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Psycho Las Vegas grows into one of city’s best music fests

The budget, the footprint, the stages, the bands, the crowd, the biceps — it’s all bigger.

Expansion is the running theme as the wide-ranging music fest Psycho Las Vegas returns for its fourth year of large riffs and little sleep.

Relocating to Mandalay Bay from the Hard Rock Hotel, “America’s rock ’n’ roll bacchanal” is growing on pretty much every level this go-round, from the number of venues to its expected draw to the popularity of top-billed act the Original Misfits, whose uber-fit, shirt-averse lead guitarist, Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, boasts arms as thick as a python attempting to digest a bowling ball.

While Psycho was launched as a four-wall at the Hard Rock in 2016 with the festival promoters shouldering all the costs, they’ve partnered with MGM Resorts International this year, resulting in, among other things, more money to spend on acts.

“Working with MGM, we were able to get that budget,” festival creator Evan Hagen explains during a tour of the new Psycho layout. “I was able to book larger bands that could fit the stages.”

He was also able to recruit a broader array of acts, stylistically speaking.

While Psycho remains rooted in heavy music — as evidenced by the presence of death metallers Carcass, Swedish prog favs Opeth, punk mainstays Bad Religion, stoner rockers Fu Manchu and dozens more — the lineup continues to diversify, from dancier fare (The Faint, Cold Cave) to more adventuresome instrumentalists (Mogwai, Grails) to kaleidoscopic post-rock (Soft Kill, Have a Nice Life).

In addition to expanding from three stages to four — with all of the venues larger at Mandalay Bay than their counterparts at the Hard Rock — Hagen focused on staggering set times more this year, reducing the number of acts performing against one another.

While Hagen sees this year’s festivities as a test run in a new setting, he’s already eyeing the future, aiming to grow Psycho beyond a single property with the help of the fest’s new partners.

“We have plans of moving down the Strip with MGM properties. We want it to be the South by Southwest of Las Vegas,” he says, referencing the mammoth annual music conference in Austin, Texas. “That’s the big plan.”

For now, there’s a big lineup to contend with. You won’t be able to see it all, but here are 10 acts you really don’t want to miss:

The Original Misfits, Saturday, Mandalay Bay Events Center

There will be a whole lotta whoooaaa-in’ going on when these horror-punk greats become Psycho’s biggest headliner yet. Prepare for the greatest singalongs ever involving space zombies and pubescent martians.

Mark Lanegan, Saturday, Mandalay Bay Beach

With a voice as wizened as that of Father Time’s, only with a little more whiskey on the breath, Mark Lanegan sounds like no other, his songbook as dark and beautiful as a solar eclipse.

Electric Wizard, Friday, Mandalay Bay Events Center

Four years in, these amp-liquefying British occult rockers’ appearance at the inaugural Psycho Las Vegas still ranks as arguably the fest’s best, most-beloved headlining set. They’ll look to re-create that (black) magic.

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Sunday, Mandalay Bay Events Center

Like their countrymen in Electric Wizard, these equally shaggy Brits turned in one of Psycho 2016’s most memorable performances with their harmony-heavy, winkingly sinister, Blue Oyster Cult-indebted catalog. Time to high-five the “Withered Hand of Evil” once again.

En Minor, Friday, House of Blues

Doubt he’ll slather on the eyeliner, but former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo excavates his ’80s goth roots in his dark, haunting, cello-enhanced new band, which makes its live debut here.

Triumph of Death, Saturday, Mandalay Bay Events Center

One of the most extreme acts of its day — or any day, really — Switzerland’s Hellhammer sounded like pure Hades in your headphones, guttural and unrelenting, proving to be a major influence on the burgeoning death- and black-metal scenes of the early ’80s. Frontman Tom G. Warrior, who’d go on to form Celtic Frost, revisits his first band, Triumph of Death, which takes its name from Hellhammer’s second demo and will be playing its only scheduled American show.

Godspeed You Black Emperor, Friday, Mandalay Bay Events Center

“Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven” in anticipation of a rare appearance by this experimental Montreal music collective. Its music lacks words, and likewise, we lack the words to truly encapsulate the grandeur inherent in sweeping, slowly unfurling compositions.

Beach House, Sunday, Mandalay Bay Events Center

Languid and rife with longing, haunting and seductive at once, this coed dream pop duo will soothe all those earholes savaged by Warhorse earlier in the day.

Vio-Lence, Sunday, House of Blues

The ’80s Bay Area thrash scene represented one of metal’s greatest bumper crops of denim-smothered genre greats, with Exodus, Testament, Death Angel and Metallica leading the way. A recently reunited Vio-Lence may not have attained those heights, but the group’s 1988 debut, “Eternal Nightmare,” remains an eternal rager.

The Black Angels, Saturday, Mandalay Bay Beach

Immersing oneself in these Austin, Texas-based psych rockers’ enveloping jams is akin to bear-hugging an anvil and plunging into an ocean of reverb, getting lost with no desire to be found.

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

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