When I first saw the lineup for Psycho Las Vegas back in February, I knew I had to be there…and they hadn’t even announced the headliners yet. There definitely hasn’t been such an impressive lineup of stoner/doom/heavy-rock outfits anywhere in North America before–this was the kind of bill you’d expect from Roadburn, before Roadburn started booking black-metal bands. And the fact that it was in Vegas just made it all the more surreal. (Let’s just say I spent more time at the buffet than the blackjack table.)
Over the three days I took in–I didn’t make it in time for the Thursday-night kickoff–I saw so many great sets by so many amazing bands, nearly 30 in all. It was kinda like Doom Metal Disneyland, and I can’t wait to go back…but how could you possible top this next year!?
I arrived in time to pick up my wristband and grab a good vantage point to see YOB take the stage promptly at 2 pm. Anytime you can start your day off with YOB, I would highly recommend it.
From there, I took off to see Boston-based band Gozu at the smaller venue, Vinyl. These guys were on Small Stone for a while, and I had already caught ’em in Brooklyn a couple years back at Eye of the Stoned Goat fest. Solid, melodic, heavy fuzz-rock–although they were victims of the communal drumkit this evening, and ended up playing their last song without percussion. (I still bought their CD.)
Keeping with the Boston contingent, Elder took the main stage at The Joint sometime around 4:20 pm. (Something tells me they did that on purpose.) Their most recent record, Lore, hit the top five on many stoner sites’ year-end lists for 2015, and it’s not hard to hear why. These guys remind me of Black Pyramid in their prime, albeit with a little less sludge and a little more jams. Some of their tunes stretched past the 10-minute mark…not that I’m complaining.
Before grabbing a bite to eat, I ducked in to catch Philadelphia epic-doom outfit Crypt Sermon in the act. I liked, but didn’t love their debut album, but they really take it to another level live!
Pentagram put on a much more spirited set than when I caught em in Cleveland last year, with Bobby Liebling strutting and crotch-grabbing like he was Rod Stewart or something. They ended with an epic rendition of “20 Buck Spin” that went on for a good six or seven minutes, with Victor Griffin windmilling like Pete Townsend toward the end. Good times!
Last time I saw Satan’s Satyrs, they were opening from Pentagram in Cleveland. This time, they actually went on after Pentagram–albeit on the Paradise Pool stage outside. Speaking of strutting, this outfit’s frontman comes off as a crazed cross between Nigel Tufnel and Eddie Van Halen on stage…and yet, with the high-pitched vocals and sickly sweet heavy metal, it works.
I actually skipped Down, who I’ve seen a handful of times, to check out Maryland doom outfit Beelzefuzz, who probably won’t be coming to Toronto anytime soon. Their new record is a righteous rendition of progressive proportions, and after having seen them perform, I feel I made the right decision.
Due to set-time overlap, I missed the first few songs from The Shrine, but man…these guys were shit-hot! I’ve been a fan ever since I saw ’em open for Fu Manchu a few years back, and much like Satan’s Satyrs, it looks like they’ve got the goods to take it to the next level. At the end of their set, they brought out this shirtless French dude, who was the singer of the band Soggy (they covered one of his tunes on an EP in 2014). That old man could give Iggy Pop a run for his money, lemme tell ya!
While I went back-and-forth between all three venues, the Paradise Pool was the place to be on Friday, with Satan’s Satyrs and The Shrine setting the stage for…Death. No, not Chuck Shuldinger’s zombified corpse, but rather the band who had that name first, three African-American brothers from Detroit back in the 70’s. While I wasn’t one of the fervent fans who snagged a copy of the uber-rare Politicians in My Eyes 7″, I had seen the documentary about them a few years back and I do have one of their lesser-known followup recordings. So this was still a real treat–the highlight of Day One for me.
I wasn’t really familiar with Ashbury, who was already on stage at Vinyl when I stopped by. Seems like their back story was somewhat similar to Pagan Altar, in that they put out one cult classic album in the early 80’s, then resurfaced in the 21st century with a couple new records. Their sound has elements of Deep Purple and shades of the early NWOBHM, and some of the dudes in the denim with the patches up front seemed to know all the words.
The evening’s official headliner, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, was a real wildcard for me. I really only knew the song “Fire” and the video clip for said song in which Mr. Brown dances with a flaming helmet on his head. In essence, this guy and his band was 1968’s answer to Ghost–but it turns out he hadn’t performed live in 42 years. Well, I’ll say that he’s still crazy, he still does that madman dance…only now, he has some other people to do the fire-spinning for him.
(Don’t go too far–I’ll be recapping the next two days soon!)