By Carl Begai
Sure, the public transit system isn’t fit to service Legoland let alone a bustling metropolis, the cost of living has punched a hole through the roof, and we have a mayor with less credibility than your average high school junkie hall monitor, but it’s my home. I was born and bred here, I got my metal skooling during the righteous and never-to-be-repeated Gasworks/Rock N’ Roll Heaven era. Even so, when word came down in 2011 that Hogtown was going to echo Montreal’s highly successful weekend metal festival Heavy MTL – launched in 2008 – with a two day thrash-and-burn open air of its own in Downsview Park, I was skeptical. I had no doubt the organizers would pull things together in order to make it happen, but far less confident it would last more than a single “nice try” run.
Having lived in Germany since the tail end of 1995 as BW&BK’s European correspondent, I’ve attended my share of metal festivals great, good, bad and painfully ugly. Every weekend between May and September the classic metal festival model is put into action somewhere on the continent, attracting rivet-heads from all walks of life by the thousands and tens of thousands for two or three days of distortion and debauchery. It’s this model on which Heavy MTL was based – and succeeded – thanks to the European mentality of the Québécois. I didn’t see Heavy T.O. having the same impact in a city where metalheads are about five steps less committed to getting off the couch when a show hits town (sorry, it’s sad but true).
Heavy T.O.’s 2011 line-up turned out to be a ray of hope. Megadeth, Children Of Bodom, Opeth, Diamond Head, Volbeat, Mastodon, Slayer, Death Angel and Exodus on the same bill? Hard to believe but a European festival had come to town and landed with a bang, featuring a bill more than merely strong enough to drag the metal masses out into the light. By all accounts it was a rousing success beyond the expected and inevitable screw-ups that come with organizing anything for the first time. When the dust had settled it was a done deal: there would be Heavy T.O. 2012, with a legion of fans waiting in the wings brandishing piggybanks in hand when tickets finally went on sale.
When the roster came down for the Heavy T.O. 2012, however, it was met with a considerable amount of grumbling, and in some cases outright disappointment. The mixed bag of old(er) and young artists from the previous year had been seemingly abandoned, catering instead to fans of more extreme fare and the school of nu-metal. Dinosaurs like Yours Truly could and would find worth in acts like Overkill, Kataklysm, Suicidal Tendencies, Cannibal Corpse and Deftones, but Slipknot and System Of a Down headlining with Five Finger Death Punch, Between The Buried And Me, Dillinger Escape Plan and frickin’ Marilyn Manson on the bill? Puh-lease. The organizers had clearly shot themselves in the foot. Add to this the torrential rains that turned Downsview Park into a mudbowl and Heavy T.O. 2012 was destined to be a dismal failure.
For the record, I’m now eating crow as a good source of humility.
In spite of any shared misgivings – and there were several – Heavy T.O. 2012 went down as a success. Ticket and security personnel had people prepped and inside as quickly as possible, regardless of whether you were a VIP or mud warrior mortal. With no-to-very-little lag time between bands as they hit the side-by-side twin stages (complete with Hi-Def video screens for the folks on the remaining grass), there was little time to worry about the muck swirling about the ankles and sucking the boots off one’s feet. Concession stands, port-o-potties line-ups and an ill-conceived wrestling ring (The Offspring as a soundtrack? Really?!) provided distractions for those not into the on-stage mayhem at any given time. All of it looked and reeked and felt very European, which (I believe) was the ultimate goal.
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Live photo by Carl Begai. All rights reserved.