Psycho Las Vegas 2017: Friday Recap
With clear eyes, a cold and blackened heart, and a cooler filled to the brim with delicious beer I headed to Las Vegas on Friday morning. My co-pilot for the drive was Ben, and our plan was to rendezvous with Ian at the Hard Rock sometime (hopefully!) before Wolves In The Throne Room was scheduled to perform. I’ve only been to the Hard Rock once before, during an alcohol-fueledÂ 2011 adventure. The purposes of this trip (if you haven’t already ascertained) was to attend Psycho Las Vegas, a three-day music festival filled with metal, hard rock and psych. For months Ian and I debated who was a “can’t miss,” who was worth skipping, and various scenarios for lodging and eating and drinking. So, how did it turn out? Well, all in all I’d call it was a pretty incredible weekend. I’m gonna try to spend the next three days recapping each day of the festival. This entry will consist of those bands that appeared on Friday.
First things first. We departed Los Angeles at 9am and arrived just before 1pm. Upon finding our room we cracked some Lawson’s Super Session #8 to celebrate our safe arrival in Sin City. The accommodations at the Hard Rock were fine. The room was big enough for two queen beds and Ben’s sad little air mattress. It was clean, quiet (they put us in a corner room that was separated from the next guest room by a good 20 feet or so), and had a horrible view of…a corner angle of the building and the roof beneath us. Beers in hand, we headed downstairs to check in and claim our wristbands for the weekend. Ian handed out the fancy earplugs he bought for us, and we ventured into The Joint (the larger of the two indoor venues) to kick off the fest.
Wolves In The Throne Room
The last time I saw WITTR was in 2007 with Jesu at Relax Bar, a local venue I don’t think exists any more. My how things have changed. Trevor Deschryver (formerly of Deafheaven, currently of Lycus) played drums and put on one of the most impressive demonstrations of the festival. If I’m not mistaken they played one or two new songs from the upcomingÂ Golden Mead record, which were more atmospheric and synth-heavy than the older compositions they played. Much like my initial impressions of WITTR’s live sound, I was really pleased with how they sounded. Hopefully it won’t be another 10 years before I see them in person again.
Usnea was one of the bands Ian tried to sell me on during the weeks/months leading up to Psycho. I wasn’t too thrilled with what I heard during my first listens to their recorded output, and only stayed for one song during their set on the Vinyl stage (the smaller of the two indoor venues). I intend to go back and re-listen to their records, as Ian referenced Trapped Within Burning Machinery in regards to the band’s vocals, and that’s never a bad point of reference.
I only caught the last 2-3 songs of Slo Burn’s set on The Joint stage while awaiting Chelsea Wolfe’s set. It was cool to see John Garcia (Kyuss) and his band doing their thing on what I guess is their only US performance of the year (?). I think Ian and Ben went on an outside adventure during Usnea and Slo Burn, but I could be mistaken. I don’t know why they weren’t with me at this time, but I stood in the back near the bar awkward and alone. So pretty much how I always look when I’m standing around.
Not gonna lie, as much as I love Chelsea Wolfe this set was a bit of a letdown. Five songs offÂ Abyss, three songs off the new album and nothing older than one song fromÂ Pain Is Beauty. It was rad as hell to hear Aaron Turner sing for a minute on “Vex.” She sounded great, and her band sounded great. I’ve got tickets to the LA show on 9/30, and I’m hoping that show dives a little deeper into her catalog.
After The Fall
Vex (with Aaron Turner) [MP3]
Ian wanted to make sure we were up front at Vinyl (max capacity 650) for Khemmis, so that required arriving early. We watched the last bit of Toke’s set, and while I couldn’t form a full opinion based on how little I saw, I’m going to investigate their discography in the coming days.
According to Ian, one of the guys in the band said to the other before they started that they’d never played so loud before. Vinyl (at least on Friday) used a backline that consisted of two 4×12 Orange cabs and an 8×12 Ampeg stack for the lead guitarist, and a similarly configured Marshall/Ampeg rig for the other guitarist. And yes, they were probably one of the louder acts of the day. Having seen them back in March with Oathbreaker I knew what to expect, but I was once again blown away by their performance in Vegas. They play with a sense of fun that not many other bands exhibited during the festival. Dual Flying V guitar assaults, great vocals, a perfect song selection (all of Hunted plus “The Bereaved” if I’m not mistaken)…they really put on one of the best shows of the weekend. I’ll see them any time they come to town.
Khemmis – Candlelight [MP3]
How does one accurately describe their first time seeing Sleep? We had a little over an hour between Khemmis and Swans so we ate grabbed a bite to eat at Culinary Dropout, drank a bunch of beers (Grimm Passion Dome, Grimm Living Daylights, Interboro Louder Than A Bomb, Singlecut Mo’ Shuggie Soulbender, Lawson’s Super Session #2) and…you know…put ourselves in the right frame of mind to best enjoy their set. I’m trying to recall my experience seeing Sunn O))) but I’m pretty sure Al Cisneros and Matt Pike used way more amplifiers than Stephen O’Malley and Co. did. If my math is correct, Matt played through ten amps and Al played through six. Jason Roeder from Neurosis was on drums, and he too put on a fucking clinic.
Sumac played outside on the Pool stage, and reallyset the stage for how we wanted our weekend to unfold. In terms of pure fun, there’s nothing like watching a metal band from a pool. The ambiance and the music combine to create a wholly unique experience. Watching a water mosh pit break out from the sidelines inspired us to want to form our own water pit during Inter Arma’s set on Saturday night. Sumac sounded incredible, too. I would consider either this set or Khemmis’ to be the highlight of Friday.
Will To Reach
Image Of Control [MP3]
Ian was a bit exhausted after Sumac but Ben and I stuck around to watch Mulatu’s set on the Joint stage. His band sounded amazing. The festival lineup being what it was, this set came at the perfect time. Whenever we would retire to our room between sets to drink our faces off I would request “ear palate cleansing music,” to which Ian would respond by playing more metal. Thus, Mulatu’s set was like a breath of fresh air for my tired and battered eardrums. I could not think of a more perfect way to end Day 1.
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