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: https://vivapsycho.com/