Saturday, September 2, 2017
Bandcamp Bonanza – Viva La Psycho 2017
“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”
We, being myself, drugs being caffeine and stoner rock, and Barstow being closer to Beatty, NV as my Toyota Tundra muscled its way closer to Sin City for the second annual Psycho Las Vegas. Like many of you, I was feeling a little left out being unable to partake in what many were claiming as the best concert experience of their lives that was Pyscho Las Vegas 2016. I was in that category, still am, until a couple weeks ago when the stars aligned and I found myself with tickets and a room at the Hard Rock Hotel slated for 4 days of heavy rock and roll for the second annual Psycho Las Vegas music festival courtesy fellow bandcamper and Facebook friend Simon Howard whom hooked me up with tickets and a room. I can now claim that victory, that feeling and that experience I heard all about during season one of Psycho Las Vegas.
To say it was an experience would be selling it short. To say it was a party would be an abbreviation, and to say it was madness would be modest to the core. It was all but chaotic and overrun with black band tee shirts, beards, and tattoos, and biker vests with metal band patches. The local residents would become the freak shows of the scene and the misfits of metal would rise as the popular crowd of the entire joint. Personally I showed up in a white band tee shirt, zero tattoos, and clean shaven all chameleon like I typically am. That didn’t stop the masses of music junkies from welcoming me with open arms.
I left my house around 4am on Thursday to drive the gauntlet from Reno to Vegas. Along the way was an open desert highway, air conditioning, coffee and an ipad full of killer tunes. 7 hours later I walked inside the Hard Rock Hotel for the first time, lost and overwhelmed with excitement. By the time I changed into my board shorts and flip flops and found my way to the pre-party concert at the pool stage The Great Electric Quest had just finished their set. It was about 12:30 and blistering over the 100 degree mark as I spied the first familiar faces on my social network feed. Mr. Steve Janiak singer/guitarist of the band Devil to Pay and Mr. Matt Bacon, a young up and coming promoter of the scene and liaison of the heavy underground music scene were hanging left of the stage waiting for the next band to start up. Bacon was sizzling in the sun wearing a black tee, black pants and black boots with long black hair flowing in the breeze. There was 24 hour access to actual bacon available inside at Mr. Lucky’s. None of us had met in person (minus me and the pork product) but the phenomenon of familiarity via the internet allowed greets with handshakes and hugs like long lost brothers reuniting after a long time away. This feeling would remain all weekend long as the crowds of folks coming from around the world joined together to celebrate music like no festival I’ve ever been to.
Over the course of 4 days, nearly 90 bands and 3 stages, I found myself meeting dozens of friends on Facebook, followers on Instagram, and other fanatics from Canada, Australia, Europe, New Jersey, Utah, New York City, Philly, New Mexico, Texas, California, South Carolina, Las Vegas etc.….. Seems like all reaches of the globe were present and everyone had a similar mission. The cool thing about the Hard Rock is that we were there for hard rock and music memorabilia was all over the place on display. The main stages were adjacent to each other where you could easily go from one to the other without any real bad congestion occurring. The pool stage was set up about 50 feet from the pool with mosh pits occurring simultaneously on the floor and the pool during some of the heavier sets. No matter what time of day or night you could be sure that Psychos were wondering the lobby, casino, and center bar. Not once did I sense arrogance or feel threatened. It felt like a family reunion with family members that you loved and respected.
I didn’t count how many bands I witnessed, nor was I concerned about any sort of number. I watched some bands whom I’d never seen, some that I wasn’t anticipating watching, and others I missed, which breaks my heart. I could go on and on about details of the weekend, but that would only make you jealous or bore you to death so today I’m going to share some bands that I was able to compare the live performance to the bandcamp streams I’ve grown so fond of.
“Turn the goddam music up! My heart feels like an alligator!”
These dudes opened the show on Friday in the big arena (The Joint) and came out firing on all amplifiers as they always do. Mothership has made a name for themselves over the last several years and in particular they are known for their high energy live sets. Kelley had his Orange amps stacked in the biggest pyramid I’ve ever seen on the stage and together with Kyle and Judge they gave us the modern equivalent of AC/DC rocking in the early 70s.
Youngblood had the card stacked against them, starting 2/3 of the way through the Mothership set in the smaller more dive bar modeled club Vinyl. I had an extreme desire to see Youngblood as I’ve become a huge fan of their sound over the last couple years. They sounded great and it was apparent that they are an extremely young band in the grand scheme only beginning their journey towards rock n roll stardom.
Toke was one of the surprises of the weekend for me. I had heard them before, but I wasn’t completely sold based the bandcamp stream alone. The live show was brutally rocking and the vocalist/bass player dominated with convincing vocal chops and alluring stage appeal. Funny how live shows can make a fan of you and these guys did just that.
Sons of Otis
Another surprise of the weekend was Sons of Otis. These guys have been laying down the spaced out doomy stoner for decades and I was absolutely blown away at their performance. The reverb on the beefed out vocals was mesmerizing as was the psychedelic jams echoing across the stage. The drummer was slamming sporadically lit up in front of the trippy projector screen. It was a sight to behold and boys owned it like true champions in the stoner rock battlefield.
“The possibility of physical and mental collapse is now very real. No sympathy for the Devil, keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
Ruby the Hatchet
Going into this festival Ruby the Hatchet was at the top of my watch list. They played the pool on Thursday and absolutely throttled my expectations. If I were to give a favorite performance of the weekend it would have to go to Ruby the Hatchet. The entire band was on fire, Jillian was smoking hot and sang her heart out. They played older hits as well as many off the new album, which is amazing. I feel very privileged to get to see them in this setting.
Sumac wins the award for heaviest band of the weekend that I watched. Holy fucking shit they were border-line disturbing with the notes they were hitting. Mosh pits rippled in the pool as the sun was setting and the heat was tempering.
Kicking off Saturday was the next biggest band I was looking forward to and the first of the MagneticEye Records bands to go onstage. They absolutely melted that stage and I think turned a lot of new fans onto them. They played some cult classics off their debut album Phoenix as well as some new ones off their latest album which I featured here on the bonanza earlier in the year. WOW.
“What kind of rat bastard psychotic would play that song- right now, at this moment?”
Man these guys were heavy as shit and super fun to watch up on stage. Blue collar doom with great stage presence and heavy riffs pounding down in unison with the guitarist’s 200 pound leg kicks shaking the stage. It’s not hollow, trust me. Seriously, he had this move that was terrifyingly awesome as he shredded riffs into the eyes of the fans. I really enjoyed these guys.
Elephant Tree came all the way over from the UK and was a pleasure to witness on stage. They brought an eclectic heavy grungy rock to club Vinyl that we were all aware of via bandcamp prior. The live settings allowed them to showcase their personalities and they shined with excellent showmanship and groovy tunes.
By this time in the evening a fellow friend, and bandcamp colleague Mr. Paul Rote had arrived to Vegas. It was a pleasure hanging out with the old man and he convinced me to go to watch The Skull with him. Oh my gods were they the real deal. Singer and legendary front man Eric Wagner showed us how it’s done as Rob Wrong and Lothar Keller teamed up to drop the sickest riffs of the night for a full on set of classic doom meets modern stoner. Absolutely Fantastic!
These were only highlights of some of the bands I saw and happen to have bandcamp links. So check em out and start planning your trip for next year. I’d strike while the irons hot. God forbid the festival gets too much attention and becomes too big for its own good. From what I witnessed this year, it was well organized, well attended, and well respected the entire weekend. What happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas during Psycho. What happens is meant to be shared with the world.
“Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run, but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.”