the Paradise Pool outside. There was a pre-show the day before, read my review of that here.
Yob was the first major band that day a 2 pm at The Joint, but unfortunately the security line was ridiculously long so I only caught the last ten minutes of their set. But God damn I savored it. They were a tour de force to be reckoned with and played most of their Atma album. Luckily I’ve seen them twice before, but it was a bummer to miss out. Oh well, next time then.
Gozu from Boston played at the Vinyl and delivered some high-octane, in-your-face metal. Singer Marc Gaffney‘s rough and gruff voice added to the entertainment. The thrash attack was cool, but they had some issues with the drums and had to start their set late. The problems continued to the point where toward the end, the drummer couldn’t play. However, it’s not about if a band has technical difficulties, but how they play it off. The band – sans their percussionist – got soulful and covered D’Angelo‘s “Brown Sugar”. It was completely improvised, but made for an interesting set. The audience started clapping, filling in for the percussion. They ended up having only a half hour set, but it was a unique experience. That’s the fun about live shows: you never know what you’re going to get.
The stoner favorite Elder took The Joint next. I’ve listened to them a bit here and there, but they never impressed me. Their set didn’t change that. I don’t see music as good or bad, I see it as interesting and uninteresting. Elder for me falls into the later category. I know they have a pretty big fanbase, so they must be doing something right, but there’s more interesting stuff out there.
I left in the middle of Elder’s set for Crypt Sermon at the Vinyl, who are from my home turf of Philly. I’ve seen them before, but I knew I’d enjoy them over Elder. Their Candlemassian epic doom sound was too good to pass up. The group performed most of their debut record and premiered a new number which feels in par with the rest of their material. “Byzantium” is still my go-to track of theirs. The intro/outro has a really majestic tone. Frontman Brooks Wilson continues to shine, waving his hands about like the story teller he is. The singer definitely has a Dio vibe (he’s short too!). I’ll be seeing them again in a month opening for Saint Vitus. Can’t wait.
Doom legends Pentagram took The Joint at 8 pm. I’ve witnessed the band live a few times already, but this was special. It’s funny, to someone who doesn’t know the history of the band, they’d probably be like “why do they have this old guy singing?” Objectively, Bobby Liebling isn’t a good vocalist anymore. Sure, he’s competent, but that’s about all I can say. Though as a frontman, he just oozes entertainment. Whether he’s looking intensely at someone in the audience or dry humping the amps, I just couldn’t take my eyes off him. There is a certain magnetism to him.
The band had a pretty stellar setlist too. They had their usual suspects and “All Your Sins” continues to shine live. That one really makes me want to punch someone in the face. It just has this violent feel to it. “Dead Bury Dead” from their new album was a pleasant surprise for me live. I was never really a fan of that one, but now I am. During the final song “20 Buck Spin,” every member was Bobby Liebling. They were just milking that main riff and extended the song for as long as possible while going crazy. Guitarist Victor Griffin was flinging his guitar all around and I thought he was going to smash it. Just another example of the unpredictability of lives shows!
Satan’s Satyrs followed directly after Pentagram at the pool. They’re basically a combination of Black Sabbath, Pentagram, and Venom damned to hell, then fed through a guitar amp. This is the third time I’ve seen them and they get better every time. Frontman Clayton Burgess eats up every minute on stage for all its worth. They’re total wild men on stage, but their playing is flawless. There is a certain controlled chaos with the group. They recently added Nate Towle of Wicked Inquisition as their second guitarist. I liked them as a power trio, but a second guitar definitely gives their sound a more little umph. “You-Know-Who” in particular was enhanced, a song that I previously didn’t care much for. Satan’s Satyrs are punk surf rock in hell and I love it.
Beelzefuzz destroyed at the Vinyl. The group just released their sophomore album, and they played a number of tracks from it. I really dig their variety. They had a really droney track that sounded ominous as hell. It was hurting my ears and I had plugs in! Singer Dana Ortt sounds a bit like Bobby Liebling, which works with their old-school doom sound, though they still experiment and chart new territory. Catchy riffs and melodies are abundant. “Lotus Jam” is a fan favorite for sure with its trippy psychedelic overtones. I really need to familiarize myself with their material more. Seeing Beelzefuzz here meant that I saw all the bands at this show last year in the first two days of Psycho alone.
Afterwards at the pool stage was Death. No, Chuck Schuldiner did not rise from the grave, this was the band from the early ’70s. As the man who intro’d them said: “They were punk before punk was punk”. They kind of came and went decades ago, but only got recognition recently, largely because of reforming and a documentary made about them. It was interesting seeing a slice of nearly forgotten history. The basslines of Bobby Hackney were groovy and playful, particularity on their hit “Politicians in My Eyes”. They had some innovative stuff for their time and it still holds up today. They’re almost like the Pentagram of punk. Though one of their newer songs “Playtime” felt like a ’90s sitcom intro. Probably a fun one for the kids.
Before the headliner, comedian Brian Posehn had a set at The Joint. It was a nice break from the norm and a good way to sit down and relax. He performed his brand of self-deprecating humor, telling a story about how his six year old son teabagged him. He had a heckler or two, but handled them with ease.
Headlining the night was The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, who hasn’t toured the U.S. since 1969! He is famous for the 1968 psychedelic hit “Fire,” which was pretty edgy for the time. Outside of that hit, he’s had an eclectic output, with jazz and folk mixed in. His stage show was very theatrical, having a costume change between nearly every song, including a glowing fiber optic suit. He had colorful facepaint that even embraced his male-pattern baldness. Considering the fact that this man is 72 and still performing, he killed it vocally.
He brought on dancers on and off for a few of his numbers, which only added to his showmanship. “Fire” was extended beyond belief and he even walked out into the audience. His setlist contained the dark and beautiful “Kites” as well as a cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You,” which was a clear influence on him. Speaking of influences: Alice Cooper, Bobby Liebling, even Ronald Osbourne of Mac Sabbath. All playing at this festival, all walking in the footsteps of Mr. Brown. His influence is indescribable and the man still gives a damn good performance.
After Arthur Brown finished, I caught a bit of The Rare Breed at the Vinyl at 2 am. They (probably) took their name from the band that Ozzy and Geezer Butler were in before Black Sabbath. And naturally, they have that old-school ’70s metal sound. Also frontman Oscar De La Torre is the spitting image of Kirk Hammett. Seriously, that shit is weird.
Day one of Psycho was a crazy start. Most of the performances I saw and music I heard were excellent. There were many examples of how live music is a very unique experience that can’t be replicated by watching a video (even a well-produced concert film). The unpredictable nature of a live performance as well as metal itself is undeniable. It’s also great to see early innovators play along with younger bands that were clearly impacted by the musicians of yesteryear. Check out my review of day 2 here.
Also I got to met Arthur Brown the next day! What a fine British gentleman.