Before you sink your teeth into this, let me make a quick disclaimer for those of you looking for a standard review. This ain’t it. If you want to read, ad nauseam, about each band that played, who was good, who wasn’t, what songs they played or how many bands are “female fronted,” have female members or where any of these bands are from I can guarantee you a quick internet search will get you your fix somewhere. If you are looking for someone to tell you what any of the bands sound like, look like or act like then here is a novel idea, buy their music, go to a show and form an opinion for yourself. No offense intended to anyone writing something like that or looking for that kind of thing but you won’t find it here because I don’t feel like writing something everyone else has or will. (Offense intended to anyone still finding some ridiculous need to write or read about bands being “female fronted.” Fuck off.)
Oh, also there will be naughty words.
The most common question I have been asked about the Psycho Las Vegas music fest (do I really need to tell you where it takes place?) is what it’s actually like. Having gone the two years it has existed I guess I have some idea so I will try and paint a picture for you since every fest has different a vibe.
Ok so have you been to a Casino? Not some little row of slot machines in a convenient store or an airport but an actual casino? Ok, how about a certain restaurant named The Hard Rock Cafe? No? Well, I’m sure you have been to something close. Think Rainforest Cafe but instead of intermittent thunderstorms and moving stuffed animals you have rock and roll memorabilia in every nook and cranny and plastered all over the walls with loud music blasting everywhere. Still with me? Great. Been to a concert? A Hotel? Perfect. Now put all those things together in one building and you got it. Oh and a pool. Oh crap, also a few bars. And a tattoo shop. And a clothing store. Ok so this is getting to be like that scene in the movie The Jerk because I keep remembering more things inside this place. Moving on…
Now this may sound like I am simplifying it but this at least gives you a general idea. The other day it came to mind that PsychoLV (cool kid term I assume) is not unlike taking Times Square in New York, putting it out in the middle of nowhere in a desert, dropping three stages in the center with bands playing back and forth. Add alchohol and weed, bake in the oven for four days and enjoy.
This may sound slightly horrifying but to tell the truth it’s a truly good, although exhausting, time. To me it feels less like a metal or metal-ish fest and more like a party you don’t leave for almost a week, with bands playing. Yeah, you can absolutely just nap in your room all day but good luck. There are more distractions than anywhere I have experienced and it can be quite challenging to finally nod off. Most nights I didn’t even realize that it was in fact, night. Every second feels like it’s somewhere between mid afternoon and evening. It isn’t until you go outside, either to go to the pool stage that ran at night, or to pop over to the CVS across the street for much needed and less expensive bottles of water, that you had any idea the sun had set. Each morning I would drag my wobbly legs down from my room after a restful 2-3 hours of sleep to guzzle down caffeine and find people still up from the night before sitting at the center bar, pulling on slot machines or aimlessly wandering around bleary-eyed.
Once you remember how to get around the place, it’s pretty easy to get from one spot to another and if you choose to do so, you can see a bit of each and every band that plays as long as you don’t get distracted by something shiny. With all of the places to eat and drink within the resort you could conceivably never leave it and have all your needs met. Personally I chose to take time on two occasions to venture out into the desert. Once, to The Valley of Fire and another day, to Red Rock Canyon. For me that is the best thing about Vegas. A city, is a city, is a city; but being a 30-minute drive from some of the most beautiful spots in nature is what initially drew me to the fest in 2016. I like extremes so it was a perfect fit. It also doesn’t hurt if you can have some of your favorite people with you which was the case for me.
Musically, Psycho is not what I would call very extreme, nor would I say it delves too far into the metal underground scene. Yeah there have been some notable exceptions but really it seems geared more toward standard and stoner rock and doom metal. If you are looking for something more on the extreme side of things then this may not be the fest for you but if you like mostly doom and stoner styles with just a bit of death, black, standard metal, and avant-garde sprinkled in then Psycho Las Vegas is right up your alley. Because of the location you will see pretty much every band member hanging out and enjoying themselves. There doesn’t seem to be a separation in that respect between the acts and the fans so there were only a handful of musicians that I did not see wandering around and enjoying themselves.
So there you go. That’s my take on what this fest is like. Big party, little sleep, lots of bands, shiny things and swimming. My only complaint really would be the way the band merch room was set up. There was way too much damn space between the big chain link fence everything was tacked on and where you could view it from. At some parts the closest I could get to the stupid fence was about 25 feet so there was just about no way to tell what was what and if any bands were selling patches or cd’s since at best all I could see was one side of a shirt. Even then it was so far away that you couldn’t really tell if you liked it or not. Finding a specific bands wares in the confusion was kind of a shit show. I would say that should be re-evaluated going forward.
Oh just one more thing since it will probably come up. I took photos of the fest and you will see that I didn’t get a lot of what I talked about above. It’s almost exclusively photographs of the bands I said I wasn’t going to go into detail about in this piece. First, you can’t take photos in a casino. Trust me I tried a few times only to get shut down by security so other than some quick cell phone photos I and others snapped you won’t find photos of Matt Pike minding his own business playing a slot machine or Abbath drinking at the center bar. Another reason I don’t have those is because I am a firm believer of leaving people alone when they are just trying to wind down, having a drink or two or swimming in the pool. Jesus, give people a break. It’s a party not a meet and greet event. Secondly, this is what I do. I photograph bands at shows. I am not paparazzi and I don’t take pictures of people they would hate or when they are falling down drunk. That is just not who I am.
P.S. Magma was fucking great!
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY HILLARIE JASON