Psycho Las Vegas, Resorts World, Las Vegas, August 19-21, 2022

It was another amazing year at Psycho Las Vegas topped off by Mercyful Fate and Emperor.

Psycho Las Vegas is a standard stop for me. I haven’t been for a couple years because of the pandemic – the fest was cancelled in 2020 and I had to miss it at the last minute in 2021. Needless to say, I was ready to go this year. To make absolutely certain that I do not bury the lead, I will declare yet again that Psycho Las Vegas is the best heavy music festival in the US every year. No other festival has anything close to the variety and depth you see in Las Vegas. My advice: don’t ever miss it.

The bands I most wanted to see this year were Ruby The Hatchet, Mercyful Fate, Emperor, Monolord, Elder, and Mothership. Then there were at least twenty others I really, really wanted to see. The third level was chockful as well. This line-up was stacked (see the set times image to verify).

Psycho moved to a new location this year. For the past few years, the festival had been held at the Mandalay Bay. That was an excellent venue. Being in a casino allows you to stay out of the 100+ degree heat most of the time and really kick back to enjoy the music and booze and weed (recreational marijuana is legal in Las Vegas). There was a day club stage outside, but it played mostly at night, and even though the heat is brutal, without humidity, the weather outside is quite tolerable once the sun goes down. In 2020 at the Mandalay Bay, there was an event stage in an arena, a lounge stage, the House of Blues venue, and the outside stage in the evenings. Tons of music, easy to get to, all great.

This year, the festival moved to the Resorts World facility, which is only partially finished. There was an outside day club stage there, too. Then there were five other stages. The Rose Ballroom is what it sounds like – a stage set up in a giant room. The Dawg House is a sort of sports-bar-looking venue, and RedTail is another bar, a bit more serious in tone, with a small stage in it. There was also a stage set up in the food court. And finally, there was the event stage. The thing is, the event center hasn’t been built yet, to this was a huge tent –you know, with a metal fame, and imagine it forty feet high. It was big enough, surely. The main drawback was no seating; strictly SRO. Oh sure, there were a few chairs and stools in the VIP section, but not many. Indeed, this is my only real criticism of the event: the lack of seating. Of course, I am not as young as I used to be so maybe that’s why it got to me.

I did feel a little bit bad for people who were at the resort but not attending Psycho because at least four of these stages could be heard rumbling throughout the resort, well beyond the individual venue. That never really happened at Mandalay Bay because the one lounge stage in the casino area had a fairly laid back line-up. Not so this year. Can you imagine having booked vacation here not knowing Psycho was going on and having to listen to blaring metal for three days straight every time you tried to geta slice of pizza or go to the casino? Ugh. Hey, it was great for me as I was there for the music, but it didn’t go over very well for some of the other guests.

On Thursday before the festival there is Psycho Swim, which is basically a fourth day in front. Normally, this is held outside at the day club with just a few bands. This year, sets ran all day outside (it was pretty hot part of the time), and there was a parallel track at the RedTail venue. Psycho Swim is a separate ticket (for GA folks), but anybody could listen at RedTail, with or without a ticket. That is a nice bonus.

Ulver was a last-minute scratch we heard about on Thursday. It is unclear exactly what happened but, even though the visas were approved, there was some other problem that sprang up at the last second … “due to unforeseen circumstances with their local embassy, the band is unable to acquire necessary documents for all of its members to complete their travel and therefore won’t be able to perform.” That’s a bummer, and it is true that Satyricon also had dropped out fairly late in the game as well – another tough revelation. Still, I would stack this line-up against any festival this year.

The toughest choice on Thursday was Salem’s Bend started on the RedTail stage at 8:00PM and Elder started on the Ayu Dayclub Beach Club stage at 8:10PM. Brutal. But, Elder was slated to play again on Saturday on the Dawg House stage. Saved by the double set. As it turned out, it started raining and the Ayu stage was shut down during Elder’s set. That is something you definitely do not expect in Las Vegas. But that’s all right, too, because the music went on until 3:00AM or so at RedTail. And, Elder played elsewhere at 1:00AM anyway, so they got their set in. One big advantage of festivals in Las Vegas is that there are no curfews so playing late is not a big deal at all.

First band I wanted to on Friday was Sanguisugabogg at 11:00AM. Yes, in the morning. Mothership was the biggest surprise of the day for me. I like their music a lot, but had never seen them live. They put on an amazing show and moved right up to the top of my list of bands never to miss. The big story on the first night was Emperor, a band that hadn’t played in the US for sixteen years. It was absolute black metal mayhem in the big tent on Friday.

Behold The Monolith and Gatecreeper played at the same time on Saturday and that was a tough choice, to be sure. I flipped a coin and went to Behold! The Monolith. A tough choice but no losing options. The most important band on day two for me was Ruby The Hatchet. I absolutely love that band and somehow had never seen them perform in person. Jillian Taylor was incredible, and the entire band takes your breath away. I could have left at the end of their set and been happy with the weekend. The headliner on Saturday was Suicidal Tendencies, and I missed that show because I have seen them a half a dozen times in the past twelve months and, also, I had a few edibles over my limit and needed to sit down for a while. No seating in the event center so I went to the casino for an indeterminant amount of time.

Sunday was Mercyful Fate day. There is no way to overstate the anticipation. Melissa is one of my favorite albums to this day, and I started to listening to Mercyful Fate even before that, with their self-titled EP. I have seen King Diamond on stage many times, but never Mercyful Fate. Their performance is one I will remember on the last day, I swear it. It is what I remember most from Sunday, but there was a lot of other amazing music as well, like High On Fire and Monolord and Creeping Death. There was so much happening that day it is hard to keep it all in your head.

I try to always go to Psycho Las Vegas. For me, it is a vacation – I don’t photograph the festival or write articles about it. This right here that I am writing is a reminiscence as much for my benefit as anybody else’s, put down so I can look back on it later and remember it all again. I have already grabbed a ticket for Psycho Las Vegas 2023. I do not know where it will be held, but wherever it is, I will be there. See you then.


Psycho Las Vegas:

Psycho Las Vegas, Resorts World, Las Vegas, August 19-21, 2022

Psycho Las Vegas, August 19-22, 2021

Festivals are getting going again in the US and the first big stop to make is Psycho Las Vegas.

Missing a year of Psycho Las Vegas is a wound that can be salved by heading to Nevada next month for one the of the best heavy line-ups around. During the 2019 festival, The Mandalay Bay operated three stages – one in the arena, one at the House of Blues in the casino complex, and another in a lounge. All very different vibes and all full-on musical bliss. I am expecting this again in 2021.

The headliners for 2021 are Emperor, Down, and Danzig. Other bands I am excited to see this year are Exodus, Cannibal Corpse, High On Fire, The Sword, Red Fang, Obituary, Pig Destroyer, Eyehatehod, and far too many others to mention. For heavy music fans, Psycho Las Vegas has become an annual pilgrimage.

Don’t forget Thursday night Psycho Swim with music outside at the Daylight Beach Club. True, it is 100 degrees or so in the daytime but when the sun goes down so does the temperature and it is very comfortable. Plus it is a beach and you can get in the water. The bands for this year’s Psycho Swim include Old Man Gloom, Bongzilla, and many others.

There were still some tickets available at this writing. Hit the link below to see what’s up.

Someone (me) from Shardik Media will be at the festival. See you in the crowd. And at the tables.


Festival info:

© Wayne Edwards.

Psycho Las Vegas, August 19-22, 2021

Psycho Las Vegas, August 16-18, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

     Does Las Vegas seem like a good place for a music festival? I wasn’t sure. The first thing I thought of was that music festivals are typically outdoors and, in August in Las Vegas, it is 100+ degrees every day. That doesn’t sound great. Besides the temperature, everything else seems perfect. Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the US. What’s not to like about that?
     There were four stages at the festival, three of which were indoors and air conditioned. So much for the heat. The fourth stage was outside at an artificial beach, but the music didn’t start there until the sun had sunk behind the tops of the surrounding buildings and, even though the temperature was still in the 90s, if the sun isn’t bearing down on you, 93 is not bad in the desert. The Beach Stage was elevated above a large pool, so, if you wanted, you could get in the water, enjoy a beverage, and watch the show. You could also just sit or stand in the sand. There was a Lounge Stage, which was just what it sounds like, a stage in a small lounge next to a bar in the casino. There is a House of Blues at the Mandalay Bay Resort and there was a stage in the club there with mostly standing areas and a bar on three sides. Then there was the main stage in the Events Center, which is a small arena with 12,000 seats. Four very different places for music, each with its own feel and vibe. One thing the stages did all have in common was the very dim lighting. Spot lights were not used – the only lights were from the stage riggings. Some of the bands used more direct light than others, but most all of them seemed darker than usual. The lighting difference really stands out if you’ve been going to festivals all summer because you are used to seeing all the stages in the sunshine until the last two bands of the day. Not at Psycho Las Vegas. Even the Beach Stage, the only one that was outside, seemed darker than usual because the music didn’t start there until dusk. I am not complaining about the lighting, I’m just noting how noticeable it was.
     In general, the atmosphere is very comfortable. You don’t get a sunburn and you are not sweating through your shorts. All the restrooms are in-doors with running water and no long lines to wait in. Food, refreshments, and casino gambling is all around. And if you want to take a break from the festival and hit The Strip, just walk out the door and there it is. Also, there is unlimited re-entry, something completely unheard of at other festivals. Come and go as you please. Go to your hotel room for a little while, go buy a Las Vegas souvenir, whatever you want, and then walk right back in. There are security checks at every stage entrance, but there was almost never a wait of more than a couple minutes to get through so coming and going was genuinely easy. The festival environment is unique at Psycho Las Vegas.
     All this is great but the most important thing is the music. The lineup at Psycho Las Vegas is unrivaled for heavy music. The headliners were Electric Wizard, a band that rarely plays in the US, the Original Misfits, who perform three or four shows every five years or so, and Opeth, who made their only US appearance of 2019 at the festival. Browsing through the rest of the lineup, you see all sorts of bands that do not appear on run-of-the-mill festival lineups like Goatwhore, Graveyard, High On Fire, Carcass, Tomb Mold, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Kadavar, and on and on. If you are a heavy music fan, this is a festival you do not want to miss. One last crucial point: all the bands play long sets. Hardly any sets were less than 50 minutes and most were one hour or longer. The middle band in the lineup on the Events Center Stage played for 75 minutes. There are no 20 minute sets like you see at a lot of festivals, even for the opening acts.
     Let’s take a quick run around the grounds on each day and see what it was like to be there.
[Aside: Psycho Swim was a separate event that was held on Thursday evening before the big festival got going. I missed it, but the reports I got were that Lucifer was great and Corrosion of Conformity nearly caused a tsunami. See what happens when you don’t show up early? I won’t make that mistake next year.]
     Day 1. I was fairly disoriented to start with because the casino/resort/hotel/events center complex is gigantic. The map helped. I was there for two Day 1 bands in particular, Electric Wizard, which I had never seen before, and my favorite band of the last couple years, High On Fire. There was a lot of music to be heard, however, so I started with the Lounge Stage listening to Royal Thunder and LA Witch. Both were solid and I had my usual joy burst over the realization that there are so many good bands out there. Going to any of the large festivals you are not really taking much of a chance because all the bands are pros and they want to put on a great performance for their fans and for people who have never seen them before hoping they become fans. And you do have to make choices because some of the bands play at the same time. How do you choose? If you have a band you really like then you know where you’re going, right, but what about the toss-ups? The good news is there are no bad choices. More good news: if you are unhappy with your choice, just take a short walk over to another stage where a different band is playing.
     I saw all the acts on the main stage. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown was like a psychedelic cross between Primus and Dr. John. Graveyard powered through a set full of highlights from their recent albums. Godspeed You! Black Emperor was … a lot. They had a video display that was odd and occasionally disturbing, and the music formed a loud sound front. The songs were long, 20 minutes each or so. The whole thing put me in a trance. High On Fire, one of the main reasons I came to this festival, gave a tremendous performance but were plagued by technical sound issues for most of the set, ones that were only really cleared up toward the end. They closed with “Snakes for the Divine,” and it roared. Electric Wizard are doom legends that have eluded me until this weekend. They played 90 minutes of blissful rumbling thunder. The perfect close to the first day and an excellent portent for the rest of the weekend.
     Remember the thing I said about choices? There were a couple to deal with. I missed Bad Religion because they were on at the same time as Electric Wizard. Likewise, I missed Yob because they overlapped by Godspeed You! Black Emperor and I needed some time to recover. I did see Goatwhore, a long-time favorite of mine, and they were fantastic. Playing in the House of Blues club to an enthusiastic crowd in a claustrophobic venue, the music coalesced into a powerful experience that was a festival highlight for me. Great band, fantastic performance.
     Day 2. I have seen Tomb Mold before and I knew I wanted to see them again so their set is how Day 2 started. In Tomb Mold, the drummer Max Klebanoff is also the singer and the band put up an astonishing set for the early crowd at the House of Blues. They were a blistering highlight to the entire festival. Another band flying under the radar that gave a stand-out performance was Triumph of Death. Billed as a Hellhammer tribute band, it was much more than that. Tom Gabriel Warrior, a founding member of the legendary band that was only around from 1982-1984, lead Triumph of Death in playing songs from Hellhammer that, for the most part, have never been performed live before. It was incredible to see the band, and especially Warrior himself, in their only US performance this year. And who knows, this might have been their only US performance ever.
     On the Events Stage, there were five bands in a row that made it hard to leave the arena. Old Man Gloom was a new one for me, and I like them so much I tried to buy a t-shirt, but they were sold out (lot of other people must have liked them, too). From their name alone you get a pretty good signal what their sound is like. Triumph of Death was next, then Carcass came on and made a point of announcing they were a Death Metal band not a Doom Metal band, apparently because of the heavy doom weighting to the lineup, but of course the fans didn’t need any apology. Their set was fast and hard and lead to the formation of a raucous pit. After Carcass was Clutch, a band that is completely different and a curiously good transition to the headliner. I usually see Clutch at least half a dozen times a year and they always give a great performance. Their Psycho Las Vegas show was a notch even higher, if that’s possible, and longer than they usually play at festivals so we all got to hear more songs.
     Originally Megadeth was supposed to headline Saturday, but they had to withdraw when Dave Mustaine found out he needed medical treatment for throat cancer. How do you replace Megadeth? You can’t, really, but you do need a big band with a huge draw to keep fans happy. The Original Misfits were the perfect choice. Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only, and Doyle lit up the arena and no one was disappointed. Again, there were significant sound problems, bad enough to cause Doyle to leave the stage for four songs, but things got straightened out and this Saturday night set is the one that many fans will say was the most memorable part of the festival.
     Day 3. Usually by Sunday of any given festival I am starting to drag a little, but not in Vegas. The comfort of the environment allowed me to wake up on Sunday like it was Saturday. The big bands on the final day for me were Opeth, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Power Trip, and Kadavar. And here I am going to lodge my only complaint about the scheduling: Power Trip played at the same time as Opeth. Now that one IS a tough choice. Opeth has to win that showdown, and that is fine, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little sore about missing Power Trip. Still, I will not recant my soap box oration that the choices are all right. It is not a perfect world, but it is a good one.
     Weedeater opened Sunday in the Events Center as a last minute replacement for Rotting Christ (note the blank space on the set times image), the latter band reportedly having visa issues that kept them from performing at the festival. The three-piece stoner band was a new experience for me so I was surprised when frontman Dixie Collins lamented how terrible they were between every song. They were not terrible. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats followed and were sharp and stunning. Performing in the darkest surroundings of chronically dark stages, the band leaned in and shook the rafters. A top five set for sure. Beach House, an ambient, mellowish trio, was on the Events Stage while 1349, a very heavy band, was out on the Beach Stage. It was a disorienting juxtaposition, at least in my head, but the music they played was what I expected.
     Opeth, a band usually described these days as prog-metal but who started out as a straight forward death metal outfit, gave an authentic performance to a somewhat diminished Sunday evening crowd. Mikael Åkerfeldt, the lead singer, paused between songs for long reflections and ruminations about all sorts of things ranging from the evolution of the sound of the band, to wandering around the casino, to watching the Misfits the night before. They opened with “Sorceress,” a personal favorite of mine, so I was happy from the beginning, and the setlist ranged broadly across the band’s canon. For some people, Opeth seemed like a peculiar choice for the festival headliner, but to anyone who stayed around to see them play, they were the perfect fit.
     In the end, looking back from late Sunday night, Psycho Las Vegas turned out to be more than I expected, and I had high expectations. I was suspicious of the setting – a casino/resort – and it turned out to be great, better in many (maybe most) ways than the usual festival. I arrived with great anticipation, wanting to see and hear incredible performances by some of my favorite bands, including several I had not seen live before, and they all came through. Before I sat down to write this article, I asked the people I went with to the festival what their complaints were so I could stick it to the organizers in print, but they didn’t have any complaints. Yeah, I know this sounds like a paid endorsement, but it isn’t. I am going to Psycho Las Vegas from now on, every year, even if I have to sell blood to buy a ticket. I unhesitatingly recommend it.

Words by Wayne Edwards © 2019. The images are from the Instagram feed of Psycho Las Vegas.

Psycho Las Vegas, August 16-18, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada