HeavyTO Takes on Toronto With Mighty Sets From Slayer, Anvil and More
This past weekend's HeavyTO was the inaugural Toronto counterpart to the aptly named Montreal metal fest Heavy MTL. Situated in Downsview Park (ironically, also the location for the 2002 Pope-squat, the controversial two-week long Catholic convention that hosted Pope John Paul II and brought shame to the park due to massive septic flooding), the two-day fest boasted a who's who of the metal world.
Mighty acts like Anvil, Testament, Death Angel, Mastodon, Rob Zombie and the jewel of the holy thrash trinity, Slayer, headed up the final day of the mega-concert (July 24), with fans shifting between two massive side-by-side sound stages, making it near impossible to miss a moment of the eardrum-throttling action.
As Anvil pounded through their catalogue, frontman Steve 'Lips' Kudlow made it clear that the unsung stalwarts have more to offer than just nostalgic numbers. The Canadian metal pioneers may have been dubbed as underdogs on the festival website but this was clearly not the case Sunday in Toronto.
Then there were the acts that seemed to come slightly out of left field. Melissa Auf Der Maur rocking out during an early afternoon set clearly didn't sit well with most. Nor did having Canadian rockers Billy Talent oddly slotted between Slayer and Rob Zombie. And thanks to a guerrilla Jägermeister ad campaign gone awry, many fans objected with crude orange signs displaying insults like "Billy Talentless" and "Top 10 Ways to Kill Billy Talent." Chirpy lead singer Ben Kowalewicz was brave enough, however, to read the signs out from the stage, attempting to see the humor in the situation.
Earlier in the day, Billy Talent guitarist Ian D'sa told Noisecreep he was aware there might be some tension from the HeavyTO concertgoers. "We play all kinds of music festivals in Europe," he said. "We feel we blend in with other bands there, and their take on harder metal-like music, but it's totally different in North America. There's a very purist mentality here that didn't exist in the early '90s with Lollapalooza-type bands like Faith No More. While it is kind of weird that we're on this bill, because we aren't metal, we're definitely happy to share the stage with all these great bands that we grew up on."
Even with the crowd on your side, following up Rob Zombie is likely to be an ego-bruiser as it's tough to compete with such a mighty headliner. Though Zombie's own status as a "true" heavy metal act is debatable, there were no complaints (or angry makeshift signs) from fans while the rocker and horror film auteur ripped through a set that included costume changes, flaming altarpieces and synaesthesia-inducing video projections.
When the behemoth that is Slayer finally plugged in, people raced towards the pit. Guitar God Kerry King revved up the crowd who'd been waiting hours for this gnarly spectacle. Drunk, sweaty and thrusting devil horns towards the band, fans made sure to honor the metal forefathers, easily the highlight of the entire fest.
So will Heavy be a repeat in Toronto? The bands on the 2011 bill certainly seemed amped to come together to promote, what Baptized in Blood frontman Joel Fendley calls, "the best f---ing genre of music in the f---ing planet!" Though attendance could have been better (especially given the ace marketing pitch for a weekend pass: "the best f---ing use of $150 possible"), the reaction from the raucous crowd on hand over the weekend should hopefully convinced the Metal Gods (and the Live Nation bigwigs behind the fest) to move ahead with the 2012 installment.