Nearly two years ago Psycho Entertainment began teasing the return of Psycho California – the fest that ran its initial three years proving itself and building its reputation in Orange County before being taken away from us by Sin City. Despite the slight name change, the fresh presentation of the inaugural Psycho Smokeout lived up to the reputation of its predecessor with a streamlined experience and highly curated lineup of Psycho alumni and first timers alike.
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With a lineup filled with Janky favorites it’s hard to decide where to begin. The stacked scheduling fueled a rush through the maze-like floorplan of Union granting access to rooms and passageways I’d never even known existed. Each twist and turn through black painted halls seemed to bring me to another section of the club where something insane was happening: three separate rooms with live music (one of which included pole dancers), a smaller room with burlesque shows, live glass blowing outside, walls of merch, and a corner devoted to Painkiller Kim DJing next to an (unfortunately out of order) Icee machine. (Apparently the Icee guy never arrived to fill it…) Psycho Ent. used their experiences from six previous years of organizing fests to create an environment completely devoted to the riff and the execution was flawless.
With a main stage in the Disco room upstairs loaded with some of the most buzzworthy acts in the slower subgenres of metal it’s easy to overlook the sweeter offerings of the Underground and Jewel’s Room (and it would be a complete shame to do so.) Representing a decent portion of RidingEasy Records‘ catalog + more, the smaller stages provided momentary homes for some of the best up and coming and cult favorite acts from across the US. Standout performances included Here Lies Man, the LA based psych laced afrobeat project NO ONE should sleep on, TOKE – North Carolina based trio producing some of the best stoner riffs in 2019, Electric Citizen – catchy as hell classic psych influenced heavy metal, and Haunt – (the Janky approved) traditional heavy metal rippers from central California fronted by Trevor Church of Beastmaker (who has a very unique stage presence.) The highlight of the entire fest also graced the underground – Arizona’s GOYA, another Psycho alumni (and 1/2 of Spirit Adrift) that’s impressed me every time I’ve seen them with this round being the most refined, charged, and near-explosive set from any act of this style I’ve seen in a long time.
Despite my love for the second (and third) stage acts at the fest, the main stage didn’t disappoint. Elder are amazing and they deliver some of the most consistently tight performances I’ve ever seen. Monolord have a strange draw (and personally I really don’t understand it) but the venue was going nuts for them and for a moment it all clicked and I fell into their sound. Like coming up for air, Amenra created a much needed clearing in the haze with their aggressive sludge that greatly offset the fog of the instrumental stoner titans Beelzebong preceding them. It goes without saying the grand headliner YOB was icing on the cake; Mike Scheidt’s trio is unstoppable when they’re on stage and it’s impossible to deny the sheer sonic power they produce.
As the evening progressed it became clear that Los Angeles doesn’t take celebrating 4/20 lightly – the crowd was easily the most lethargic I’ve ever seen and despite how hard Yob was playing on stage a majority of the attendees were either nodding off or entirely out. After all it was a long day and the haze of smokeout made it all too easy to sink in and over indulge. With such a packed inaugural event it’s exciting to wonder exactly where Psycho Smokeout will venture next year.
Words and Photos by: Dillon Vaughn