It’s time for a road trip, with the emphasis on trip, man. Or at least it is if you like your music heavy and loud, because Psycho Las Vegas is coming to town and there is none heavier and none louder. Four stages, more bands than you can shake a stick at – indeed, more bands than you can possibly see – pool parties, pre-parties, and, of course, lots and lots of booze. What more could any self-respecting metalhead want?
Admittedly, it will be interesting to see how things work out with the change of venue, from the Hard Rock to the Mandalay Bay, the former seemingly purposed for such a festival, while the latter lacks the circle bar in which to meet up with your friends and might involve rather too much walking between stages. But, hey, you’re going to miss some bands anyway. Like we said, it’s simply not possible to see them all, so here’s a list of ten of the best.
When Megadeth canceled due to the sad news that frontman Dave Mustaine has been diagnosed with throat cancer, there was a great deal of speculation about who would take their place. And while, of course, we wish Mustaine the very best with his recovery, the news that the Misfits are playing instead is pretty awesome. Granted, the reunion was soured somewhat when it was revealed that it was part of a contractual obligation that stipulated they had to play at least ten shows. But since this is the tenth and the band have just added a couple more shows, including Halloween in New York, it seems they might actually be enjoying themselves. Wouldn’t hold your breath for a new album, but stranger things have happened.
2. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
Sampled by everyone from Marilyn Manson to the Prodigy, Arthur Brown is best known for his Number One single of 1968, the legendary “Fire” (and for setting his head on fire during the performance of said song). But those of you who were lucky enough to see his mesmerizing headline show at Psycho Las Vegas a couple of years back, or his L.A. show last January, will know that there’s more to this eccentric 77 year old than a one hit wonder. Indeed, with over a dozen albums to choose from there is everything from psychedelia to reggae in the set, not to mention a rather splendid cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “I Put A Spell On You.” Not to be missed.
3. Corrosion of Conformity
Formed in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1982, Corrosion Of Conformity has been through numerous line-up changes over the years, morphing, in that time, from a hardcore punk band to a more stoner rock sound of blues-infused metal. Their most successful period, however, was during the ’90s when Pepper Keenan (later of Down) was a member of the band, and it’s this classic reformed line-up (completed by drummer Reed Mullin, bassist Mike Dean and guitarist Woody Weatherman) that they’ll be bringing to Psycho Las Vegas. With a new studio album No Cross No Crown to showcase, the band will also be playing such greats as “Wiseblood” and the magnificent “Vote With A Bullet.”
4. Fu Manchu
Orange County’s Fu Manchu have been favorites on the stoner rock scene for many years, earning themselves a cult following with their 1994 debut album No One Rides For Free, and keeping that following by being consistent, kinda like the Ramones of stoner rock, every album the same but different. Interestingly, their drummer Scott Reeder is no relation to bassist Scott Reeder of Kyuss fame, although they were both born in Barstow, California, and both play in a band called the Sun and Sail Club, which also features Fu Manchu guitarist Bob Balch. Strange but true.
5. Bad Religion
Better known for playing Punk Rock Bowling when they come to Vegas, L.A.’s Bad Religion are kind of a wildcard here. Sure, PLV has featured punk bands before – notably the influential all black band Death – but those bands have always leaned towards the more aggressive crossover sound than the melodic skate punk offered by Greg Graffin and co. Of course, with the Misfits now headlining the next day, they won’t be such lone wolves on the bill, but it will be intriguing, nonetheless, to see how they fare with an audience of metalheads.
6. Mark Lanegan
With a voice like whiskey and cigarettes, Mark Lanegan has collaborated with all manner of disparate artists, from Moby and Massive Attack to Queens Of The Stoneage, always lending something very special no matter who he works with. His solo work is no less outstanding, if occasionally difficult to listen to because it reaches so deep into the soul, forever wandering with those who are lost. Imagine Nick Cave and Tom Waits drowning the sorrows of a broken heart in some long-forgotten dive bar on a Wednesday afternoon. It’s probably sunny outside, but the door is closed.
7. High On Fire
Grammy award winners, High On Fire… Let’s just say that again, because it sounds so good: Grammy award winners, High On Fire! And a well-deserved win it is, too. This Oakland trio have been bringing the thunder since 1998 and are no strangers to Psycho Las Vegas, having played in 2016 and 2018. Indeed, some might argue that it’s too soon to have them back, but those people will be in a very small minority, and we won’t be able to hear them, because High On Fire are so loud. They won Best Metal Performance, not Best Spoken Word! Tinnitus is a badge of honor.
8. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
Another band making a welcome return to PLV are England’s Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, the Manson Family obsessed quartet who last graced the main stage in 2016. Described as ‘celebrating the Summer of Love’s soul-chilling autumn’, the band sadly neglected to play their best tune, Devil’s Work, last time around, but were nonetheless worthy of their high billing, third from the top. Bear in mind that this is a band who had barely cut their teeth on the live circuit when were hand-picked to open for Black Sabbath in stadiums, and you’ll get some idea of why they’re so rightly hyped. And on the off chance that they’re reading this… play Devil’s Work, dammit!
9. Electric Wizard
Heavier that a bag of hammers, England’s Electric Wizard have been at the forefront of doom metal since the late ’90s, their Dopethrone album of 2000 considered a landmark of the genre. Mostly they sing about weed and witchcraft, their latest album Wizard Bloody Wizard being a homage to exploitation movies, which the band describe as “43 brain-damaging minutes, six savage hymns to death, drugs, sex and violence, music dragged (and drugged) back from the grave…”. Their most popular T-shirt bears the name of their 2012 EP, Legalize Drugs and Murder. You have been warned. But, in all likelihood, you will ignore those warnings, like so many annoying college kids going to an abandoned house in the woods.
Maryland rockers, Clutch, should need absolutely no introduction, but just in case you’ve been living in the aforementioned abandoned house for the past quarter of a century, here are a few basic facts. 1. They have recorded 12 studio albums, all of them different – ranging from hardcore to blues – and all of them are brilliant. 2. Frontman Neil Fallon is the best rock lyricist alive today. 3. Their fans are known as Gearheads and they know every word. 4. Their song, “Electric Worry,” is the goal song for the Vancouver Canucks hockey team. 5. You probably shouldn’t trust anyone who doesn’t like Clutch.
For all of the Psycho Las Vegas info, go to vivapsycho.com.