A&E

Looking back on 15 notable Psycho Las Vegas 2019 performances

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Opeth perform during the Psycho Las Vegas music festival at Mandalay Bay Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019.
Photo: Yasmina Chavez

Godspeed You! Black Emperor: “Mladic.” It snakes out from the Montreal collective’s unrehearsed intro and begins building, more and more. Sinister guitar emerges, and we’re off. Godspeed You! Black Emperor in Las Vegas. Stranger words were rarely spoken. The group’s first time here is a beauty, riding musicianship, crisp acoustics and dystopian projections recorded long ago, yet more frighteningly appropriate now than ever. We get a new song and one from the late ’90s, “BBF3.” Godspeed You! Black Emperor played Las Vegas, at last. –Spencer Patterson

Cold Cave: Wesley Eisold’s synth-driven ensemble was the second act at the Beach, which they immediately transformed into their own dancey playground. Compared to a pair of relatively stripped-down shows at the Bunkhouse over the past couple of years, this one features bigger production, with Cold Cave bringing heavy fog from smoke machines and a procession of trippy black-and-white visuals to its Psycho party—making it even easier for the crowd to lose itself swaying in the water and engaging in an animated sing-along during the anthemic “Underworld USA.” -Case Keefer

Electric Wizard: A live act’s true test comes the second time around. I pronounced these British doomers’ 2016 Psycho set my favorite—not just of the fest but my entire year in Vegas. Had it been first-timers’ awe, or could they reign again? Last time I described the interwoven, fuzzed-out guitars of Jus Oborn and (wife) Liz Buckingham more like “focused ambient noise than traditional metal” at peak moments, and I stand by that, with further emphasis on the heaviness of the whole situation. Watching bodies lurch forward during “Funeralopolis,” as I felt the intense tug on mine—nothing else I saw this year made me temporarily lose my mind like that. –SP

Psycho Las Vegas, Sunday

En Minor: This was initially billed as the live debut of Phil Anselmo’s new project, but the eight-piece band ended up playing a hometown warm-up in New Orleans before closing out Psycho’s Friday-night House of Blues lineup. That didn’t ruin the surprise. No one knew quite what to expect beyond Anselmo’s descriptions of “post punk” and “depression core” and one single released earlier this month. Live, En Minor sounded somewhat like late-period Johnny Cash fronting Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, as the former Pantera frontman’s gravelly vocals drifted over cello-, acoustic guitar- and keyboard-driven dirges. A (rightfully) divisive figure in metal after a history of insensitive jokes, Anselmo was on his best behavior here, and beaming at the opportunity to play songs he said he began constructing as far back as 1988. “You have no idea how long we’ve been waiting to do this,” he said, glancing over to frequent collaborator Jimmy Bower. “There are a lot of impatient band members up here.” –CK

Tomb Mold: Early-Saturday hangovers were either cured or compounded by a heavy dose of energy during Day 2’s second set at House of Blues. The Toronto death-metallers positively pulverized as their crowd gradually swelled throughout the 45-minute onslaught. Drummer/vocalist Max Klebanoff put on one of the most impressive individual performances of the weekend, blitzing through blast beats while simultaneously bellowing the most demonic growl of the festival. Meanwhile, his three bandmates avoided the awkwardness that can plague bands with a drummer as their focal point, thrashing around with more than enough conviction of their own. –CK

Carcass: “We’re not a doom metal band; we’re a death metal band,” vocalist/guitarist Jeff Carter announced midway through the Liverpool legends’ performance. “We apologize.” No apologies were necessary based on fans’ reactions, as the Events Center’s heaviest set of the weekend also brought the wildest moshpit. Carcass rarely paused through 16 preposterously loud songs with recurring, galloping riffs that brought to mind being trampled by a pack of horses. –CK

Mark Lanegan: Hmm. Really hoped I’d love this, because I’d never seen him (or Screaming Trees before), but it didn’t work out that way. Not sure if it was the Beach sound, or the physically separate Beach stage, but it didn’t sing. Lanegan did, and his voice was raspy-cool, but the set wasn’t particularly memorable for me. –SP

Psycho Las Vegas, Saturday

The Original Misfits: At most other appearances since the reformation of the horror-punks’ early lineup, vocalist Glenn Danzig has specifically stressed that the band won’t be together much longer. On Saturday night at Psycho, Danzig skipped that aside. The typically cantankerous frontman appeared to be having a blast, even cracking a smile as a flying piece of headwear nearly hit him mid-song.“ Keep your hippie hats offstage,” he joked. Doyle von Wolfgang Frankenstein smash a couple of guitars in frustration over early sound issues, but the mix was salvaged to passable midway through. Regardless, the weekend’s largest crowd didn’t seem to mind, screaming along the words of “We Are 138,” “Last Caress” and more. –CK

The Faint: I wondered how these synthy party-starters would fare at guitar-worshipping Psycho, so I ducked out of the headlining Misfits to check out the scene at the Beach. Not a huge crowd, but those there enjoyed the hell out of it, some shimmying around in the water, some bouncing around on the sand. Fun times, especially 2019 cut “Young and Realistic.” –SP

Weedeater: Having been announced just two days before the festival as a replacement for Rotting Christ, Weedeater took the Events Center stage to a hero’s welcome early Sunday, and the band basked in the adoration. Vocalist/bassist “Dixie” Dave Collins elevated the performance from the band’s previous two showings at the Vegas festival even as he stuck to a setlist similarly heavy on 2007 cult classic God Luck and Good Speed. Between songs, the frontman was celebratory, downing half a bottle of Jack Daniels during the set’s first half (and briefly balancing it on his head). Collins is creeping up on Psycho mainstay Matt Pike (of High on Fire and Sleep) as the festival’s unofficial musician-mascot. ­–CK

Have a Nice Life: Even in the information age, some bands remain mythical, especially to those of us in Las Vegas, where things like Have a Nice Life only come by happy accident. The acclaimed but relatively unknown and rarely seen Connecticut act might have been the most unexpected on Psycho’s 2019 lineup, and vocalist Dan Barrett, guitarist Tim Macuga and their touring bandmates produced the most artistically unique—and continuously evolving—set I caught all weekend. At times it nodded at Talk Talk, at times at The Cure, and very often it felt more like jazz than rock. Intricate, unpredictable and gorgeous all around. –SP

Psycho Las Vegas, Friday

Mogwai: It’s been five years since I caught Mogwai, and I’m happy to report the Scots are still doing their Mogwai thing really, really well. When those big layers pile up, it makes stuff happen to your body: Call it heart-stirring or spine-tingling or skin-crawling … whatever it is for you, if music makes you feel stuff, you’ll feel this, in a life-affirming kinda way. “Mogwai Fear Satan” was my favorite (ducks, because he should support the new stuff), but overall a very strong showing. –SP

Beach House: The Baltimore trio set got off on a sluggish foot but rebounded nicely, contributing some mellow contrast to a busy, heavy Psycho Sunday. Understated lighting and visuals set the mood, and the band’s hypnotic arrangements and Victoria Legrand’s throaty vocals took it from there. Another forward programming choice by Psycho, which continues to book more on musical beliefs than strict dollars and sense. –SP

Opeth: Some bands struggled to command the arena environs of the Events Center; Opeth did the opposite. The Swedish prog-metal masters effectively shrunk the cavernous room with a journey through nearly their entire discography. Leader Mikael Akerfeldt provided the set with an intimate feel, introducing songs by sharing thoughts on everything from the Misfits to his initial insecurities about the project’s evolving sound. Opeth often gets criticized for straying too far from its death-metal origins, but an added live crunch on proggy tracks like “Sorceress” and “Cusp of Eternity” demonstrated the newer material can feel just as heavy. That wasn’t the only notion nullified during Opeth’s their lone U.S. performance of 2019—the band also proved those who considered them a stretch as a headliner to be sorely mistaken. –CK

Amenra: Watching the post-metal quintet’s festival-closing set from atop the House of Blues was like witnessing a mass exorcism. Bodies flailed in all directions on the floor while heads bopped continuously in the bleachers. No wonder Amenra refers to its live shows as “rituals.” The Belgians’ built power through extreme dynamics, weaving through beautiful quiet passages to set up devastatingly sludgy crescendos. It was a fitting way to end Psycho, one last undeniable show of force after a weekend full of it. –CK

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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