TVD Live: Psycho California, Day Two at the Observatory OC, 5/16

TVD spent a weekend at Psycho California in May and we’ll be bringing you a full report of all that happened at this unique music festival. Our coverage will be split into three parts, so you can take it all in one day at a time. If you were there, we hope you can relive that amazing weekend—and if you weren’t, here’s a detailed account of what you missed. Coverage of Day One can be found here.—Ed.

After a rare California rain on Friday, day two began with absolutely picture perfect sunny California weather. There was no line outside of the Observatory OC today, as the crowd started a bit smaller than on Friday, no doubt from overindulgence and festivities from the previous night. The grogginess of the concertgoers soon wore off, with the help of food and drink at the venue—and copious amounts of weed and metal.

Moments after the doors opened, the line for merch had already grown to epic proportions extending all the way back into the building. The setup for merch probably sounded better in theory than in the execution—entering the tent in a single file line caused an enormous backup.

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Things got off to a great start on the main stage as the self-proclaimed “Halloween metal” band Acid Witch started the day off right. With singer Slasher Dave doubling on keyboards, he led the band through an awesome set full of songs about Halloween, religion, the occult, and, of course, weed. Acid Witch hands down won the Best Song Title award for the weekend, with “Metal Movie Marijuana Massacre Meltdown.”

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Next up was a bruisingly heavy set from Anciients. With shades of prog influences thickly layered upon the metal base of their songs, all 3 up front tag-teamed vocals throughout the set. This was my first time hearing the band and with the vocal-swapping and their overall sound, they remind me a bit of Mastodon, but only at a high-level, not a carbon copy. Their set was fantastic, and I can’t wait to see and hear more from these guys.

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One thing that needs to be talked about is the entertainment during the set breaks. Set up off to one side of the main room, Tristan Shone, aka Author and Punisher entertained the crowd with his unique brand of “electromechanical devastation.”

Armed with a stunning array of keyboards, computers, custom facepiece microphones, and industrial machinery, Shone created a wild cacophony of sound using every bit of gear at his disposal. [I recommend looking through the “Machines” section of his website for in-depth explanations of his equipment. —Ed.]

The “Linear Actuator,” for example, was a metal, chain-driven machine where Shone holds a handle and slams it forward producing bizarre sounds as it hits. His creativity is off the charts and it provided an uncommon spectacle between bands.

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Unfortunately, the side stage had moved back into the tight quarters of the small indoor room on day two. One of the pleasant surprises so far of the fest was catching the second half of the set from Highlands. The Long Beach band combined a heavy psych sound with a haunting, ethereal undercurrent of guitars. I saw enough to make me wish I had caught the whole set by these guys.

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Back on the main stage, Cincinnati’s Electric Citizen took command of the crowd. Singer Laura Dolan was a ball of hot fire as the band churned out their modern vintage stoner grooves around her. I’ve seen Electric Citizen a number of times over the past few years as a support act, but they are sounding better than ever—look out.

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The pace slowed down some as Mammatus took the main stage next. Awash in a sea of blue light, the primarily instrumental trio jammed through an experimental journey of psychedelic rock. There was nothing “usual” about these guys, and their set went from trippy jams to sludgy heaviness, and everything in between.

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Back on the side stage, the room had gotten packed and steamy for the stoner grooves of Richmond, VA’s Sinister Haze. At the end of the set, singer-guitarist Brandon Marcey simply unplugged, laid his guitar down, saluted the crowd, and made his exit as the rhythm section jammed on to finish the set. This would begin a frantic back-and-forth that would last throughout the day, as it was quite the challenge—impossible, actually—to be able to catch every band on both stages.

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Sticking around the side stage, I caught much of Lord Dying‘s set. Their brutally heavy doom-tinged metal, a bit along the lines of Crowbar, was killer and the overstuffed room roared their appreciation. The imposing figure of singer-guitarist Erik Olsen belted out massive chords and roaring vocals, a contrast to drummer Nickolis Parks, who seemed to be having the time of his life behind the kit.

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Escaping the room proved to be a daunting task, and with people trying to exit and enter the room at the same time, it felt like Braveheart after they have run screaming across the field and are now crushed together in battle. I finally got out, and dashed to the main stage to catch Dead Meadow.

After a quick breather, I returned for the slow, punishing doom of Pallbearer. The pace remained slow as the instrumental drone of Earth was up next. The amazingly slow pace and repetitiveness of the band’s songs were a source of joy for some, but for others (namely, me), it proved too much to bear and I just grew impatient, wanting the songs to go somewhere—anywhere.

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It was not to be, so I headed back to the side stage, and got there as the mystical, violin-heavy set from Salt Lake City’s SubRosa was ending. My timing was fortunate as I was just in time to get a good spot for North Carolina’s Sourvein. Animated singer T-Roy Medlin led the band through a mire of crust-laden sludge. Belying the din of noise around him, rather than take on any number of traditional rock poses, Medlin instead shimmied and cavorted like a metal Mick Jagger onstage.

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I once again squeezed myself out of the room, leaving Sourvein set early to catch Kylesa. Kylesa is a band that is like a fine wine, only getting better as time goes on. In one of the best sets of the day, Kylesa drenched the stage with Savannah sludge. Guitarists Laura Pleasants and Phillip Cope traded off on vocals, and the dual drumming of Carl McGinley and Eric Hernandez was a thunderous stampede of rhythm.

Random video clips and a kaleidoscope of psychedelic images were projected on the screen behind the band enhancing the visuals of their performance. Playing songs from throughout their career like “Hollow Severer,” “Unspoken,” and “Tired Climb,” their sound was perfect and their energy was off the charts. Having seen Kylesa primarily in smaller venues, it was exciting to see them open up a bit and be able to make full use of the larger stage.

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The time had finally come, and Sleep had come to close out day two. The lights went down, and recordings of astronaut communications played through the speakers, setting the mood for what was to come. The crowd, which was huge at this point as there were no other bands playing, roared with jubilance as the stoner rock icons took the stage.

Singer-bassist Al Cisneros was first to step up to his dimly lit microphone, and he proceeded to start animatedly playing his bass—with no volume. This got a laugh from some, shouts from others, and puzzled looks from the stoned majority. Guitarist Matt Pike and drummer Jason Roeder Joined Cisneros onstage, and the opening mammoth chords of “Holy Mountain” began.

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With lyrics like the opening line of “Holy Mountain:” “Slumber killed by rays of the new red sun arising/Dreamer wakens to spectral gaze of light rays shining,” it’s easy to see why they are considered stoner rock royalty.

Shortly into the set, Cisneros stopped the song partway through, apologizing while they “get a bass amp that works.” I only thought the sound was enormous before, but once plugged in, the one-two punch of Cisneros’ bass and Pike’s guitar formed a wall of sound the size of a mythical Kraken. Continuing with a portion of the hour-plus epic “Dopesmoker,” Sleep continued their sonic onslaught with songs like “Sonic Titan,” “Aquarian,” and the stoner anthem “Dragonaut,” with the place going insane after hearing the first notes of the intro.

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Sleep closed out the night with another portion of “Dopesmoker,” bringing the second day of Psycho California to a fantastic close. Day three will have to pretty damn big to measure up to the second day of the festival. Stay tuned…

SLEEP

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KYLESA

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EARTH

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PALLBEARER

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DEAD MEADOW

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LORD DYING

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SINISTER HAZE

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MAMMATUS

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ELECTRIC CITIZEN

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HIGHLANDS

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AUTHOR AND PUNISHER

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ANCIIENTS

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ACID WITCH

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THE PEOPLE OF PSYCHO CALIFORNIA

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