Psycho Las Vegas day 2 review: Electric Wizard, High on Fire, Blue Oyster Cult, Boris & more
photos by Levan TK
Friday at Psycho Las Vegas was a parade of great bands on the main stage, and that continued on Saturday. I kicked things off with SubRosa, the Salt Lake City doom band who just released their fantastic new album For This We Fought the Battle of Ages. They were in accordingly high spirits in Vegas on Saturday as they ran through some songs from that album as well as the excellent "The Usher" from their last album More Constant Than The Gods. The presence of two violinists makes them a really unique live band, and their command of dynamics and harmonies makes them a straight-up great one. The combination of beauty and darkness is a classic doom trope, but SubRosa nail that dichotomy with such grace and ease that they make old tropes seem new.
Next up was The Budos Band, which everyone seemed to love but was not really my bag. Instead I headed over to the Vinyl stage (which is much smaller and, more comfortable to the frequent rock club-goer) to catch Oakland psych revivalists Mondo Drag. There are a lot of bands doing this particular thing, but as a wrote back when they played SXSW, Mondo Drag do it well enough to pull it off without seeming like copycats. Their set was fun, spacey, and jammy, and the crowd was really into it. They seem like a loose bunch who really enjoy themselves, and that translated to a good live set.
I meandered back to the main stage to catch A Place to Bury Strangers, who were flatteningly loud to the sparse crowd. They played in almost complete darkness (but with strobes) as they wrestled with some of the harsher noise of the weekend. It was a powerful, ballsy set that probably alienated many of the more chilled-out festival atendees, but I for one was happy for the variety and impressed by their sonic fury.
Then things really started to heat up with the Japanese noise/doom legends Boris, who took the stage to play their classic 2005 album Pink in its entirety. I had seen Boris before, but getting to see them play Pink, my favorite album of theirs, was really a different level of amazing. Where sometimes the whole "full album" thing can feel limiting for a band with as broad a sonic range as Boris, Pink is actually as broad and perfect a summation of their talents as you could ask for. You get crushing doom with "Blackout," searing garage-rock with "Woman on the Screen," blown-out psych with "Afterburner," noise rock freakout with "Pseudo-Bread," and shoegazey goodness with "Farewell." And of course, they just sound so freaking huge, one of those live bands that convince you for an hour that they are the most powerful band on planet earth. Definitely one of the highlights of the weekend.
Next up was High on Fire. The first of two Matt Pike bands playing the fest (Sleep would show up to crush on Sunday night), High on Fire are one of the most reliably great live bands around, and this set was no exception. They are such a whirlwind of activity, so heavy and fast, the musicians all so at the top of their games. And of course the festival was full of "Matt Pike for President" stickers for a reason. The man is one of the greatest metal guitarists of all time and such a force to be reckoned with on stage. I've seen them a bunch of times and they always deliver, and bonus points here for playing "Turk."
I caught a bit of Chicago instrumental doom crew Bongripper on the pool stage. Having seen them approximately 50 times during college, there's only so many times I can go down that road. After a quick trip to Guy Fieri's for some Donkey Sauce I returned to catch some of Blue Oyster Cult on the main stage, which as an experience was not too far removed from dining at that restaurant. I've actually seen them before, and while I dig their first two records, they really do feel like a legacy band clinging on for dear life. Singer Eric Bloom does not have much left in those pipes, guitarist Buck Dharma solos for 75% too long on every song, and everything other than their handful of hits feels like filler ("Burning for You" is an absolute banger though).
I skipped out on the second half of their set to catch Acid King out by the pool and boy was I glad I did. While their brand of stoner-doom is pretty straightforward, it's the details that make these guys so good. Singer/guitarist Lori S has a powerful wail and a woozy, stoned-out-of-her-gourd guitar sound, and drummer Joey Osbourne is one of the weirder, jazzier drummers in the genre. There's a lightness of touch with these guys that translated great on the relatively small outdoor stage.
Finally, the night closed with my most anticipated band of the evening. Electric Wizard are a foundational band, a band that blew my mind thoroughly when I was an impressionable young doom metal newbie, and a band that made Dopethrone, which I still consider to be the greatest stoner metal album of all time. Making their only U.S. appearance this year, they did not disappoint. They just have that sound. No one else has it and you know it when you hear it. They sound so evil, so heavy, so ready to lay waste, so enveloping in their crush. It's simple music that's all in the sound. Those low-in-the-mix vocals, those washed out guitars and lumbering bass, and most of all those evil, evil grooves. Just an amazing set from a band that was serious bucket-listy material for me. They closed with "Funeralopolis" and all was right and good in the world.