Day one of Psycho Las Vegas 2019 impressed on such a scale, it’s hard to imagine any configuration of bands that could top it. Imagine our surprise when the second might have been a smidge better on the whole. The reunited (at least for a little while longer) Original Misfits led a truly stellar day of music. We’ll start there and then dig into the rest of the day’s talent. Seeing Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein together on stage is something truly special. In fact, a measure more special than that as their drummer was the one and only Dave Lombardo. Yes, that Dave Lombardo. The same one from Slayer, Fantomas, Grip Inc., Dead Cross and many, many more. There’s no other way to start a piece on an experience like this than to dive straight into how they did.
Normally, a giant headlining act gets the longest set on the day without question, but here The Misfits needed only a lean 90 minutes. The band wasted no time, and save for the standard encore break, didn’t stop for more than a handful of seconds in between songs. They were so driven, that even when Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein’s entire guitar rig failed to work on opening number “Death Comes Ripping,” they just plowed straight on through. They continued on with “I Turned Into a Martian” and “Vampira” before the guitar techs frantically working finally puzzled out a solution. It was at this point when they played their classic cut “Where Eagles Dare” where the crowd exploded into an orgiastic chorus of cheers. Though the large Events Center stage was not 100% filled, anywhere one looked the crowd was pumping their fists with glee singing, “I ain’t no goddamn son of a bitch / you better think about it, baby.”
Slicing through with laser precision, they continued with “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?” and “Halloween.” Jerry Only, decked out in a supremely impressive and elaborate costume complete with knee guards has mastered the art of mega powerslides. The band continued on with “20 Eyes,” “London Dungeon” and “Hybrid Moments.” Danzig, to his credit, seemed fully enthused and focused. When things went wrong—and like any show, went wrong they did—he never really lost stride, instead fully aimed at soaking up the energy from the crowd and giving it back to them in full measure. “Teenagers From Mars” brought the crowd to an uncontrollable frenzy. Nary a person present wasn’t singing, “We’re teenagers from Mars / and we don’t care.” Later they played a couple from Earth A.D., the title track and “Green Hell,” both impressive in fury and verve.
From there pretty much until the very end of the show the crowd was enraptured by all the remaining material played. “Horror Business,” “Some Kinda Hate” and “Hollywood Babylon” all were excellent representations of the horror punk amalgamation that has made them such a point of fascination for decades. In one of his rare riffs amidst this stacked setlist, Danzig remarked before playing “Who Killed Marilyn?” how, “Well, it’s about the Kennedys killing Marilyn Monroe. Everyone knows that shit.” “All Hell Breaks Loose” and “Violent World” set the stage for the night’s final—and arguably best—batch of songs. Danzig commented after introducing Dave Lombardo on drums, “You’re killing it, man.” No question there, The Misfits could not have asked for a better drummer to handle the relentless assault of their music. Truly, no band could have.
There’s something just awe-inspiring hearing the throngs present scream the words to “Astro Zombies” along with manic glee. The song’s deceptively simple refrain, “All I want / to know / All I want / to know” became a battle cry of epic proportions. The much-loved “Bullet” followed with Danzig quipping beforehand, “You want to hear ‘Bullet’? That’ll be two Kennedy songs back to back.” The band could be seen huddling and discussing how to wrap up the set as time began to run short. It’s evident the band had a batch list of songs they wanted to play rather than a setlist they planned to play in a straight sequence. They were noticeably well-rehearsed and ready to jump on any song Danzig called out based on what felt right at the moment. They decided on “Night of the Living Dead” and “Skull” to bring the set proper to just before its conclusion. The last song before the encore break was the only song it really could be, “Last Caress.” Like the best of songs from the ‘50s, it’s magnificently simple, short and to the point. No frills or excess, just two simple melodic ideas that beg to be replayed over and over again. The crowd hanged on every word and when the final utterance of the song’s famous line came around Danzig took a long pause and asked the crowd, “Are you going to sing with me?” In unison, the giant arena emoted, “One last caress!”
The band saved four of its best for the encore, playing “Die, Die My Darling,” “Devilock,” “Attitude” and the classic, “We Are 138.” “We Are 138,” for all of its nebulous meaning became almost like a giant mission statement writ large. This could be heard being sung joyfully all throughout the day prior to this set by random fans roaming the compound. Almost like a cathartic release long overdue, whatever the song’s refrain ever originally meant, now it means the loyal fans of The Misfits and the counterculture band that spoke so well to their tastes so far from the mainstream. As the thousands departed the Event Center stage something truly magical happened. The security that worked so hard to screen the fans and usher them through metal detectors into the venue all day long stood in a line on the far side of the hallway. The fans exiting in their multitudes looked to the security members and in an almost stunning show of gratitude began to cheer and yell. Like a giant pat on the back for everyone present, the venue, the staff, the fans, the band. This happened. It actually did happen when so many thought for so long never would. Whatever hurdles it took these three members to cross to get together to make this a reality, it was worth it. Setlist for this set at the end of the article.
The rest of the day began with a set from Triumph of Death. For those unfamiliar, Triumph of Death is mainly an outlet for Tom G. Warrior to play the material from the short-lived ‘80s project Hellhammer that he had with the late Martin Eric Ain. Hellhammer may never be reunited, but this gives Warrior the chance to finally play this music for live crowds. The good news is for what some might consider old school death metal, this was a great set. Warrior and bandmates Mia Wallace, Andre Mathieu and Alessandro Comerio worked hard to keep the crowd engaged and performed a supremely fun show. Songs such as “Maniac,” “Decapitator” and “Crucifixion,” though rarely heard had the crowd banging and thrashing along.
There wasn’t much time before Carcass’ set began, so there were just a few minutes to catch Oregon instrumental act Grails at the House of Blues stage. The band was a little late getting started, but what we did hear was impressively arranged and performed. The music was sedate, nuanced and intriguing as the five-piece band played almost entirely in low light in shadows.
Carcass took the stage shortly thereafter at the Event Center stage. The four-piece played a solid set of their trademark brand of pro-animal rights death metal. Lead singer/bassist Jeff Walker took center stage frequently playing his bass pointed to the ceiling, howling, snarling and growling through each number.
Outside at the Beach Stage, the first of a few psych-rock inspired bands performed to scores of likely unfamiliar yet enthusiastic crowds, Canadian act Black Mountain. The group led by singer/guitarist Stephen McBean was joined by longtime mxdwn favorite Rachel Fannan (whom once upon a time sang with The Sleepy Sun) on vocals for their entire set. This was the best kind of psychedelic-inspired music. It took an amorphous shape, mutating and growing as the songs progressed, not failing to carry a melodic idea on to its conclusion, but also sneaking up on you with alterations and unexpected changes. McBean and Fannan took turns singing and sometimes harmonizing. When the songs solidified into a rocking crescendo the fans present appeared truly impressed.
In the run-up to The Misfits’ headlining set Clutch jammed out at the Event Center stage. Lead singer Neil Fallon ran the gamut of the stage pointing and posing, his natural stage presence taking their trademark brand of hard rock music to higher levels of cool. “How to Shake Hands” took a playful approach to fantasizing about being the beneficiary of our nation’s electoral process and what Fallon would do with it upon accepting the office of President.
Mark Lanegan performed an outstanding set back at the Beach Stage. The immensely influential singer known as much for his solo work as much as his collaborations with Soulsavers and Queens of the Stone Age as well as his time in Screaming Trees here played a smattering of stellar songs from the relatively recent portion of his career. “Death’s Head Tattoo,” the fantastic “Gravedigger’s Song,” “Phantasmagoria Blues,” “Hit the City,” “Still Life with Roses,” “Beehive” and “Bleeding Muddy Water,” all wowed the post-sunset crowd. Lanegan’s genius has always been his studied and incredibly nuanced vocal delivery, eschewing showy histrionics for a performance style where every syllable feels like a mountain of meaning. For the finale, Lanegan was joined by Cold Cave’s Wesley Eisold for a duet on Lanegan’s song “Playing Nero.”
Longtime electro provocateur Tobacco played a danceable and fun set of songs featuring his trademark vocoder drenched vocals at the House of Blues. Though suffering from the proximity to the time The Misfits were scheduled to take the stage, this was terrific counter-programming for those not interested in tonight’s headliner.
And finally, after The Misfits’ headlining set concluded there was just enough time to catch the tail end of The Black Angels set at the Beach Stage. Austin legends in their own right, The Black Angels have quietly churned out five albums and countless side projects of drone-y, moody, psych-inspired goodness. The core members Stephanie Bailey, Christian Bland and Alex Maas all carefully and patiently craft a controlled sonic dissonance that evokes a mood no one in this generation dare imitate.
After the midnight hours passed we ended with Night Horse at the Rhythm and Riffs lounge. The group’s lead singer used every inch of the space running around the stage and the dance floor pulling every audience member into their energy. At one point he urged the band to bring the pace and the volume down while he insisted the crowd kneel or sit with him on the floor. He quietly emoted for several moments before launching to his feet and bringing the whole crowd to their feet in raucous glee.
How the hell did all this happen in just one day?
Death Comes Ripping
I Turned Into a Martian
Where Eagles Dare
Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?
Teenagers From Mars
Children in Heat
Some Kinda Hate
Who Killed Marilyn
All Hell Breaks Loose
Night of the Living Dead
Die, Die My Darling
We Are 138
All photos by Raymond Flotat