Heavy MTL 2013: A Headbanger’s Journey Concludes
Hey everybody! It’s me Anso DF what’s up! Some things are best enjoyed in pairs: Boobs, doobs, Twix, days at a heavy metal festival, the parallel occurrences on days of a metal festival, and lol coverage of heavy metal festivals! So welcome to part two of the MetalSucks recap of the awesome Heavy MTL event in Montreal on August 10-11. (Read part one here.) It was an awesome jam characterized by smiles and shorts, sunny weather, nice folks and sneaky tokes, and everything all killer no filler. And I was really there, having too much fun, not just observing but immersed in the same milieu as another 40,000 festgoers — so along with the hard facts, we’ll venture off into deep thoughts and hazy impressions! Thanks for reading!
ENTERING DAY TWO OF HEAVY MTL 2013! Passing through the gates at Heavy MTL day two (hey Béatrice!), I was trying to shake off the previous night’s nightmare. In it, I was in a hotel suite being berated by a talent-booker at my old company; he had found out that I overslept and missed most of Sunday’s performances. Dream-Me was like, What are you even doing here, you fuckers still owe me money! Sigh, that’s the problem with crashing out after a day out in a fancy hotel bed: You sleep deeply and encounter in your subconscious a bit of old bullshit rattling around — but at least you are rested for the final ten hours of Heavy MTL! And what better place to scream out some ancient anger? lol As of that moment, I was on a mission.
METAL TOWN The speaking of French language shouldn’t surprise a visitor to a French-speaking region. But sometimes you know a fact but can’t evade the weirdness of experiencing it. Like, for example, when bumping elbows with regular metal dudes around town and then double-taking when they speak … French language. Think of it — rotund Kerry King bros, tight-cheeked bruisers à la Henry Rollins, and crispy heshers like Rex Brown part their lips and out tumbles le francais, all foofy and linked in our American minds to pretension. It’s unexpected like a Japanese rapper or a non-American spree killer.
EVERYBODY LUVS ANSO Phil Anselmo is one of the older kids in your old neighborhood, the ones who helped a younger kid learn to take the pain, have a laugh, and be a man. He slammed you on the hood of his car when you had fucked up, then would brutally bash an outsider who jeered you. Even from the stage at Heavy MTL, he slapped his fans around (not literally) and then roughly hugged them close. As such, Anselmo began our chat with some choice words for MetalSucks — “It’s a hate site, man” — but a minute later, the two of us were bro-ing down about D.R.I., his new album, and the politics of calling out trolls. At one point, he tenderly picked a bug off my collar. Love u Phil don’t ever change xoxo
GROOVY THINKIN’, LINCOLN With uninterrupted sets going off like clockwork, a beer-drinker may have had little chance to break free to fetch refills. So Heavy MTL circulated beefy bros to vend beer in the crowd. Not revolutionary and not a new idea, this was another facet of the Heavy MTL mentality: Tailor services to enhance customer experience, not to the limitations of the venue and its facilities. It’s the little things.
HBD (HOW BOUT DAT) The buzz around the grounds of Heavy MTL day two was Children Of Bodom’s Alexi Laiho. Having cancelled a pair of shows earlier that week, would Laiho be healthy enough to appear as scheduled? So I rolled by their stage and yep, he looked fine. Well, he looked pale, stringy, and of indeterminate gender, but that’s Laiho’s definition of “fine.” But what made me double-take was his guitar: On wee little Laiho, a flying V guitar looked huge; the day before, the same axe in the hands of Zakk Wylde seemed toy-ish. On the former it was a sandwich board; for the other, it was in danger of getting rent asunder and sucked into a gut crease.
GIMME A BREAK Pallbearer is awesome, and like Wintersun they benefiited from the roster at Heavy MTL: Their spacey vest-doom was a standout from the same-y sonics of most of the weekend’s acts. On their stage, there were no Krank Amps. Their bass drum wasn’t a hyper-compressed thunk. Their vibe less insistent than their fest-mates who rushed to wring impact from short sets. So Pallbearer stood out. They’re retro, the rest of the bill was old.
FEST LYFE Let’s talk about the site of Heavy MTL, Parc Jean-Drapeau. In fact, let’s zoom in on that first word: Park. We all know the typical fest experience: we’re herded into a dirt bowl, we find no shelter, we breathe dust, we crunch atop a layer of litter, and our only fun is found during the actual music. At PJ-D, we snuck off into a copse of trees with footpaths illumnated by red lights. Between Heavy MTL sets, we lingered on footbridges over lagoons. We grabbed catnaps among concertgoers in the grassy outer bowl. All-access media types conducted interviews at picnic tables, the sun peeking through trees that swayed in the breeze. Restricted areas were equipped for light naps and general lounging. We found Walden-esque peace on the banks of the bay and scribbled notes to the shoosh of traffic overhead. So basically it was a bang-bang festival staged in an idyllic setting, not (the equivalent of) grossed-out bands rocking at the foot of a garbage dump. You wanted to stay forever. The vibe wasn’t aggro, more like agri. That’s a first for me lol.
GRAND THEFT FESTIVAL I respect the shit outta Mastodon. Partly it’s for their improvement from their first EP — I didn’t get into it — to their first awesome album, Blood Mountain. (You sorta root against such level-jumps, cuz then you won’t eat your words or explain your reversal.) But mostly I respect their excellence; it’s not that Mastodon was a promising band that became great, but rather one that went from exciting to mind-blowing. It’s common for bands to get better, but a Mastodon-sized leap is rare. So I had to ask myself at Heavy MTL: Hang on, is this my first Mastodon gig? Have I really never seen them before? Is that even possible? Yes, yes, yes. But WHY?
I did some soul-searching during their set. Half jamming and half spacing out, I realized during “Crystal Skull” that, oddly, I am not a proud fan. By “Stargasm,” I figured that if there’s any backlash against Mastodon, it’s not a reaction to the band. Connecting these two thoughts, I concluded that it’s the fans. A look around confirmed it: Mastodon fans are annoying. Not all, but the standard Mastodon fan is of a certain ilk: Their uniform is beard and thrift shop, all ironic and tight, and their vibe sucks: You get the sense that they don’t so much love the music of Mastodon as they love to live vicariously through the men of Mastodon. They cheer dudes who represent the best version of themselves (and will jeer them once the band stops fulfilling the dreams of their fans). If fortune had permitted, these “fans” seem to believe, then it would be them up on stage and in the studio making awesome jams — a silly bit of delusion that overlooks all the work, fearlessness, sacrifices, and hurting each others’ feelings required to achieve all that I mentioned above. I mean, pfft betch plaze.
This was my conclusion. And it was a much-needed revelation — I am now a loud-and-proud lover of Mastodon — but an ugly thought and awfully judgey, so I dismissed it. And at last I was liberated to rock wildly for the remaining 30 minutes of my first time with Mastodon. It ruled.
THE MAYOR OF FUN CITY Day two of Heavy MTL was owned by Mastodon, and Mastodon was ruled by bassist-singer Troy Sanders. That guy. What a delight. He is great at being Troy Sanders: his moves were appropriately sized, his joy sincere, and his performance sparkling. A fan senses that he doesn’t get caught up “putting on a show” or “giving people their money’s worth.” His fun is organic, his movements as personal as his part of Mastodon’s music. You love watching him cuz he loves Mastodon and lovers of Mastodon, not cuz he asks you to “get a load of this” or orders you to react a certain way.
HAS TIME FOLDED ONTO ITSELF? The enduring bands from the pre-grunge era are staffed by old guys: Danzig, Zakk Wylde, Dave Mustaine, Gwar, Rob Zombie … fans my age are getting used to their decrepitude, illnesses, near-deaths, and real deaths. We are not prepared for the fact that bands that we consider new are old as fuck now too. These are bands that peaked after the our glory days, ones that signaled the move away from our generation’s statement. It hit me during Godsmack’s set: Those guys are gray, grizzled, and awkward when rocking out. Staring at them in shock, I remembered Phil Anselmo’s words that afternoon: Poking fun at his middle age and metal’s paunchy dad brigade, he laughed back at young fans with the warning that “Hey man, it’ll happen to you someday man.”
TIME MACHINE PLS Speaking of Godsmack, I’ll say that among my people the classic thinking is that Godsmack sucks, but it’s more accurate to say that Godsmack’s songs suck. Cuz in concert, they rock hard. Still, I just wanted to yell to drummer Shannon Larkin (ex-Wrathchild America), “Just play ‘Climbin’ The Walls’ gramps!”
LAUGHING ABOUT STILL LAUGHING ABOUT a production staffer’s T.J. Ford Toronto Raptors jersey. Talk about an impulse buy. What else is he packing, an Illud Divinum Insanus hoodie? An 8×10 of Avenged Sevenfold signed by Mike Portnoy? A tattoo that reads “Dewey Defeats Truman”? So random lol.
MTL > L.A. A couple summers ago, I saw three doctor-types get bounced from a Steely Dan show for smoking a doob. These mild-mannered dads shelled out a couple hundred for fancy seats and VIP, plus beers and parking, and yet two puffs earned them an early exit at the hands of headset-equipped security thugs. That is so needless. At Heavy MTL, concertgoers were free to party like free adults, and not policed like children.
BUMMER A liquor company had a major presence at Heavy MTL via giveaways of promo merch and sexy meet-and-greets. A little too late I noticed that their free snapbacks were kinda nice; from that moment I quested for one of my own. Their leather girls tried to rustle one up for me, then sent me across the park to their other tent. None were left there either. I scanned the ground, lawns, woods, even the lagoon on the logic that the wind surely must’ve sent a few flying. My eyes lingered on garbage cans (emptied promptly), on the pockets of the tipsy (nope), and on targets for a straight-up jack (not worth an international incident). So no hat for me. You should be scoffing at me right now, like, Who gives a shit, Anso. Exactly! Now you see how this was one of like two problems all weekend. Everything else was clockwork!
YOU’RE WELCOME With so many hilarious, helpful dudes around and a progressive attitude towards grass, I may have over-bought a bit. So let’s just say here that I may have spent Sunday finding a loving home for my surplus. As a show of good faith, I’d light and pass; then Rob Zombie started and in my state whoa baby it was too intense. Screens were flashing, smoke billowing, and I had a vision that conflated John 5 and the rest of the Zombie band with Dr. Satan and his murderous clan from House Of 10,000 Corpses. Opening song “Teenage Nosferatu Pussy” (below) began to sound like a cover of Happy Mondays’ “24-Hour Party People.” Covered with sweat and bug-eyed, I bounced during “Living Dead Girl” (a full hour before a mini-cover of “Enter Sandman” that would’ve totally scrambled my brains). I was repeating, Oh man just make it back to the hotel, you can do it.
THIS MONTREAL! I was all spaced out at a vending machine by the hotel pool. I had inserted cash and selected some delicious potato chips — Quebec-style sour cream and mayo — but nothing was being dispensed. A kindly janitor noticed my stasis and was like, “Heh doomee, press ze Okay bootone.” I was like, whoa, this snack machine has an Okay button and your order won’t be final until it is pressed? Awesome! Never again will you misdial or commit a Hedberg-ian selection error. You won’t bump the 7 when you mean 8 and be given a Nut Roll when you want a Kit Kat. Sweet jesus think of all the heartbreak that will be avoided. Thank you Montreal!
Thanks for reading, everybody! See you at Heavy MTL 2014!