Psycho Las Vegas 2022 – Day 2 Notes

Belzebong (Photo by JJ Koczan)


It’s a kind of radical self-determinism. There is no rescue or guiding hand coming. The whole time I’ve been in Vegas, and really since Psycho got rolling here in 2016, I think I’m not the only one who’s been trying to understand just what the hell it’s all supposed to be about. I won’t lie, getting my head around it and seeing what Psycho has become as it’s gotten bigger and more encompassing is part of why I’m here. I acknowledge that for a good many people that’s just the wrong approach, but that’s the idea too.

You know how Americans think we don’t have a culture and that’s our culture? Well, consider a festival as a “we” experience. There is a collective of people all in the same place for a similar basic reason — this is the foundation of community. Psycho isn’t about the “we.” Certainly there are people here with fest-friends and all that, but it’s more the individualized experience. The ‘you’ in it is singular. You choose your adventure.

For the most part you can move around freely as you do so — local statutes and constabulary permitting — and what you see, who you’re with and why is up to you. Psycho isn’t about bringing everybody together in a lump and presenting a vision. It’s letting attendees handle their own curation. Between that and the brass-coated male-gaze consumerism happening all around the music, this becomes a distinctly American idea. The narrative becomes one of searching out your own way through the huge tangle of lineups, discovering where you need to be and when as you go. It’s thrilling in a way. Pioneer spirit. You’re here, you figure it out.

That is not an experience for everyone, nor is it everyone’s experience of America, but that too is a part of the culture of this country and a part of the story Psycho Las Vegas is telling about it. I don’t know if I feel like I’ve figured it out, but everybody who for years has been comparing Psycho to other fests, in Europe or not, is doing it wrong. That giant chrome ball in the middle of the mall space at Resorts World? That’s your answer. It doesn’t have to justify itself. You are here. Now go get wrecked. Psycho Las Vegas is a different animal. Use its teeth to carve out your own good time.

For many, I expect the ‘mad musical odyssey’ aspect means last night’s, or Thursday’s, party is still going. So be it. It’s eight in the morning. My alarm was set for this time, but I got up and out early. I might sit outside Starbucks in this chair until someone either shoos me away or I actually finish both these coffees, which are what they are. I imagine there are people’s whose chosen adventures lead to places outside this billions-and-billions-of-dollars hotel complex. I’m not so brave, apart from that one trip the first night to the dispensary.

Later, after coffee

Maybe I got up too early. I feel like there’s a lot of very famous hair around right now. I wonder how many other festivals are going on?

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Seeing Kings Destroy was a trip. Every time I’m anywhere those guys are, it’s a good day. A bit sentimental, but let’s be honest, I don’t have a lot of friends. That’s my own fault more than anything. They played “Green Diamonds” though, which is loved, and “Old Yeller.” “I know your people they hang out at this club.”

There is no place to sit in the Dawg House, save for $25-minimum tables. I’ve got a leaning spot and might just have to stay here for the duration, since this is where most of what I want to see is happening. Choose your adventure and I stand still and complain about no chairs. That sounds about right.

But about Kings Destroy. I’ve written a ton of shit on the subject over the last 12 years. A lot. And I feel pretty comfortable in saying that I’ve barely scratched the surface in what’s going on in that band. The two-guitar dynamic, the different personalities of the players coming through on stage. There’s a ton there, influence-wise, pulling from classic rock more than I ever have them credit for, and it’s been a minute since I put on those records, but hearing songs from Fantasma Nera had almost nostalgic vibes, even though they’re not actually that old. Oh yeah, seeing Kings Destroy. That’s a thing I used to do before the world fell apart.

Greenbeard (Photo by JJ Koczan)

And goodness gracious Greenbeard rock. That’s kind of their thing, right? Well it holds up. Even after what I’ll call an excess of coffee, I feel a bit like I’m dragging ass, but neither Kings Destroy — C-wolf and Carl in sunglasses like the Blues Brothers on either side of the stage — nor Greenbeard were in similar straits. For the best. I stayed up front for Kings Destroy, like you do, and moved back for Greenbeard, but man, the groove is statistically significant. I don’t want to say it’s a surprise, since I saw them like two and a half months ago, but it is hitting the spot vibe-wise. Belzebong after this is going to be crusty fun.

Belzebong (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Later again

I feel guilty as shit for being here. You know what my wife did today? She painted the ceiling of our fucking kitchen. After driving back from dropping the kid off in Connecticut to stay with his aunt for an overnight. God damn I’m selfish. Painted the ceiling. And what was I doing? Daring to see Blood Incantation instead of Rifflord, who I saw two days ago? Yes, look at my bold and unpredictable action. Surely worthy of my apparent station in life.

Blood Incantation (Photo by JJ Koczan)

As Tom G. Warrior tells us, “Ough.”

But I did go see Blood Incantation after Belzebong’s ultra-stoner riff onslaught, because sometimes a bit of kicking around is good for the ol’ soul, and I needed it. Nothing against Rifflord, mind you. I just needed to be where I was.

And Blood Incantation provided the shove I needed as well, that ur-groove that only death metal has. Technical but fun to watch in a look-at-what-people-can-do-with-noise kind of way. You’ll pardon me if I try and push back on the imaginary obligations I invent for myself. Occasionally.

Duel (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Duel, Blackwater Holylight, and Stinking Lizaveta (yes, again), in quick succession. It wound up I checked out Duel — ripper, duh — and went up to the Event Center to get in the photo pit for Blackwater Holylight, didn’t get my requisite email out soon enough and so didn’t get in. I took pictures from the crowd. Who cares? Like I gotta make deadline for The Daily Bugle or some shit. Heads up though, Blackwater Holylight are a prog band. And I’m pretty sure they know it. They had a violinist on stage and I guess that’s part of the impression, but what was psych bliss in their sound has evaporated and left behind a much darker exploratory ambience. Don’t let me get all critic, because I’m pretty sure that’s not in the spirit of the thing, but the turn in their sound on their last record isn’t over yet.

Blackwater Holylight (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I left there to get back to Dawg House — the security know me here now and make fun of me because I keep coming and going — and Duel were still on, so I got to watch more of their set as well as their Warriors of the World-worthy big rock finish, which, again, duh.

Stinking Lizaveta as revival music. I don’t know how many people were there to see them because I didn’t turn around but holy crap can that band play. They’re the heavy jazz of everything. Absolutely on fire, yesterday and today, and and suited to the kind of box effect of the Dawg House stage in a way not everyone has been. Interesting to think of both them and Blood Incantation as restorative in a way, but they have been, as kind of mirror set up to the anxiousness, pushing ahead if not breaking through. I don’t know. I had a couple decent conversations today with people who I have no idea why they’d want to talk to me. Amy Johnson brought me presents. Stinking Lizaveta played. Clearly things for a moment were their most perfect selves.


I’ve been trying to avoid reviewing. Did you notice? Did you notice me failing? Doesn’t that strike you as kind of sad? Or maybe it’s what I’m here for? A not-really-all-that-druggy journey of self-discovery in the desert? Could even I be so mild and cliché? I mean, yeah, probably. Easily. Twice today, and that’s my review of the review. Shit sandwich.

Later, getting late

Ruby the Hatchet could’ve played any stage of this festival. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them all at this point. And they’d have killed everywhere they went. Just a rock band locked in, that’s all. Seems to happen a lot today.

Ruby the Hatchet (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I hung around for a few songs, lack of water had me feeling kind of stuck; I’d lost my bottle and had yet to replace it. This would be rectified in due time, but I was in no rush whatsoever to leave Ruby the Hatchet’s set, some new, some old, delivered by a band in a continuing process of finding their sound but with veteran confidence and professionalism. It still feels like shows are a thing that used to happen, but last time I saw Ruby the Hatchet was 2019, and on the warped scale of time the last few years have wrought, that’s not all that long ago. It doesn’t make any fucking sense.

Was talking with a friend today (not namedropping) about our children, about trying to raise them to be aware of the world around them, their place in it, the changing planet and all of these generally awful things that human beings have done and continue to do to this world in which right now we’re complicit right here every day all the time, and while I agreed with him that this was the proper course of bringing up a human being to not be a complete tool, there was also a part of me that would be okay if my kid skipped the baggage that seems to come tacked onto consciousness of self, floated through life unconcerned. The trouble is you can’t do it. How’s the kid gonna know who the fascists are if he doesn’t know it used to snow in December? These things are all interconnected, and I want little more out of parenting than to not raise a fucking fascist.


But thinking about time up and down had me in a good frame of mind for Ruby the Hatchet, improbably. I walked past Psychlona on my way to get another hamburger salad — no pickle, no onion, no cherry tomatoes — and they were right on, had shenanigans afoot in front of the stage. Spaceface played after them in the same spot and were on when I got back from dinner. I knew nothing about them but sat and watched about half their set ahead of Church of the Cosmic Skull and parts reminded me of spacier, young Ween, but it was the melodies that took me. They had a multicolored parachute out the crowd was playing with when I rolled in, people came and went, dancing all the while. They pre-closed with a cover of “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate, and they were pretty loyal to the original, which is a song I happen to know fairly well because that’s just who I am. Didn’t see that one coming.

Dinner was eaten, by the way, sitting in a giant egg at the breakfast place and that was a thing I didn’t expect to say when I signed on for this trip. I take back whatever I said before, eating a sans-onion salad in a cracked-egg chair is exactly the kind of adventure I would choose. Have chosen.

Church of the Cosmic Skull have a new record out. I haven’t reviewed it yet, but I will, hopefully before the adjacent-project Dystopian Future Movies put out their next album and I’m even further behind. I’d say it was guilt that kept me watching them in Famous Foods for the entirety of their set, but really it was just another extension of being where I needed to be. The tradeoff was missing Mondo Drag, who are fantastic, but Church of the Cosmic Skull got going late anyway owing to persistent technical issues and what seemed to be a general lack of mics. And when you’re a seven-piece band and just about everybody sings, that really makes a difference.

Church of the Cosmic Skull (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They got it going though. All was well. Couple hiccups, some feedback, but whatever. Even with all that, the room was on their side from before they even started playing, myself included, and once they were able to dig in, it was a perfect end to my night. They played “Everybody’s Going to Die” and the only thing that kept me from singing along was I was so choked up. They didn’t close with that, but they could have. “Evil in Your Eye” did just fine though. I eventually wound up in back with a couple of the Kings Destroy guys — not Aaron, who made his feelings known earlier in the photo above — and that brought the day to reasonable bit of full circle. At least I knew I’d been on the right path.

Tomorrow is the last day of the festival. I know that means I’ll spend at least half of it thinking about getting to the airport on Monday, because that’s my kind of neurotic, but like I’ve been rolling without a real, written-out plan, I’m gonna do my best to live in Psycho Sunday while it’s happening, because airlines permitting I’m going to be back in New Jersey on Monday evening and I’m going to have to stand under that newly painted kitchen ceiling and hold my head up to look at it. I feel like that might be easier if I’ve actually let myself have the good time I came here to have. Crazy, I know.

Thanks for reading.

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3 Responses to “Psycho Las Vegas 2022 – Day 2 Notes”

  1. Obvious & Odious says:

    Thanks! Good read

  2. Dan says:

    Good read, thank you.
    Why is that bass player so pissed off at you anyway? Because you took his picture? In that case, what a wanker.

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