Heavy MTL: Back and louder than ever

After disappointing Quebec metal fans last year, Heavy MTL returned to Parc Jean-Drapeau on July 24 and 25, much to the delight of the head-banging faithful. With thirty-four bands booked over two days, Saint Helen’s Island, located between Montreal and Longueil, was packed with long-haired, tattoo-covered, beer-drinking metalheads worshiping their rock Gods.

Saturday, July 24, sunny skies and a million degrees outside, yours truly took in the action. The day’s lineup sported some old heavyweights like Slayer, Megadeath, Rob Halford from Judas Priest, and the ageless Alice Cooper. Scanning the crowd, most of the attendees were clearly too young to have actually been alive when most of these bands were in their prime. But metal fans don’t care what your latest hit is, they just want a tonsil-bleeding good time. And that’s what they got.

There was never more than a three minute break between acts, alternating on the Heavy MTL and Jagermeister stages. The two stages dominated the landscape; sitting side-by-side, imposing over the crowd. No matter where you were on the grounds, you never had to miss a guitar riff or drum solo.

Metal fans always amuse me. Dressed in imposing garb, with huge piercings out of every orifice possible, they bang their heads, throw their devil horns in the air, and smash into each other in the pit like mountain goats in spring time. But they have a softer side as well. Vendors served up Slush Puppies, raspberry lemonade, and cherry cheesecake popcorn to pacify concertgoers’ thirst and hunger. Not exactly “hardcore.” The Jagermeister tent and Budweiser bus semi compensated for the lack of anger in the food, but this confirmed something I had suspected for quite some time. That underneath the intimidating exterior of a metal fan is a courteous person who really enjoys crushed ice sweetness and bakery quality fingerfood.

There were no fights, no arguments, no “Hey man, watch where you’re going!” Just people looking to enjoy a killer set from bands like Atlanta’s Mastodon. After five hours of thrash metal, they took the Jagermeister stage with their psychedelic brand of hard rock. With some of the best vocals of the day, accompanied by the brilliant guitar of Brett Hinds, they invigorated the crowd that had long since glazed over after the parade of nearly identical acts.

Despite Mastodon’s kick-ass set, Alice Cooper stole the evening. His classic shock rock act is still a benchmark in the hard rock/metal genre. Dying four times, beating his bride, and surviving an attack from Frankenstein – his brand of entertainment, perfected in the ‘70s, is picture perfect for today’s Attention Deficit Disorder generation. One which needs to be bombarded with new visual stimuli every five seconds.

Heavy MTL will hopefully become a regular summer attraction, in a city that has so many to boast about. Well-run and with great bands in the line-up, the only miss on Saturday was Melissa Auf der Maur, fronted by the former Hole and Smashing Pumpkins bassist. Experimental and droning, I applaud her for trying to highlight the bass guitar in all her songs, but frown at whoever booked her for the gig. It was like inviting a gazelle over to your house when you know there are nothing but lions on the guest list. Bad judgment, but luckily her set was over quick enough and we could get back down to business – devil horns, self-inflicted whiplash, and the occasional pause for a lyché flavoured lemonade.

Well, at least part of that sign off was rock n’ roll.

For pictures, videos, and news on next year’s edition: http://www.heavymtl.com/en