It was reunited Massachusetts band Warhorse who had the honor of opening the day on the House of Blues stage, and what a way to start the day. I went in with low expectations considering it was just their 2nd show since they broke up in 2005 (they first reunited for Maryland Doom Fest this year), but holy shit did the doom trio deliver in a huge and pounding way. The reunited band has the same lineup they had when they broke up, including original drummer/vocalist Mike Hubbard (who also drums in Gozu who played Psycho a few years ago), and talented shredder Terry Savastano of Grief/Come to Grief on guitar. In 2003, Terry replaced guitarist Todd Laskowski, who sadly passed away in 2018. Todd played on their only proper full length, 2001’s Southern Lord release As Heaven Turns to Ash…, an album you need in your life if you’re not already familiar, and an album we were lucky to hear songs from again 18 years later. Speaking of lucky, despite initial talk of the reunion being a one-and-then-two-off, vocalist/bassist Jerry Orne mentioned from stage that Warhorse was officially back in action.
Up next you had to decide between Psycho regulars Weedeater (who saved the day by replacing Rotting Christ at the last minute, and whose unmistakable frontman Dave “Dixie” Collins I saw walking around a few times throughout the weekend), or the unclassifiable (but not metal) CT band Have a Nice Life. The latter’s two albums are favorites, and their shows are pretty rare, so HANL it was. Their six-piece band includes the sole two original members, three newer band members, and one guy whose job it was just to modify the live visuals. With the frontman varying between sitting on the edge of the stage for a slow song to running around the stage on faster ones, they played old songs, and new songs from their new album Sea of Worry which is out later this year. To quote Wiki, “they are known for their unique style of post-punk, which includes elements of shoegazing, post-rock, industrial, ambient and drone,” and you could say we got a taste of all of that, along with the emotional gut punch they delivered.
Conventiently, reunited Bay Area thrash band Vio-lence were up next on the same stage, and here was yet another reunion that delivered, original member Phil Demmel of Machine Head on guitar included. Distinctive vocalist Sean Killian underwent a liver transplant in 2018, but you’d never know it as they whipped through the setlist, encouraging the crowd to keep the circle pit going. The crowd very much obliged.
Post-rock powerhouse Mogwai meanwhile were treating the arena crowd to a beautifully loud and moving experience, much like Godspeed did on the same stage earlier in the weekend (I was able to get there for the last few songs of their set). Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats (who I watched in full) followed with a loud wall of fuzzy heavy psych and trippy, sometimes-horror-themed visuals, much like Electric Wizard did earlier in the weekend on the same stage… and much to the delight of the many people partaking in Nevada’s legal THC products.
Probably Psycho’s most controversial booking via being a hipster band on a mostly-metal fest (and who I controversially watched instead of 1349 who I’ve seen before and who I can see in a small club on their upcoming tour), Beach House were up next in the arena, playing a typically beautiful set of dream pop numbers taken from their many excellent albums. But — relatively speaking — attendance did seem light on this one, considering how big of a band Beach House are and how big of a venue they were playing. They sounded great and people were into it, but I needed to jet out a bit early to guarantee I didn’t miss any of…
Integrity were announced as the secret band playing House of Blues, and considering how hard it is for a New Yorker like myself to catch a show by Dwid Hellion’s influential band (they don’t play here, ever), I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity (even if it meant missing Deafheaven on the beach). Though the crowd wasn’t really in a moshing mood, a big pit did open up for the few dudes who were trying out their hardcore moves as Dwid, Domenic Romeo (whose young daughter was sitting to the side of the stage) and gang played the version of metalcore they helped invent. It was the second time that weekend that bassist Francis Kano played House of Blues. The first time was with Devil Master who Dwid gave a shoutout during the set.
Integrity ended just in time for me to make it back to the ‘Events Center’ to see Opeth‘s headlining set, one I was highly anticipating despite — like many — not being a big fan of the newer non-metal stuff. I’m not an expert on Opeth setlists, but I do know that they’ve never stopped playing a mix of fan favorites from all of their albums, no matter how much they change their sound as time goes on. We did in fact only get 2 songs that came out in the last 10 years which is the time their progressive rock stopped containing death metal. They also don’t like to play new songs before an album is out, and in fact we got none from the impending 2019 album In Cauda Venenum. Frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt — who claimed to have lost his voice while walking around the festival talking to fans, and who seemed excited to have caught the Misfits reunion show one night earlier (as well as “Led Zeppelin 2” who he said was good) — promised the new sets would come during a still-unannounced 2020 North American tour. It was a great set with one song each from eight different albums. Check out the full setlist below.
Power Trip are one of my favorite bands, and I’m sure their set on the beach stage, complete with the now legendary (but predictable) circle pit in the wading pool, was amazing, but I’ve seen them many times and will see them again soon, so it was Opeth for me at that time (not an easy decision) (and sorry Twin Temple, what a shitty set time, but the video and pictures I saw made your Satanic doo-wop set look fun). In fact, on a normal day I would have loved to have seen 1349, Deafheaven and Power Trip, but on Sunday I never even made it out to the beach stage they played once, though I could see and hear that outdoor stage from my room, so I got a taste of Kadavar‘s 11pm set from 26 floors up when I quickly stopped there after Opeth, and before I ran back down for…
Amenra were officially the final set of the fest, starting at 11:30pm in House of Blues. It was an intense way to close out the day, with a set pretty much exactly as we described when we caught them with Yob in Brooklyn in April.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. From there the party moved to the Rhythm & Riffs Lounge which is literally a public bar and stage area in the middle of the casino that anybody walking by could attend (and I noticed many non-fest attendees at the Led Zeppelin tribute show the night before). Until 1am, the cast of popular Brooklyn-based podcast (it usually tapes live at Saint Vitus) Two Minutes to Late Night were keeping people entertained with their talk show format that mixes comedy, audience participation, special guests and live music. House drummer Ben Koller (Converge/Mutoid Man) was behind the kit, and Royal Thunder’s Miny Parsonz was up there playing in the band too (like she did on the same stage with Royal Thunder two days earlier).
From 1am-2:30, Andrew W.K. took over with a DJ set and that’s when the party really got started. Andrew was playing a fine selection of crowd-pleasing metal that had people moshing and dancing, closing with his own “Party Hard” that really had the entire place going nuts right up to the 2:30 curfew when people were screaming they wanted more (and when many took the opportunity to run up and get a selfie with Mr. W.K.) Video of the Andrew W.K. dance party and much more in the story highlights of Invisible Oranges’ Instagram.
OPETH — Psycho Las Vegas 2019 setlist
Ghost of Perdition
Demon of the Fall
Cusp of Eternity
In My Time of Need
The Drapery Falls
photos by Ben Stas