Photo by Darcy MacDonald

Heavy Montreal day two slayed crowds

A report on Slayer, Slash, Anthrax, Fu Manchu and more of Sunday’s sonic mayhem.

I’m no metal connoisseur so take whatever you read here with a grain of salt. I’m a semi-annual tourist at Heavy Montreal but as an avid fan of music over and above the genres my coverage for this publication is usually associated with — that’s hip hop, with a healthy dash of electronic music — I always enjoy taking in a day of hair and hard rockin’ riffage, and this year was no exception. 

Back from a brief hiatus that made room for bigger one-off shows two summers back from metal big shots Metallica and Guns ‘n’ Roses, Heavy returned triumphantly to its refurbished and refreshingly beautified site. By day two, it felt suitably broken in, the table set for next weekend’s mammoth crowning jewel of the festival season, Osheaga. 

But before praises go up to the sun gods for three days next week, all hailed Satan yesterday at Parc Jean-Drapeau, or at the very least sweat out unholy amounts of bodily fluid under black Ts in the punishing heat.

I made it in time to see my personal faves for my catch of the day, vintage Cali stoner rockers Fu Manchu, who have aged gracefully and loudly and who put it all on for a respectable crowd on the smaller-sized Forest Stage. The “Evil Eye” foursome fit the dust, baking 4 p.m. sun accordingly and left fans satisfied.

I caught only a glimpse of metal cartoon-types In This Moment. It all had something to do with a trial and whores and I had no idea what to make of it other than that the front woman really likes being up on a super high podium and really loves Slayer, as she bellowed out their name after their set-closing display of metal theatrics.

Now is a good time to mention two things: wrestling is as always an awesome sideshow at Heavy, as I walked past several muscled displays of physical carnage throughout the day featuring local outfit IWS at the helm. Also, most of the bands I kinda heard in the not-too-distant distance as I loafed in the VIP area between sets have guys that sound like strip club DJs for singers, constantly asking if people are “ready.” 

With that, I was ready for Clutch. I’m a fan of their swagger rock but couldn’t quite get into their set. Maybe it was the heat or the somewhat inconsistent sound while they were on, but I found some shade and, after a time, was gyrating to them from the comfort of a bean bag chair far from their stage.

Next up was guitar god Slash, featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. I got up close for this one. So okay — Slash is a bona fide icon. And having seen and absolutely adored him in his natural habitat alongside Axl and Duff G’n’F’n’R-ing it up two summers ago for one of the greatest rock concerts I’ve seen in my life, I gotta say I would have almost preferred it if it had just been him and his six-string alone on stage. 

It was like listening to a conversation where you only pay attention to one person speaking. I’m probably being unfair, but unless Slash was soloing, I was kinda just drifting off to the sight of the terrible tattoo gallery on display courtesy of the aging, shirtless fans awkwardly shaking their necks and shoulders to the bluesy belt of ho-hum tunes. That said, a cover of the Gunners “Night Train” won everyone, myself included, all the way over.

Next on the second main stage were metal big-four ballers Anthrax. Let me be clear. I know almost nothing about Anthrax. I’ve hardly ever listened to them beyond their cover of Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” (sadly absent from their set) but I will say they were loud as fuck, all the way into their show, aggressive and entirely appropriate for the final slot before Slayer closed the day. Fans were ecstatic and despite my lack of Anthrax knowledge, I thoroughly enjoyed their ballsy, genuine and fun-as-fuck onslaught.

This brought us to the end of the affair, if we’re to believe that Slayer will never again tour, as is their current standpoint, with their final show ever scheduled in November. They already said farewell locally once in the past year, but I suppose to be fair they said farewell to Laval at Place Bell and not Montreal proper. In any event, they were the rightful kings of the day, their “Reign In Blood” pleasing the massive Heavy audience gathered for one last black mass at the altar of one of metal’s most influential bands of the last four decades. 

Love them or hate them, you cannot deny them, and their display of aggression assaulted the air with the sonic malevolence that the festival’s build-up needed to put it over the top for another year. 

Heavy Montreal looked good, sounded good felt good, and gave fans the return on fun and energy our sweat-soaked bodies demanded.

And with that, I headed to the metro, put the amazing new Chance the Rapper album on my headphones, and danced like a weirdo in my cutoff Run the Jewels t-shirt, ready for next weekend’s diversity in style and sound. ■