The Road to Psycho Las Vegas
Later this month, I’ll attend my first indoor concert since March 2020. People will not be wearing masks or social distancing. I’ll have dipped my toes into the cultural soup I’ve swam in the majority of my adult life, relearning all the in’s-and-out’s of concert going. Stage-dives and mosh pits have been relegated to my long term memory banks awaiting to be unearthed. Although most metalheads will be breaking their concert fasts soon (if they haven’t already), Psycho Las Vegas is the spiritual grand re-opening of the metal scene in the wild American west. As the first large festival to take place since the beginning of the pandemic, Psycho is a test much like the ones Hunter S. Thompson indulged in with Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. Our senses may have been perverted, inverted, dulled and destroyed by lengthy quarantines but our imaginations are in better shape than ever and if I can imagine Psycho Las Vegas being the most insane heavy metal summit of my life, then I can will it into being.
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Before the world shut down, Psycho’s 2020 lineup was one of the most anticipated slates of the year. It was part of what was going to make 2020 the most memorable year for live music in years with Mercyful Fate‘s only American date set for their reunion tour, a rare performance by Emperor, and Down’s reunion. With the lineup reassembled against all odds, Psycho Entertainment was able to get the gang back together for 2021 sans Mercyful Fate who will be headlining next year’s 2022 festival.
For those who have never attended Psycho Las Vegas, as a Los Angeles resident, it’s the pretty much the best festival a stone’s throw away. At Psycho Las Vegas, you can theoretically mosh and gamble at the same time, swim while a band is thrashing at the Beach stage and see bands that deserve arena sized venues getting to play to such crowds–like Weedeater on the main stage at Psycho 2019. That year was the first time the festival expanded into a home for all underground music. Now the common thread between any band on a Psycho lineup is simply that they enhance your trip. Since this is going to be the most important concert moment of my year, I’d like to thoroughly go through what bands I’m day dreaming about right now.
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Here Lies Man – This Afro-beat and psych inspired rock assault is the perfect soundtrack to add some color and jive to any trip on the come-down. It’s an instant pick-me-up with plenty of eccentric peaks and valleys to ride the tide to.
Blackwater Holylight – These doom rock maidens have made an immediate impact on the West-coast’s psych and stoner scenes so it’s good to see them find their rightful place on a Psycho Las Vegas lineup. Peep this band if you want to see the future of sludge.
The Skull – These legendary musicians, formerly of the doom metal band Trouble, are incredible live. I saw them touring with Saint Vitus a few years back and was blown away and shocked they didn’t sell out the fucking show with how great they were. Seeing them at the Beach stage is going to be wild.
Death Valley Girls – This bands is a staple of Los Angeles underground music. To see them on the lineup is simply proof that Psycho Entertainment has their finger right on the pulse of our scene. If you’re at Psycho and from Los Angeles and miss this set, then you’re not really a die hard head.
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DJ Painkiller – The Cha Cha’s own, DJ Painkiller Kim Galdemez, is the face of LA’s metal scene. This heavy metal heart throb hosts the best metal nights in LA, so it’s only right she spins records at our little venture to the desert. Following her Born For Burning events are a must.
Pinback – I’m shocked that one of my favorite bands is playing one of my favorite metal festivals. It’s almost like the lineup was curated just for me. Anyway, these math rock geniuses will provide a nice breath between all the hearing-loss we experience with a set of songs that will assuredly be good seeing as Pinback has never made a bad song.
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Mgla – Every true metalhead has been dying to see Poland’s Mgla play. They’re one of the names that jumped off the lineup the moment people saw it. Get ready for the most frigid black metal shock up the spine.
Satyricon – I thought I saw Satyricon’s final tour but I’m happy I was wrong. They are one of the most badass black metal bands of all time. Everyone and their mother is going to boogie to this set, feeling that deep, headbanging sense of evil in the air that the band conjures up.
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Obituary – It’s only right that the best death metal band ever is playing Psycho Las Vegas this year. Obituary knows exactly how to deliver death metal equal parts brutality and fun. Non-stop crowd surfing and moshing are to be expected for this one.
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Emperor – Historically, I consider Emperor the 2nd most “important” black metal band of all time only after Mayhem. Mayhem tours every so often but seeing Emperor in America is a rare experience guaranteed to melt your fucking face off. Their black metal is the sound of the most hellish war and I can’t wait to see everyone’s year-worth of pent up aggression be spilt out onto the floor.
Silvertomb – If I could choose one band to see that I never got the chance to, it would be Type O Negative. Today, seeing Silvertomb is the closest I’ll ever get so I’ll take it. Thanks for making one of my dreams come true, Psycho!
Poison the Well – Last year, Poison the Well played a reunion one-off that sold out in mere minutes. This Psycho Las Vegas will be their first show since, so it is a must-see for anyone in the know. There may be a purist or two that isn’t into this sort of metalcore but rest assured, this set will pop off harder than anything on Saturday.
Pig Destroyer – I can’t wait to see Pig Destroyer. It’ll be my first time. They’re one of the gnarliest grind bands out there and will play the most extreme eargasms of the entire festival.
The Flaming Lips – One of my favorite bands, it would be nothing short of a dream come true if the Flaming Lips were playing the beach stage for us to swim while the band went into their dreamy maladies. If this won’t be the case, I’ll still be head-over-heels happy with whichever stage they transport me from, so long as I go to that special place they take me to.
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Danzig – Danzig is one of my heroes, I’ve seen him numerous times but to finally hear songs of Danzig II: Lucifuge again, makes this outing especially important for any fan. Songs like “Killer Wolf”, “I’m the One”, and more haven’t been part of his sets in years, so hearing them live again will make Saturday’s metalheads swoon and headbang.
Repulsion – Let the grind continue into Sunday with one of the genre’s most classic and brutal bands. I have a sinking feeling this set will host some of day’s most intense and guttural moments.
Midnight – No one can touch the fun and intensity of Midnight’s pure thrash assault on the senses. Wherever your head will be at on Sunday, this set will screw it right back into place to bang no matter how sore your neck or how throbbing your headache.
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Full of Hell – No one sounds like pure madness as much as Full of Hell. They simply reach sonic depths so gnarly, the mind struggles to fathom what it absorbs during their sets. Every time I see them, I’m shocked at what new Barker-esque hellscapes they introduce me to.
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Amigo the Devil – After all the pain we’re going to inflict on each other, Amigo will provide the closeness and laughter to cement the bond us metalheads create over the weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw a few heshers cry.
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Down – Pantera was my favorite band in middle-school. Without them, I would’ve never been introduced to extreme metal in all its varieties. So, anything Phil Anselmo ever gets himself into always peaked my interest. I still lament passing on buying the last En Minor shirt at Psycho 2019. This year, with Down reuniting to close out Psycho’s main stage, I will be sure to leave the festival with a memorabilia in tow, be they shirts, bruises, or a horse throat after singing all those broken, brooding New Orleans sludge metal requiems that this supergroup is famous for.
Words by: Robert Shepyer