Las Vegas is playing host to an ever-increasing number of massive music celebrations, ranging from the established EDM-focused Electric Daisy Carnival to more recent entries like Rock in Rio USA and the countrified Route 91 Harvest Music Festival.
Though not the same scale as the aforementioned events, Psycho Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel promises four days of the most seismic psychedelic rock, blistering punk and heaviest doom metal ever gathered in one place. A sequel to last year’s acclaimed three-day Psycho California bacchanalia at the Observatory in Santa Ana, the 2016 edition features over 90 bands that range from influential heavy rock acts from the ‘60s and ‘70s, underground greats from the same era who finally got their due in recent years, and a stellar roster of established punk, metal, psychedelic and hard rock groups from the 1990s to today.
In terms of name recognition, the two biggest acts on the bill are undoubtedly weekend headliners Alice Cooper and Blue Oyster Cult. Still staples on classic-rock radio and the international touring circuit, both continue to exert a substantial influence, whether you’re talking about Cooper’s pioneering shock-rock theatrics or BOC’s brainy lyrics and inventive guitar riffs. With Blue Oyster Cult promising to deliver a set leaning heavily on their early albums, some fans are hoping that Cooper’s recent songwriting collaboration with member of his band’s classic line-up could mean some surprise special guests onstage Sunday.
The party gets off to an early start on Thursday afternoon with a pre-festival pool party headlined by the most resilient Seattle band to emerge during the grunge era, garage-punk veterans Mudhoney. Dealing out a corrosive mix of Blue Cheer’s blown-out psych fuzz and the Stooges’ savage attack, the quartet has been inspiring beer-and-sweat soaked moshpits with feral tunes like “Touch Me I’m Sick” and “In ‘n’ Out of Grace” for nearly 40 years.
The pool party is rounded out by a stellar supporting cast including the surreal collision of fast-food mania and brilliantly executed Black Sabbath covers that is Mac Sabbath, Dallas-based power trio Mothership, Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell’s melodic psych group Golden Void, iconic early desert-rock crew Fatso Jetson and more. Thursday night will feature a summit of modern psych masters with Vancouver, BC heavyweights Black Mountain sharing the stage at the Hard Rock’s club Vinyl with acclaimed Brooklyn drone merchants White Hills in addition to Detroit metal band Acid Witch and shoegaze/stoner group Highlands. Unlike the pool party, the night show requires separate admission.
On Friday, the festival has it’s proper commencement with an array of 28 bands on three stages starting at 12:45 p.m. and extending late into the night. While a rare headlining appearance by pioneering British psych/shock pioneers the Crazy World of Arthur Brown (best known for their 1967 hit “Fire”) is sure to be a major draw, the challenge faced by attendees will be how to avoid missing any must-see bands in what is sure to be a jam-packed schedule.
Among the tough decisions to be made: see former 16 Horsepower frontman David Eugene Edward’s psychedelic country group Wovenhand or Boston riff maestros Gozu? Hear Detroit proto-punk favorites Death or the epic noise of reunited ’90s post-punk band Drive Like Jehu? Check out veteran American doom progenitors Pentagram or Sacramento doom upstarts CHRCH? Watch synth-powered prog-rock duo Zombi or the aforementioned Arthur Brown? Sacrifices will have to be made.
It’s to the festival organizers’ credit that those kind of dilemmas run rampant throughout the weekend. A short list of more anticipated acts include Japanese experimental trio Boris playing a special set focusing on their seminal album Pink, British Beatles-meets-Sabbath cult rockers Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, pioneering SoCal stoner-rockers Fu Manchu, hazy, NYC-based stoned instrumental funk ensemble the Budos Band, Atlanta’s tuneful prog-metal outfit Baroness, unsung ’70s Iowa hard rockers Truth and Janey, monolithic Portland doom band YOB and an exclusive set by UK doom giants Electric Wizard.
The festival also boasts a hefty contingent of San Francisco Bay Area bands. SF stoner-metal heroes Acid King, Oakland guitar maestro Matt Pike doing double duty with his pioneering stoner-doom trio Sleep and his faster paced metal juggernaut High On Fire, krautrock-influenced psych explorers Lumerians, dirtbag heavy rockers Lecherous Gaze, rising SF stoner thrash trio Hornss and East Bay ’70s heavy prog-style group Mondo Drag are all worthy additions to any adventurous listener’s schedule.
Round that out with a blacklight poster lounge featuring work by noted artist David D’Andrea, Skinner, Arik Roper and Dirty Donny Gillies, stand-up from noted metal fan and talented comic Brian Posehn, DJ sets from Scott Ian of Anthrax and festival curators Pellet and Evan Hagen, and screenings of two documentaries — the Palm Desert scene doc Desert Age and first-time SF filmmaker Bob Hannam’s Melvins film The Colossus of Destiny — and a boogie van blackjack tournament, and you have a festival made in heavy-metal heaven.
For more information and tickets to Psycho Las Vegas, visit the festival’s official website.
Psycho Las Vegas
Friday-Sunday, August 26-28 (pre-party Thursday, August 27)
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino