Psycho Vegas: A Metalheads Journey
After the cancellation of Psycho 2020 and the multiple lineup changes due to scheduling conflicts and covid travel restrictions Psycho 2021 still persevered and was a monster. The first set of cancellations happened after the 2020 festival was canceled and some notable bands couldn’t make 2021 like Mercyful Fate and At the Gates to name a few. The second round of cancellations happened very close to the start of the festival due to covid cases spiking and overseas bands not able to travel here because of it, which eliminated most of the black metal bands, which was going to be the centerpiece of the festival. The good news is that it seems like most, if not all, the bands that had to cancel both times are confirmed for next year. Personally, I only like a bit of black metal and was mainly looking forward to Satyricon and MGLA, especially their phenomenal drummer. Psycho did do a good job scrambling to fill the empty slots at the last minute with some bands that previously played the fest like Vio-lence, High on Fire, Integrity, Mutoid Man, and others. Unfortunately even some of those bands had to cancel at the very last minute. Singer Sean Killian of Vio-lence contracted covid, The Obsessed cancelled because of mask mandates, and legendary The Skull singer Eric Wagner (Trouble, Blackfinger) contracted covid and sadly passed away due to it. RIP. All in all this could of been a shit show but if you went not knowing all this you would think it all went off without a hitch. Really the only complaints I heard were a weaker lineup (which was understandable) and the long walk to the merch area. This being my fourth Psycho Vegas (out of 5) I vowed after going all 4 days last year that i will do the same at the next one. I did’t quite do that, even with a Weekender Pass but you will see why below. So without futher adeu let’s break this beast of a festival down day by day:
Wednesday: 70k Goes to Psycho
The festivities starting early with the 70k Tons of Metal Goes to Psycho meetup at Ri Ra at Mandalay Bay. This was a group of people that attend the famous heavy metal cruise every year and decided to all come to Psycho as the cruise was canceled this year. Personally I have not been on the cruise but my girlfriend Powell Boyer has multiple times and she introduced me to a great, great group of people from all over the country who took me in as one of their own. I cannot wait to finally go to one especially after meeting all these crazy, amazing people. These were the group of folks that were primarily camped at the lounge all 3 days and had a revolving roster of folks coming and going depending on who was seeing each band. This was the place I went between bands all weekend and was great to relax, not rush to see a thousand bands, and get to drink and get to know these people more.
Thursday: Psycho Swim
This day was a real disappointment from the beginning as there was no true headliner. Last year you had Corrosion of Conformity headlining, this year Old Man Gloom, which even if you are a fan they aren’t really headline material. For those unaware this is a separately ticketed show at a different pool location at Mandalay Bay and a really cool setup for show. I’m disappointed I missed it. Hopefully next year will be better.
Running a bit late, the first band I was there to see was Mutoid Man. This being my third time seeing them i was looking forward to seeing them on a big stage with decently long set time. This was the first show with new bassist Jeff Matz, also in High on Fire who played the fest on Sunday. The band is veritable who’s who of musicians with drummer Ben Koller also in All Pigs Must Die, Converge, Killer Be Killed and singer/guitarist Stephen Brodsky with Cave In, Old Man Gloom, and ex Converge. If you’re not familiar with them their sound is tough to pigeonhole with bits of old school metal, Motorhead vibes, and some extra weirdness thrown in. Besides the great tunes and even a new song thrown in the thing that impressed me most was the sound and stage setup. This being in the arena, Psycho definitely stepped it up this year with huge video screens on each side of the stage, and a lighting rig that was super impressive. A good size break before the next band I wanted to see so we headed back up to Ri Ra to grab some grub and hang with ITPA founder Anastasia Cwiklinski for a bit. After dinner it was time to catch a bit of Goatwhore, who are always solid. I got to catch them at the last Psycho Fest and even caught em one time in Los Angeles opening for Satyricon. Next up was the band I was most stoked to see this day, Obituary. Even though the setlist was heavy on the early stuff (I prefer mid-period Obituary, World Demise being my fave) the sound and light took them over the top. Man, you just felt this bands music down to your core, which was as satisfying as it gets. A big break after that then to some of Mastodon who always put on a good show. After Mastodon we pretty much camped out at the lounge all night till the wee hours then an uber back home to sleep off the copious amounts of booze and metal.
The day I skipped. There were multiple reasons i skipped this day, the main one being the lineup. I was also nursing a pretty mean hangover and felt it would be wise to save my strength (and some $) for Sunday, which was my main day. Saturday had nothing I’m really a fan of and nothing too intriguing. Even though they aren’t metal and I’m definitely not a fan it would of been cool to pop in to see a few Flaming Lips songs as I hear they put on a very trippy, excellent show. The other band I would of been interested in is Cannibal Corpse at the pool, which sounded like it would be a lot fun and apparently it was. The headliner that night was Danzing and that’s a band I loathe. Between his annoying voice and mediocre music I don’t get why he’s regarded in such high esteem but apparently I just don’t get it. To each their own.
My most anticipated day. Another late start this time, the first band that I wanted to see was Midnight, which unfortunately I missed part of. Only coming on my radar within the last year or so this band seemed like they would put on a great live show and they sure as hell did. Sounding like Motorhead meets Venom with band members shrouded in cloaks these guys brought copious amounts of energy to the stage with their blasphemic songs and I hope to see these guys again soon. Another big break before the almighty Exodus was to begin. This show was to be without original drummer Tom Hunting as he is recovering from cancer surgery but to fill in was former Exodus alumni John Tempesta, who has also played with White Zombie, Testament, The Cult, amongst others. A pretty old school setlist and a few surprise cuts, Exodus shows that 40+ years after their formation they still bring it harder and heavier than bands half their age. A nice surprise was the return of original guitarist Rick Hunolt for the last few songs, which was a cool addition. The pit was strong, the show was magnificent and Exodus fucking rules! Even had to grab an Exodus Psycho exclusive shirt to commemorate the show. Saving the best for last (for me, at least) was the almighty Down playing “NOLA” in its entirety. That is one of the few perfect albums that I listen to and to say I was stoked would be an understatement. Phil and the band sounded great, the only issue would be that all they did was songs off NOLA, and not even in order. You would think a band like that headlining the night would play a full set and add other songs from their repertoire but I guess not. Hey, they still played my favorite songs by them and even though a few off Down II would of been great I was still quite happy.
Final Thoughts (pun intended)
There were a few other bands I would of liked to see such as High on Fire, Exhorder, and Khemmis, but not being a big fan of any of them I chose to relax and skip. Catching the full sets from Mutoid Man and Midnight would of been great and I should of been a little progressive about looking into some bands that I was not too familiar with. Also, even though I had a Weekender Pass and only went to 2 out of the 4 days all in all I’m still quite happy with the bands I saw and the weekend in general. It’s looking like next year’s lineup is going to be beyond amazing and I cannot wait for it. Now that I have friends coming in from all over it might be time to get a room all weekend next year and party and tourist it up. Would be a whole different experience than this year. Till next year….cheers!