Hot. Intimate. Loud. These are the three words that best describe this years Heavy Montreal.
Evenko decided to do things a little differently this time; a smaller area of the park was used to support three smaller stages, some lovely food tents, a bar, and what I think were nine porta-potties. It was a big difference to the last few years of this wonderful festival. Speaking to locals attending, I’d say it was a 50/50 approval rating for the new layout. I think it was mainly due to the fact that people didn’t like waiting 45 minutes to pee.
Intimate, indeed. The pros for me were seeing the Heavy Montreal family and not having to walk too far to check out the next band. I am an intense show watcher at these things and try to catch as much as possible, and with the layout being so much smaller, that made my job easier. Also thank you Evenko for the free water bottles and care. So here we go:
The first band I was planning to check out was supposed to be USA Out Of Vietnam but I suck and totally didn’t write down my schedule properly. Pop Evil, a band I never bothered to check out in advance, were up at this point, and I heard them in the background killing it so walked right over to see what they were about. They are a perfect band to open a festival like this. I got totally suckered into their party-like rock ‘n’ roll vibe. They were a lot of fun! The highlight for me was when vocalist Leigh Kakaty literally walked on the crowd while he sang. Impressively balanced!
Right after, I walked over to check out The Dillinger Escape Plan’s (last?) set. They recently mentioned that this was their “last” tour, but I later found out they have at least a good 100 shows left before they decide to retire. So they might be back. Relax people. That said, it was my first time catching these dudes, and while I am not much of a prog metal fan, I was totally digging this set. It was loud, confusing, dark, and messy. These are positive words, I swear! I loved the mind fuck I was getting. There might’ve been some competition with the Pop Evil dudes, because the guys of TDEP literally climbed anything they were able to, walked on crowds, climbed up to stand on amps, etc. I was terrified for their lives. Stunt men!
Fear Factory nailed their set and brought me back to 1998 when I last saw them play with Megadeth. They played all of Demanufacture. I gotta say though, Burton Bell’s voice was not what it used to be. He was pretty rusty…which is more than I can say for Sebastian Bach.
The best performance of the day for me was Sebastian Bach’s “solo” set. This guy never changes. Same clothes, same gorgeous long blond locks, same big goofy smile, great skin…okay enough of the typical girly description: let’s get to the music. His pipes are STILL FUCKING PERFECT. It totally blew me away. I never had the chance to see Skid Row in their prime and this was the closest I could get. He played classics like “ I remember you,” “18 and Life,” “Youth Gone Wild,” and “Monkey Business.” As I listen to Skid Row right now while I write this I realize even more how his voice simply did not change one bit – he was right on key (well there were a few moments when he was off, but he kept chuckling at something going on backstage so maybe that had something to do with it…) Some friends of mine from New Brunswick who came to see him were stoked because he held up a sign saying “Fuck the Swayze Express” that they made – a hilarious Trailer Park Boys inside joke.
By this time of day it was scorching. With the new layout there were very few areas of shade, and my clan and I were sort of dying. We kept drinking our water and 9$ beers to keep us cool. You can never go wrong seeing a beautifully long blond-haired beast shred like a motherfucker on his guitar. Zakk Wylde never disappoints. Black Label Society did their rocker thing as per usual. It was my second time catching them, and I must say it was nothing new. Wylde is a guitar legend and always will be, but the tracks tend all tend to sound similar so I wasn’t fully enjoying this set. I caught myself on my phone a little more often than other sets. There was talk of a 55 minute guitar solo, but luckily he balanced it out well. He plays solo on day two. Let’s see how that goes.
Mastodon did their stoner rock thing. It was kinda cool getting close up shots of vocalist-bassist Troy Sanders, and vocalist-guitarist Brent Hinds’ evil facial expressions on the big screens. They’re always fun to watch.
One thing I noticed was that the crowd this year was very minimally energized. I am not sure if it was because of the heat, or if people weren’t as into the music, but the mosh pits were quite small. Lots of standing around, chilling, relaxing, which was an odd site to see.
My biggest highlight of the day was Sweden’s Cult of Luna. If you listen to Bucketlist Radio at all (well you should!), you would have heard my total excitement for this band on our last episode. I saw them last year for the first time and they completely blew me away. Seeing them under the stars was even better. They set a mood by basically being silhouettes against bright flashy white lights, which backed them up while they played their mesmerizing sounds that really took me into a doozy trance.
Cult of Luna performed during headliner Five Finger Death Punch’s set, so I sadly missed out on them. I checked out a bit of the last song, and it looks like they drew a fairly large crowd. Keep your eyes locked on our Instagram for live feeds. You can catch some FFDP coverage there!
Let’s see how day two goes.
Written by Liz Imperiale
Photography by Stacy Basque
*edited by Kate Erickson