Canadian Musician Does Heavy MTL 2014Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
Canadian Musician writer Kristian Partington and photographer Bart Nowak of NowakImages.com were in Montreal for this year’s edition of Heavy Montreal, featuring a stacked lineup of hard-edged bands from the metal, punk, hardcore, and hard rock worlds. In addition to headliners like Metallica, Slayer, and Three Days Grace, the bill also included Canadian outfits like Protest the Hero, Monster Truck, and Fucked Up. Thanks to Kristian for the words and Bart for the images.
About three quarters of the way through Metallica’s two-and-half-hour set at the end of Heavy Montreal’s first day, iconic frontman James Hetfield spoke of the “Metallica family” – the fans who’ve helped the band become a global heavy metal institution. Though Hetfield’s exact words escape me, the gist of that quick, blurry moment between songs in my memory was this: he thanked the old members of this worldwide family, those millions who’ve seen the band live in countless venues over the years, and he welcomed those for whom this pulsing Montreal show at Parc Jean Drapeau was an initiation.
I felt like part of a family at Heavy Montreal on Day 1– a hot, tattooed, long-haired, sweat-soaked, foul-mouthed, straight rum-drinking, body-slamming, moshing family that swelled to a throng of some 40,000 souls who each, in their own way, embodied some aspect of nearly every image of the Heavy Metal and punk fan that society seems to harbour. Knee-high leather boots here, patched denim vests of black there, the odd poor bastard baking away in a Slipknot mask here, three Japanese schoolgirls on stage adding high-pitched tones to the loud growls of a thrashing band in the heat of the August sun there; this was all one family where everyone belonged. It wasn’t just a concert; it was an exercise of intensity to the sounds of thundering drums and dirty guitars tuned low and loud, and my immersion into the experience of a full-on metal show.
Five of us navigated Montreal’s Metro system on Day 1, eager to catch Hamilton’s Monster Truck at the beginning of the day. We joined a sea of bodies from the mainland, following the Metallica shirts to an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. We stepped off the train into an instant sense of organized chaos. When we got behind a wrestler in the line, we seemed to make better time.
Monster Truck kicked things off beautifully. They were so loud and full of energy, which was no easy feat considering the band flew from Halifax that morning after a show the night before and were on their way to Vancouver after their set. This family is spread out, indeed – a Canadian band bouncing from one side of the country to the other, followed by Baby Metal out of Japan, the aforementioned schoolgirls fronting a mask-wearing metal powerhouse.
So much to see under the scorching heat, but water was plentiful and at this venue, people delivered beer and spiced rum mixed with lemonade, so we paced ourselves accordingly – my true brothers, those I met from around the world, and I.
Overkill and Pennywise were followed by the insane talent of Apocalyptica, which carried me beyond a metal show into a sublime crossover of classical cellos and vampire dreams. Three Days Grace then packed a week’s worth of energy into a 45-minute set, proving they can carry weight on a metal stage with the best of them. During an interlude in Home, frontman Matt Walst channeled Jim Morrison, reciting spoken word poetry from 1970’s Peace Frog. His scream might still echo down the river and through the Laurentian Mountains to this day.
The Dropkick Murphys out of Boston, I determined, is Great Big Sea on steroids and the set they played in the late afternoon pumped Celtic energy into the ever-growing audience. When they chose to mix the Bruins/Canadiens hockey rivalry into a Montreal crowd of animals that someone kept feeding booze to, I thought the place might explode, but everyone stayed nice.
Protest the Hero out of Whitby, ON kept a couple thousand people thrashing on a smaller stage through the shaded woods of the park, and I was thankful to catch the last half of their set. By the time Anthrax and The Offspring carried the main crowd into the setting sun, the energy at the park was surging. Then for nearly three hours, Metallica proceeded to make it explode – 40-plus thousand family members obeying their master, it was, and what an amazing ride.
The new brothers I met that day hailed from across the country and beyond: Montreal; Timmins; Regina; Nova Scotia, Edmonton and Sydney, Australia. Strangers we were before Heavy Montreal, but all part of the same family today. I can honestly say that such connectivity has never been found so easily among fellow concertgoers I’ve met throughout my years following live music, and heavy Montreal is to be commended. Peace to a wicked crowd, and much love to the girls with the rum and lemonade.