Psycho Las Vegas August 18-20, $99/day, $249/fest. Hard Rock Hotel, vivapsycho.com.
If you’re considering attending the heavy and psychedelic rock celebration known as Psycho Las Vegas—or if you already have your tickets for the festival’s second-annual Hard Rock Hotel edition, set for August 18-20—odds are you’re already acquainted with the headliners: psych stalwarts The Brian Jonestown Massacre, who’ll close Friday; Danish metal veteran King Diamond, set to cap Saturday with a performance of 1987 album Abigail; and modern metal behemoths Mastodon, Sunday’s final act. Stoner-rock favorites Sleep, who’ll play the Vegas event for the second straight year on Saturday, will surely be familiar to most fans, too, but what about the rest of the lineup? Here are some names well worth knowing heading into Friday’s action.
MULATU ASTATKE (Friday, 10:30 p.m., the Joint) His name would look good in jagged death-metal font, but Astatke’s actually a jazzman, the 73-year-old “father of Ethio jazz,” a subgenre that melds native Ethiopian sounds with American jazz. The vibraphone- and percussion-playing bandleader is surely the least heavy act on Psycho’s bill, perfect for palate-cleansing between Sleep and BJM. Spin: 1972 LP Mulatu of Ethiopia. –SP
BLACK ANVIL (Friday, 11:30 p.m., Vinyl) The band’s two founding members—vocalist/bassist Paul Delaney and vocalist/drummer Raeph Glicken—played in seminal NYC hardcore act Kill Your Idols before crossing over to breathe new life into black metal for the past decade. Spin: 2017 LP As Was. –CK
COUGH (Saturday, 1 p.m., the Joint) If you sleep in on Saturday, try to rise in time for this Richmond, Virginia, foursome. The band’s fuzzy doom slabs—which sound ultra-heavy on last year’s Still They Pray, produced by Electric Wizard leader Jus Oborn—should shake the crust from your eyes … or put you in a deep, dark coma. Spin: 2016 LP Still They Pray. –SP
CARCASS (Saturday, 4:50 p.m., the Joint) The melodic death metal pioneers annihilated Las Vegas in March 2016, the Brits’ only local show since reuniting in 2007. But that was an abbreviated set opening for Slayer, and frontman Jeff Walker was confined to a chair after breaking his foot. A full experience should be all the more pummeling. Spin: 1993 LP Heartwork. –CK
EARTHLESS (Saturday, 7:35 p.m., the Joint) Having seen this San Diego trio once before (at Austin Psych Fest, 2014), I can confirm the reports: Earthless’ cosmic, jammed-out brand of heavy psych will take you on a journey—and leave you certain you’ve witnessed one of the most hypnotic sets of your life. Spin: The band’s March 18, 2016 show on nyctaper.com. –SP
NEUROSIS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., the Joint) There might be no event like Psycho without Neurosis. The Oakland band has pushed the boundaries of heavy music for the past 30 years, experimenting thoroughly and successfully enough to inspire acts across the wide spectrum of genres represented this weekend. Spin: 1996 LP Through Silver and Blood. –CK
GOST (Saturday, 2 a.m., Vinyl) Who says metalheads don’t dance? Give the riffs a rest and clear your ears with some body-moving synthwave to cap day two. This producer—who wears a Skeletor-like mask onstage and keeps his identity a mystery—seems like an outlier on the Psycho poster, but his chilling, John Carpenter-y creations should fit right in among the darkness. Spin: 2016 LP Non Paradisi. –SP
ZEAL AND ARDOR (Sunday, 1 p.m., the Joint) Nothing else sounds like Z&A, a project that fuses blast beats with slave chants and shrieking vocals with chain thuds. Manuel Gagneux started the project on a dare to mix black metal with black music, and never expected it to take off. It’ll be interesting to see how his happy accident translates live. Spin: 2016 LP Devil Is Fine. –CK
GATECREEPER (Sunday, 8:45 p.m., pool) A long overdue Las Vegas debut for the Phoenix death metal band, which might be both the youngest and most promising act on the Psycho bill. Catch Gatecreeper in an intimate environment while it’s still possible; the group’s first full length, produced by Converge’s Kurt Ballou, is quickly catching fire in the metal underground. Spin: 2016 LP Sonoran Depravation. –CK
SWANS (Sunday, 9:15 p.m., Joint) Swans are playing Las Vegas! Locals who can’t make the full fest ought to at least consider a Sunday pass, to catch Michael Gira’s infamously intense, long-form experimental-rock project. Swans are scheduled for two full hours—most among Psycho’s 70-plus acts—so we’ll get to hear two or three songs, at least. Spin: 2016 LP The Glowing Man. –SP