Psycho Las Vegas 2019: Day 1
Enough time has passed now (about ten days) that I can more-fully reflect on this year’s Psycho Las Vegas. The three day music festival moved this year, from its years-long home at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino to Mandalay Bay. I’m not gonna lie, as an MLife cardholder with status at MGM properties in Vegas, the move to Mandalay Bay (part of the MGM family) made attending this year’s fest a no-brainer. Three of my four nights in Vegas were comped, which meant my only real out-of-pocket expense would be my tickets, two tanks of gas, and food. The lineup this year was not nearly as exciting as it was in 2017, but enough bands piqued my interest that I could theoretically see 4 or 5 a day and still get my money’s worth.
In actuality, I wound up seeing way more bands than I thought I would. And I couldn’t have been happier with my choice to buy a ticket and take the ride this year. There were very few disappointments and several phenomenal performances, especially from bands I hadn’t considered seeing when I purchased my ticket. Any apprehension I might have felt while driving from Los Angeles to Vegas Thursday evening, by the end of the weekend, felt laughably misplaced.
I arrived at Mandalay Bay on Thursday evening shortly after 10 pm, which means I made pretty good time! I didn’t pay extra for a ticket for the Pool Party on Thursday night, so instead I grabbed some beers and headed down to the casino for some gambling. I was out late enough to have gotten a decent buzz, but compared to other first nights in Vegas I’ve experienced it was pretty tame. If I don’t get blackout drunk on my first night in town, things have gone really well.
Day 1 started with breakfast at a little cafe on the property. I wandered around the Rhythm & Riffs Lounge, watched an impressive set byÂ L.A. Witch, then wandered over to the stage at House Of Blues to catch the end of Ilsa’s set (much more disappointing). Before they took the stage, I had confused L.A. Witch with L.A. Drones, a band I’ve seen a few times and DO NOT LIKE. Ergo, I was pleasantly surprised to see a different band take the stage. I even watched their full set, probably because I didn’t care about Ilsa or Arthur Brown.
The first band I wanted to see was Devil Master, and they took the stage at House Of Blues at 3:40 pm. These guys came recommended by a co-worker. They were not on my radar, but while pouring over the Psycho schedule at work he made me promise I would check them out. Musically it was enjoyable, but I thought the face paint made their set feel more like a Kiss concert than anything else. Relapse put out their first full-length this year,Â Satan Spits On Children Of Light, and I think I like the album more than their live show.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
While certainly not the best Godspeed show I’ve ever seen, the Montreal collective never disappoints. All I want in life is to hear “Moya” liveÂ once. I’ve seen Godspeed like 15 times in the last 16 years and I’ve somehow never heard it. I didn’t have much hope for this set (mostly because I looked at all their setlists from 2019 and it hasn’t been played much if at all), but there was a decent enough mix of new and old compositions to make it enjoyable. Happily, the crowd was tame — and sparse — so I could move about freely and get a good spot near the stage for their set. It’s probably better to stand back a bit and let the full wall of sound encompass you. I’ve seen them enough by this point that I’m okay not getting the full experience if it means I can watch ’em up close. Also, it feels like they’ve shed a few members since the last time I saw them. There was but one violinist on stage this time, which is markedly different from the last time I saw them, and way different than the first time back in ’03 when there were a cellist and multiple violinists. Oh well. If that’s the only negative I can find to write about, it must have otherwise been a fantastic show.
One of the bands I was most excited to see at Psycho this year was Yob. Unfortunately, their set was hampered by technical issues (at one point we were told that the 100+ degree heat was wreaking havoc on things) and I don’t think whoever was mixing the sound had quite figured out the outdoor space yet. It sounded a bit flabby, which was disappointing. The mix of songs was great, which made it even more frustrating. I’m sure I would have enjoyed Yob more had they played one of the indoor stages. Some bands definitelyÂ worked in the pool setting, but they did not.
Ball Of Molten Lead
Our Raw Heart
Grasping Air (with Amenra)
High On Fire
I’ve seen Sleep several times before, but I’ve never seen High On Fire. I figured I’d check them out but I wasn’t enthusiastic about it. The same co-worker who told me to peep Devil Master made a really good point when he said something to the extent of, “If you like Matt Pike playing guitar really slow [Sleep] why wouldn’t you like Matt Pike playing guitar fast?” He had a point. And, as it turned out, High On Fire was one of my favorite sets of the entire weekend. It was crazy-loud, the crowd was into it, and I had reached the proper level of intoxication to take the performance to another level. The set was 25% material from Electric Messiah, but the remaining songs spanned six albums so there was something for everyone.Â Needless to say, I will not be missing these guys live if they’re in the area again soon (and they will be, come December!).
Blood From Zion
Spewn From The Earth
Steps Of The Ziggurat
Eyes And Teeth
Hung, Drawn And Quartered
Rumors Of War
Snakes For The Divine
I hung around the Mandalay Bay Events Center after High On Fire finished because the next band was considered the headliner of night one of the festival. I’ve never seen Electric Wizard before, but I know I like their albums. They wound up being my absolute favorite band of the weekend. Again, a mix of awesome songs, visuals, a great crowd response, and my level of intoxication all helped elevate their set. There was a mix of songs that spanned six albums (a third of the set was from Witchcult Today, an album I had no idea I loved as much as I apparently do). They were a little quieter than High On Fire, but the mix was fantastic and they sounded really slick while filling the room with their heavy brand of rock.”Black Mass” was the high point of the set, and they kept the energy close to that level for the remainder of the performance, which is no small feat. I left midway through the last song (“Funeralopolis” off ofÂ Dopethrone) so I could catch a little bit of the night’s final band before calling it a night.
Satanic Rites Of Dragula
Incense For The Damned
See You In Hell
Hear The Sirens Scream
The Chosen Few
I’d never heard of these guys before, and to be honest I think Ian told me “You have to watch them” just a few hours before I left for Vegas. Nevertheless, I was shocked by how cool their EDM-meets-horror-movie-score sound came together. I guess you could kind of describeÂ Perturbator as a more dance-inducing take on the Zombi sound? This was the final band I saw on Day 1, bringing my total acts seen to 8. Considering I’d only planned on watching 4-5 a day, my weekend was off to a great start.
I ended up having a pretty late night on Friday, as the GF showed up around 11pm and we stayed out drinking and gambling until 4 or 5 in the morning. The good news is, while she was playing roulette and hemorrhaging money, I sat down at some goofy beer-themed slot machine and started winning money. Eventually, she wandered over to where I was, and on one spin we wound up generating something like 75 free spins, which netted me a cool $650 bucks. She started pouting that she’d lost all her money, so I gave her sixty bucks (which she promptly lost) and then we called it a night.
Stay tuned for my review of Day 2 of Psycho Las Vegas, which I hope to post tomorrow.
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