Over the last half-century, music festivals and mega concerts became a standard for music goers. Even though one of the first, Woodstock was primarily a social statement protesting the war in Vietnam; more concert series are becoming a collection of bands allowing listeners to pick and choose to create the best concert experience at a music festival. People unfamiliar with the metal genre may think it’s a cacophony of screaming guitars and driving drum beats. However, fans of the genre understand the subtle differences in subgenres like sludge, punk, thrash, doom, post-rock, black, and death metal. So, having an event like Psycho Las Vegas that combines various bands allows fans to congregate and bond over music. The crowd energy combined with the cutting-edge location makes this an event to remember. Let’s look back at some of the early days of Psycho Las Vegas and see how far it has come.
Psycho Las Vegas started as Psycho De Mayo since the first event was on May 5, 2013, in Santa Ana, California, at four different venues. Groups played the Yost Theatre, the Mecca Stage, including Black Mountain, Dahga Bloom, and Highlands. In addition, Cooper Door, the Alpha Stage, hosted Planet Drive, Tweak Bird, and Wild Wild Wets. The last two stages were Proof Bar (Omega Stage) and Left of the Dial (Apollo Stage), where Drinking Flowers, The Old Testament, and Rose Windows, among others, played. Next year, the event continued with the same name Psycho De Mayo. However, they made some changes. Instead of being held on Cinco De Mayo, it started on May 11, 2014, moving the venue to Orange County, California. Still, instead of four stages, they used a single platform, The Observatory, with two locations. Groups who played included Saint Vitus, Ringo Deathstarr, and Saint Vitus.
The following year, the event added a prelude concert series called The Road To Psycho Tour. Electric Citizen and Stoned Jesus opened for Elder in a series of shows taking place the week of May 7. The events included Harvard and Stone in Los Angeles, California, Milk Bar in San Francisco, California, and Sweet Springs Saloon in San Luis Obispo. All led up to the main event now known as Psycho California, which returned to The Observatory in Santa Ana, California. Even though Stoned Jesus played the opening concert series, they couldn’t participate in the main event because their visas ran out. Other stars that did make it included Old Man Gloom, Bell Witch, and Death by Stereo, the last Psycho event held in California. Psycho California became Psycho Las Vegas in 2016, kicking off the event with the Psycho Road Show, much like The Road to Psycho Tour. Even though they hadn’t officially canceled Psycho California, the events shift to Las Vegas remained. Even though the Mandalay Bay Resort now hosts the event, it was at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino the first year. Aside from returning groups that played earlier shows, they added Mudhoney, Mac Sabbath, and Fatso Jetson.
2017 marked the first year that a pre-festival event didn’t happen. Instead, the concert series did a single preshow which should be out before the main event. During this event, The Brian Jonestown Massacre was the headliner. Unlike previous events, Psycho Las Vegas started in mid-July. Other groups who appeared at this event included Code Orange and Gatecreeper. The following year, the event kept the same format, only changing the lineup, including Witchcraft’s headliner. In 2019, the event created another exciting event, Psycho SmokeOut, a supershow held on April 20, 2019, collaborating with RidingEasy Records. During the event, a few performers from the main event played, and tickets went on sale. Until the main event, the band lineup changed and evolved. Some of the final acts included Yob, Electric Citizen, and Toke. This year also marked the shift from the Hard Rock Cafe to the Mandalay Bay Resort. According to Riffpedia, Psycho Las Vegas received notice from the iconic venue to “evolve or dissolve.” The event took it seriously and booked Megadeth as their grand headliner. Sadly, they never played since shortly after booking; Dave Mustaine canceled all shows after a throat cancer diagnosis. Instead, The Original Misfits led the pack.
Psycho Las Vegas didn’t happen in 2020 because the COVID pandemic made it unsafe for concert goers. This year’s event almost didn’t happen either since pandemic cases remained on the rise. According to Las Vegas Weekly, 30 European acts canceled performances because they couldn’t get flight clearance. Nonetheless, the venue’s website touted “record attendance numbers,” even managing to find a new act for each canceled artist. The concert was also a series of firsts after the pandemic, including the first large gathering in Las Vegas post-COVID. Even though it was a large gathering, event staff took many precautions to ensure patrons stayed safe, including required masks. However, the constant vigilance to safety was not the only thing that went above and beyond. The event’s yearly location, Mandalay Bay, had neon signs as well as screen animations. Even though the resort hosts the event, typically, it feels like the event dominates the resort, paling anything else that may be going on. Psycho Las Vegas strives to be a full-sensory event where fans can enjoy music with legions of other fans. Even though there was palpable frustration due to restrictions, fans still witnessed terrific performances. Deafheaven was the top name, playing on Saturday afternoon. However, many people noted that the same energy wasn’t there, typically present in their other shows. Much like Hard Rock Cafe’s suggestion, the event evolved, but many thought it wasn’t in the right direction. After all, there were fewer bands, and some of the performances seemed lackluster.
Carlos Santana once said, “my job in this life is to give people spiritual ecstasy through music. In my concerts people cry, laugh, dance. If they climatized spiritually, I did my job. I did it decently and honestly.” Gathering together for a concert like Psycho Las Vegas is a much-needed panacea during uncertain times. Collecting together with a shared love of music helps unite people and creates a meaningful bond.