Psycho Las Vegas 2019 can be summarized in two words: Holy Shit. This annual party in the Mojave Desert has grown from a simple gathering of doom-centric, riff enthusiasts; into a monster three day [four, if you make it for the Thursday night kickoff!], casino resort hijacking, destination music festival. Psycho’s first year at its new home at Mandalay Bay proved to be a match made in heaven. Sure, it meant more walking and tighter security than in previous years, but 'tis a small price to pay for all this heavy, psychedelic awesomeness.
Naturally, such an eclectic roster of big name acts requires bigger stages and more breathing room. Luckily, Mandalay Bay just so happens to have three massive/legit music venues onsite [including a goddamn indoor arena!], a shit ton of parking, plus restrooms and alcohol galore. We all know that organizing a multi-day music festival can be a logistical nightmare but it felt like the maniacs behind Psycho Las Vegas pulled this off with ease…and that’s despite a series of cancellations including losing their friggin’ headliner!
Oranssi Pazuzu, Rotting Christ and yes, even the initial headliners in Megadeth, all had to cancel their appearances at this year’s fest but the party still raged on. Sumac, Integrity and a little band called The Misfits, filled in the gaps and the Psycho train kept on rolling. This year’s lineup was crazy good and wildly diverse. Where else could you catch headlining arena sets from Electric Wizard, Opeth and Danzig + Jerry Only playing classic Misfits tunes? You could swim with Bad Religion as they rocked out at the pool or nurse your hangover with Mork’s early afternoon black metal assault. Hell, why not just watch a live taping of Two Minutes To Late Night in the casino lounge? There was so much to experience at this year’s Psycho Las Vegas, here’s a rundown of our personal highlights.
High On Fire – Killed it with Gaythiest drummer Nick Parks filling in. Also fun fact, the next morning ringleader/riff god Matt Pike got married at the Mandalay Bay chapel! Viva Psycho or what?!
Bad Religion – The band played opposite Electric Wizard but still drew a dedicated crowd to the beach stage outside and looked like they were having a blast while doing so.
Goatwhore – Smashed The House of Blues to pieces with some good ol’ fashioned thrashy-black metal. Ben Falgoust can whip a crowd into a frenzy like no other.
En Minor – Phil Anselmo’s low key new acoustic project dubbed “depression core” was strangely invigorating. This was one of the most chill and memorable sets of the weekend. Primal concrete GOTH!
Let the record show that the entire main stage lineup for day 2 was unreal. Spent most of the day watching full sets inside because everyone from Old Man Gloom to Doyle & co. absolutely killed it.
Triumph of Death – A straight up masterclass of heavy metal showmanship. The same weekend Tom G. Warrior talks mad shit about Metallica is the same weekend his Hellhammer tribute project blows almost every other band at the festival away. Top 3 band of the weekend for sure.
Clutch – Nobody grooves like Clutch. Watching these sonic magicians cast their spells on the arena stage was insanely fun and offered a nice break between the bludgeoning riffs of the day and the wild Misfits melee that would follow.
Full of Hell – Unleashed a blistering set, bouncing off the walls inside The House of Blues. After singing their hearts out with Danzig the crowd inside was definitely ready to rage with Full of Hell.
The Original Misfits – Megadeth bowing out left an arena sized hole in this year's roster. Luckily, the hottest 'OMFG' reunion on the market was able to swing through Sin City and bring the fucking house down. The Misfits spent the past three decades kind of hating each other so it's still absolutely mind blowing that the band is back together playing all their greatest, singalong hits with Dave Lombardo behind the kit! This here author was fortunate enough to catch The Misfits at a gigantic stadium gig earlier this summer. It was a fun, nostalgia punk adventure but the band was simply on another level at this years Psycho.
Maybe it was the smaller arena setting [so weird typing that], maybe Danzig came to Vegas and bet everything on [the blackest of the] black? Who knows what it was exactly but The Misfits sounded like a band possessed. Danzig's voice was on point all night. He was literally belting these tunes out and man, it ruled! Jerry Only slid across the stage and handled the backup vocals like a champ. Doyle looked like the giant puppet-monster version of Eddie, Iron Maiden brings out to fight with the band…but he's real. That's his physical, human form, and instead of swinging at Janick Gers, he's literally destroying his own guitar. The arena floor eventually capped out at full capacity, and while there was still plenty of great seats available up above, if you wanted to sing "I ain't no goddamn son of bitch" along with all the other die-hard Misfit Fiends, you had to have staked out a spot much earlier. Kudos to The Misfits for stepping in at the last minute and making this year's Psycho Las Vegas totally unforgettable.
Vio-Lence – More reunions! These thrash metal legends brought their seminal album Eternal Nightmare to life and it was raaaaad. Bummed we ended up missing most of Mogwai who played opposite them on the main stage, but definitely do not regret catching this absolute highlight of the weekend.
1349 – There was something super eerie about watching these corpse painted Norwegians play the outdoor pool stage in the middle of the freaking desert. The sun disappeared in the middle of their set, as the band pummeled the waves with sonic hellfire.
Power Trip – Hands down, the wildest [and wettest] set of Psycho Las Vegas 2019 belonged to Power Trip. The band’s crossover thrash inspired tunes are guaranteed to prompt madness wherever the band plugs in. The Mandalay Bay beach proved no different, prompting a massive circle pit in the water. One of the lifeguards on duty filmed the chaos with his GoPro and, dude if you’re reading this, comment your email address below so we can all see the footage!
Two Minutes To Late Night – Ended the weekend laughing our asses off with Gwarsenio Hall. The live taping began exactly at 11:58pm and brought a huge crowd to the smaller Rhythm & Riffs Lounge located inside the casino. Maybe it was delirious exhaustion or three days of boozing, but the audience loved these goofballs. C’mon, YOB-ing for apples?! GENUIS.
Psycho Las Vegas 2019 was a wild, rock 'n' roll ride for the ages. We contemplated existence during Godspeed You! Black Emperor, felt Yob shake the sand beneath our feet at the beach stage, and watched a family of metal parents and their kids throw up the horns together during Carcass.
There were so many great bands on this years lineup, it was like three different festivals rolled into one. If for some odd reason you ever started feeling burnt out and needed to give your ears a rest, you could grub or drink at the numerous bars and eateries inside the hotel, or maybe try your luck at the tables on the casino floor? Hell, you could even beat the heat in the Mandalay Bay pool/beach which was open to Psycho attendees all day. No matter who you saw or what you wound up doing, there's no denying that this years Psycho Las Vegas was all kinds of awesome. Let the countdown to Psycho 2020 officially begin!