Planet Desert Rock Weekend V Adds Fireball Ministry, Valley of the Sun, MR.BISON and Sons of Arrakis

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 12th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

planet desert rock weekend v banner

After a compelling first announcement two weeks ago that put Washington heavy rock institution Mos Generator atop a bill with six other outfits curated from among Europe and the UK’s ever-crowded underground — JIRMSamavayo, Sergeant ThunderhoofOmega Sun, and Fire Down Below — the Las Vegas-based festival Planet Desert Rock Weekend V offers four new names today with a similarly curated feel. California’s Fireball Ministry, Ohio’s Valley of the Sun (returning), Canadian upstarts Sons of Arrakis and Italian cosmic rockers MR.BISON (also returning) are the new additions to the lineup, and each brings something specific of their own to the mix for the three-dayer set for Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2025.

And yeah, that’s a ways off, but if you, like me, don’t actually live in Vegas, it’s an opportunity to make your travel plans early. As the city has never been a ‘scene’ hotbed for heavy fare — of course there are good bands who’ve come from there; that’s true of most of the planet — there’s no question Planet Desert Rock Weekend is positioning itself as a destination festival, and letting you book a flight before they’re even more outlandish than they are now is part of that. Not that I was just looking at airfare prices or anything, mind you. Because I absolutely was.

There were eight bands left after the first reveal, and this, as noted, adds four, so I count four more names to come, give or take, sometime between now and next January. I’m not sure how much more one could reasonably ask beyond what’s already being served here, but golly it’s fun to daydream.

From fest director John Gist, via the PR wire:

planet desert rock weekend v second announce poster

Planet Desert Rock Weekend V — Jan. 30 – Feb. 1


FB event:

Vegas Rock Revolution and Planet Desert Rock Weekend are proud to announce the next 4 bands for PDRW V.  We bring back two alumni bands in Valley of the Sun and Mr. Bison, a longtime legacy band Fireball Ministry and rising star with Sons of Arrakis coming to Vegas for a fun filled weekend of heavy rock, friends and a cool environment that is comfortable. PDRW is designed to give you your mornings and afternoons to enjoy Vegas!

Fireball Ministry/ Los Angeles

Rising from quietly smoldering for a number of years we are honored to have Fireball Ministry be a part of PDRW.  This is a pure legacy band that has been rocking the scene since 1999 and have shared the stage with the likes of Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, Judas Priest,  Slayer, Danzig, Anthrax, Motörhead and many others.  Recently it was announced Ripple Music will be reissuing their catalog.

Valley of the Sun/ Cincinnati

Super pumped to have Valley of the Sun return to Planet Desert Rock Weekend after performing at the inaugural one. Led by frontman Ryan Ferrier they deliver straight heavy rocking desert rock tinged stuff that sticks in your head. Their recently released album on Ripple Music landed close to the top of Vegas Rock Revolution’s top albums of the year.

Mr. Bison/ Italy

Mr. Bison has been one busy band since appearing at Planet Desert Rock Weekend II. Their latest album “Echoes of the Universe” has made an amazing splash in 2024 including landing #2 on the Doom Charts for February. Mr. Bison have continued to evolve and challenge themselves including adding a new member who is a multi instrumentalist. We can’t wait to have them back and hear the new stuff live! Mr. Bison is part of the Heavy Psych Sounds label.

Sons of Arrakis/ Montreal

Early on Vegas Rock Revolution has been touting and working with Sons of Arrakis and after hoping to have them as part of PDRW IV, we are excited to have them for 2025!  Their sound is an outstanding blend of heavy rock/ heavy psych/ progressive/ stoner with a backdrop of being a Dune themed band. Their debut album ended #2 for 2022 on the VRR end of the year list right behind PDRW alumni Freedom Hawk (2). Their album landed #1 on Doom Charts for July 2022 and #8 overall for the year.  SOA is currently finishing up their 2nd album which will be released on Black Throne Productions.

Planet Desert Rock Weekend V preview playlist

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Planet Desert Rock Weekend V Makes First Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 29th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The annual Planet Desert Rock Weekend festival will hold its fifth edition on Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2025, which I think marks the first time I’m actually writing that year to refer to an event that’s actually happening rather than random speculation. Feels like the future. And a killer future at that. Planet Desert Rock Weekend V makes its first lineup announcement today, and the sense of curation and purpose behind it could hardly be clearer.

No doubt the three-dayer conceived and booked by John Gist of Vegas Rock Revolution will pick up more than a handful of domestic acts in addition to Mos Generator (though if you had to only have one…), but five out of the six bands in this first publicly-confirmed batch will cross the Atlantic to play. Five for six, between JIRM, Sergeant Thunderhoof, Samavayo, Omega Sun (they’re making a return appearance after playing in 2019) and Fire Down Below. The very obvious message here is that Planet Desert Rock Weekend V wants to give the audience — the American heavy rock underground — a show it isn’t going to get anywhere else. If you can’t respect the put-up-or-shut-up nature of that, well, maybe you’ve never booked a show before. No doubt your existence has been easier and more gratitude-filled for that.

Early-bird tickets are up and there’s of course more to come, but in terms of the curation involved here and the feeling of Planet Desert Rock Weekend bringing over the acts it wants to see that no one else is bringing over, there’s a lot to admire as is. I will look forward to who else is added, finding out if this is it for non-US-based acts or if there’s more coming, and watching as the lineup takes shape generally. Thinking of making travel plans? I get it.

Word from the fest follows. Oh, and before you get your no-doubt-very-masculine panties in a bunch about AI art like all of a sudden you never used something cheap, convenient and easy because it was all of those things — we’re all complicit in the horrors of capital — the actual art is still in progress, and the full poster will be unveiled later. It’s a placeholder. Calm down, imaginary internet pearl-clutchers. Deep breaths.

Here we go:

planet desert rock weekend v first poster

Planet Desert Rock Weekend V — Jan. 30 – Feb. 1


FB event:

Vegas Rock Revolution’s Planet Desert Rock Weekend is back for edition 5 and it’s going to be a spectacular collection of bands from around the world of heavy rock!

It’s 3 nights of highly curated bands with evening shows only so that you can enjoy all that Vegas has to offer during the day rather it’s hitting the museums or hiking or donating to our local casinos (ha we kid!). Each evening will be in a cool atmosphere and the sound will be top rate to make your concert experience an unforgettable one.

Our 1st 6 bands are:

Mos Generator / Washington State

Mos Generator has been rocking for over 20 years and led by Tony Reed who is a monumental force within the scene. From straight forward heavy rock to heavy psychedelic they have always created music that elevates above many.

JIRM/ Sweden

Ripple Music’s JIRM (formerly known as Jeremy Irons + the Ratgang Malibus) has built their reputation on an epic sound on each release regardless of the evolution and creativity of the album. They can range from a light summery psych song to a dark tinged song describing inner turmoil. They are accented by amazing vocals. JIRM’s album “The Tunnel, The Well, Holy Bedlam” landed #4 on the Doom Charts for March 2022. This will be their 1st time in the States.

Sergeant Thunderhoof / U.K.- England

These Brits have blown away fans in the U.K. for years and rocked amazing album after album of heavy rock for the world to hear. Highly touted for their live sets but their recent album “The Scripted Veil” took the scene by storm with incredible soaring vocals and superior songwriting to most. Landed #1 on Doom Charts for June 2022. This will be their 1st and only show in the States in 2025!

Samavayo / Germany

This German trio has been releasing amazing heavy rock since 2003! Their evolution of sound and influence have changed some over the years but at their core they are a heavy rock band that writes rocking songs that are catchy but yet get you moving. They have played with many of the top bands in the world whether it was on tour or at a festival. Samavayo’s album “Payan” landed #2 on the Doom Charts for March 2022. This will be their 1st time playing the USA!

Fire Down Below / Belgium

Since their 2017 release “Viper, Vixen, Goddess, Saint” they have done a masterful job of blending desert rock, stoner rock and grunge elements together to make music that is so easily accesible to people who want to rock. Their 2022 release “Low Desert Surf Club” on Ripple Music landed #5 on Vegas Rock Revolution’s end of year list and #3 on Doom Charts for September. This will be their 1st time playing the USA!

Omega Sun / Slovenia

Returning to Planet Desert Rock Weekend is Omega Sun whose recent 2023 release Roadkill captured many rocker’s ear with their powerful blend of heavy rock, doom, grunge and stoner rock. Recently the guys had the great fortune of opening up for USA supergroup The Winery Dogs and have embarked on a European tour. We love to bring back bands to the PDRW fold! Their 2023 release “Roadkill” landed #9 on the Doom Charts and VRR’s end of the year list at #6 in 2023.

We will be collaborating with Ripple Music again on this version and looking at a full night that would be all Ripple bands or close to it. Todd is such an amazing part of the scene and his curation of bands feels unparalleled.

We will announcements for at least 8 more bands from all around the world coming up in the months to come!

Planet Desert Rock Weekend V preview playlist

JIRM, The Tunnel, the Well, Holy Bedlam (2021)

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Planet Desert Rock Weekend IV: Second Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 9th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

I’m late to the party as ever, but Planet Desert Rock Weekend IV — set for Jan. 25-28  as a probably-warmer-than-where-you-are winter getaway in Las Vegas, Nevada — has added more bands to its lineup, including SpaceslugBeastmaker and Flames of Durga. Curated by Vegas Rock Revolution‘s John Gist, the bill already featured the likes of a Spiralarms reunion, Italy’s Black Elephant, Sasquatch and Freedom Hawk, along with Sun CrowBorracho and Scorpion ChildMezzoa and Sonolith. Approached from any angle, this is a rocker’s lineup, and you could probably even do it without feeling like you’re drowning considering the evening starts for each of the four nights. Bonus!

There are more announcements to come as I understand it, and I will expect one about five minutes after this finally gets posted, because that’s just how on top of my game I am.

From social media:

Planet Desert Rock Weekend iv banner 2
Planet Desert Rock Weekend is ready to unleash the next band for Vegas Rock Revolution’s Planet Desert Rock Weekend IV – January 25-26-27, 2024 in Las Vegas…. It is the mighty Beastmaker! Out of the grave they are back with a vengeance !

Will be cool to have my buddy Trevor William Church back to Vegas for a show and first time with Beastmaker!

In case you hadn’t heard … here is the lineup so far with just two bands left to announce.

Spaceslug (Poland) / Sasquatch / Freedom Hawk / Scorpion Child / Beastmaker / Spiralarms (reunion show) / Borracho / Sandveiss (Canada) / Black Elephant (Italy) / Sun Crow / Mezzoa/ Sonolith / Flames Of Durga

Tickets available here ->

PDRW are setup so that you can enjoy your days in Vegas and have curated intimate shows each evening. 3 nights of heavy rock from around the world. Always a friendly crowd and one helluva party! Go alone and immediately will make new friends. Our community is like that!

John Gist

Facebook Event –>

Planet Desert Rock Weekend IV
January 25-26-27 , 2024
Las Vegas
Nights 1 +2 at Count’s Vamp’d
Night 3 at The Usual Place (Downtown)

The first round of band announcements are:

Freedom Hawk
Scorpion Child
Spiralarms (Reunion Show)
Black Elephant

Planet Desert Rock Weekend IV teaser

Sasquatch, Live in Tilburg, NL, Aug. 20, 2023

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Planet Desert Rock Weekend IV Set for Jan. 25-27; Initial Lineup Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 4th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Planet Desert Rock Weekend IV will take place across three days this coming January in Las Vegas, and if you’re the type to travel, that should be plenty of notice for you to plan your excursion. Assembled by singularly-passionate promoter John Gist of Vegas Rock Revolution, the initial lineup features Sasquatch and Freedom Hawk and Borracho and a Spiralarms reunion and and and and, oh hell you can read it for yourself on the banner.

In all seriousness, it’s a solid bill. Sandveiss are awesome and they and Black Elephant and Mezzoa, Vegas’ own Sonolith are the kind of right on picks one would expect considering the personnel involved in making the thing. I’m not the world’s biggest Scorpion Child fan, but even I know they’re good at what they do and I would imagine they put on a killer show. I guess I felt compelled to mention it since they were the only band I hadn’t talked about yet. Unless I missed someone else. Ha.

Here’s all the info, courtesy of the ol’ social media:

Planet Desert Rock Weekend IV banner

Planet Desert Rock Weekend returns for V4 with a 3 night heavy rock and roll party on January 25-26-27, 2024! After this year’s amazing couple nights, we are excited to bring a new and different lineup w/ some familiar bands from the Vegas Rock Revolution family blended in as always. The unique thing about PDRW is that you have your days to do things in Vegas. Shows start in the early evenings each night and all shows are at one venue each day.

Vegas Rock Revolution is super psyched to have Sasquatch and Freedom Hawk returning to Planet Desert Rock Weekend along with local riffmasters Sonolith!

6 more bands to be announced to finish the lineup. This will be 3 days in Vegas you will not forget.

Presale Special for 3 day packages including a poster bundle option. Ticket link below

Facebook Event –>

Planet Desert Rock Weekend IV
January 25-26-27 , 2024
Las Vegas
Nights 1 +2 at Count’s Vamp’d
Night 3 at The Usual Place (Downtown)

The first round of band announcements are:

Freedom Hawk
Scorpion Child
Spiralarms (Reunion Show)
Black Elephant

Planet Desert Rock Weekend IV teaser

Sasquatch, Live in Tilburg, NL, Aug. 20, 2023

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Psycho Las Vegas Cancels 2023 Festival

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 13th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Tickets were bought, rides were taken, and now it seems that what had become over the last several years a staple of the US festivalscape — Psycho Las Vegas, held each August in the city of the same name and mental state — has been called off. At least for this year. The news came down the PR wire Friday night at 11:06PM Eastern, so clearly it’s not something they want to make a big deal about, and they’re calling it a postponement, presumably until 2024, and offering refunds to those who’d already made the investment in the fest for this year.

You probably recall fest postponements were all the rage a couple years back, but as the world has returned post-covid to live performances and gatherings like this — though to be fair, there isn’t really another gathering like this that I know of — it’s become far less ubiquitous. Losing Psycho, even if it’s just for one summer, will be tough for those who attended regularly, and the festival’s impact can’t be ignored or denied. If this is it for them, Psycho will go out having fostered a generation of heavy and metal acts and put on a show like nothing before it, turning the self-important white dude baby boomer musings of Hunter S. Thompson as interpreted through Terry Gilliam into an aesthetic with a burn-through-today-because-tomorrow-we-die mindset and operating at a scale nothing in the US underground could come close to touching. It will be missed.

I mean that. This leaves a void and if Psycho doesn’t come back I’m not sure how or if it will be filled. Who’ll be Coachella-for-actual-weirdos now?

Their announcement was short and to the point:

psycho las vegas logo

Official PSYCHO LAS VEGAS Announcement

With a heavy heart, we must announce the postponement of Psycho X. Despite our love for Las Vegas and all of our devoted fans, the desired lineup could not be achieved given external factors outside of our control. We wanted to provide you with an unforgettable weekend of genre-bending music, but rushing to fill in the gaps would have taken away from this vision. This pause allows us to start fresh and come back stronger. Ticket holders will receive an email with instructions on how to receive a full refund. We understand how disappointing this is, and we thank you for your continued support.

Psycho Las Vegas 2022 promo video

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John Garcia, Steak & Formula 400 to Play Las Vegas Jan. 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

john garcia steak formula 400 banner

With the caveat that promoter John Gist of Vegas Rock Revolution says there might be a second show added for those looking to make a weekend of it, John Garcia, Steak and Formula 400 are playing together in Las Vegas on Jan. 20. Aside from being notable like pretty much every time John Garcia and his band (Of Gold) do a thing, this one gets the eyebrows up because Steak will be making the trip from London to play.

That’s not insignificant. I don’t know what their plans are, if they’ll be doing a full West Coast run or if they’re just coming across on the QT for a single date, but it feels worth noting that Steak have prior experience in the desert portion of the US, having recorded there before, so it’s certainly possible they’ve got as-yet-secret doings in the works in that regard. Seems entirely likely we’ll find out — nobody really records in secret these days; too much opportunity for social media engagement to squander, and Steak are rebuilding after a hack, so it seems even less likely they’d disengage, even if Facebook is only a dumping ground for Instagram posts — before January, but it’s fun to speculate anyhow. Steak‘s 2022 album, Acute Mania (review here), is the best work they’ve ever done.

Formula 400 are the crucial third rounding out at least one rocking evening — I hear at least one more band might be added if not another day — and you’ll find comment from all involved parties as well as the event page for the gig below, courtesy of VRR.


john garcia et al poster redux

Vegas Rock Revolution Presents: John Garcia, Steak & Formula 400

Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, Count’s Vamp’d in Las Vegas


“I am always honored to have John Garcia as part of a Vegas Rock Revolution Show,” says John Gist of VRR. “We aim to make this super cool night with hand picked unique bands to play with John on this bill. To have Steak coming from London to play is just amazing. Danny + Korie Koker’s Count’s Vamp’d has been such an amazing venue to work with to host such kickass event is humbling. And hey if things make sense we just might add a Saturday of shows in Vegas so people coming into town have a cool 2nd show to hit!”

“We are extremely stoked to be doing this show at Count’s Vamp’d, especially with Steak. This show is going to be something special and I would like to thank Vegas Rock Revolution for making this happen. If you’re looking for a reason to come to Vegas, here it is.” – John Garcia

Says Steak: We are so excited to be supporting the legend John Garcia in Las Vegas. We last toured with him in Europe in 2014 and are honoured to be playing with him in his own back yard. Supporting John Garcia in Vegas? Fuck yeah, Steak are coming for Sin City and I’m not sure we will get out alive!”

“Formula 400 is always pumped to play a Vegas Rock Revolution Presents show at Count’s Vamp’d and to have the honor to share the stage with the legend John Garcia from Kyuss really gets our engines revving! Plus with Steak coming from London this is going to be cool night!” – Formula 400

Event page:

Art by Alex Sonolith.

John Garcia and the Band of Gold, “Whitewater” live at Desertfest New York 2022

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Psycho Las Vegas 2022 – Epilogue

Posted in Features on August 22nd, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Las Vegas Airport — 8:58AM

Some processing.

There’s a flight that’s going to Newark like four minutes before mine, is four gates away from where I’m sitting, and is canceled.

Two ways to look at this. One, my flight is never going to happen. If they run two and one doesn’t, no way the other does. Or two, my flight, as the younger and more agile of the two, fought victoriously in honorable combat for use of the runway at that time. If it gets canceled they tell you that shit on the app now. Heck of a thing.

That pit stop last night before Monolord. I was testing myself there a bit. It had been kind of an up and down night, owing to circumstances that had nothing to do with music or anyone playing it, and there was a second when I was standing about to put my shoes on and head out where I was thinking I could just call it quits, get the extra hour of sleep, be that much more ready to shower, pack, go in the morning. But I didn’t do that. I was tired, feeling old and sunk a bit, but I went back out anyway. And Monolord turned the night around again and I felt like they were a great end to the fest, so I guess the upshot is something about believing in your own bullshit.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs., through whom all things are possible, and to The Pecan, through whom an impressively growing list of things are also possible, for the time. And everything.

Thank you to Evan and Remy from Psycho for having me out, putting me up, and for being continually kind and generous.

Thank you to my mother, my sister, my wife’s mother, my wife’s sister.

Thank you to Steve Murphy, an ever grounding presence.

Thanks to Amy Johnson for the Isotopes shirts — which rule — and the chat.

Thanks to Esben Willems for hanging out. Ready to start our rock-dad parenting podcast whenever you are, buddy.

Thank you to everyone who said hi, a lot of friends and folks you know from the internet who are cool and everybody was very nice even though I mostly kept to myself. Tim Bugbee was there though. He’s the best. He’s the kind of guy whose smile makes you smile and it’s humbling to be in a photo pit with him. Incredible talent, pure spirit. You can tell him I said that. That’s fine. I’m pretty sure he knows the regard in which I hold him. Or at least I would hope so.

There’s more. Daniel Hall, the Kings Destroy guys, John Gist, Church of the Cosmic Skull, Elder. On and on.

This was a pretty wild trip, you know? Seeing Kings Destroy on Saturday really got to me emotionally. I feel like something’s been lost in me since the pandemic and I’m trying to figure out which way the balance is going. So I’m alive, in other words. But still.

As regards Psycho, it is a beazt — that was a typo but I’m leaving it — unto itself, and it has become a worldwide touchstone among metal festivals. I didn’t avail myself of the complete experience in the poker, golf, chess, pool, etc. aspect much, but it’s all that stuff that builds the personality of the event, and Psycho has style to spare. I can see desert and mountains from here. And there goes another airplane. Not mine yet.

The invading-barbarian-horde aspect of this festival is fascinating. Because that’s what it is, right? Visigoth party weekend in Rome. But there’s so much there. And sometimes Psycho delights in crossing the line between adapting microculture to pop ideals in event making and simply owning the ground on which you’re standing, if just for a time.

You gotta understand, writing is all I have. It’s all I’ve ever had. I’ve never been smart, sociable or good-looking, any single one of which would be enough to be a NPC in either life or fiction. Writing, and writing about music, is the only thing in my life that makes me feel special as just me.

Am I wrong to seek that out? I’m sorry.

My plane takes off in a couple hours, unless it doesn’t, but I’m gonna chase down some coffee and read. I thank you for reading and following along if you have been. Catch you at the next one.

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Psycho Las Vegas 2022 – Day 2 Notes

Posted in Features on August 21st, 2022 by JJ Koczan

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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