Last weekend, Metro travelers in Montreal stopping at Parc Jean-Drapeau were greeted by the gates to Heavy Montreal, Canada’s premier rock festival. The construction that stirred up things last year was long gone this time, and the festival grounds were over-run by fans enjoying two beautiful hot summer days and four stages of music. The setting was ideal, being in a park on an island in the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Longueuil, easily approachable from either side and offering an impressive view of the city across the water.
The lineups on the four stages sometimes seemed to have a theme (see the previous post for a full set time schedule). For example, the Summer Slaughter Tour made a stop at Heavy Montreal, and all the bands played on the same stage, one after the other, on Saturday. It was an excellent way to catch that tour if you couldn’t make one of its other stops. Steel Panther and Quiet Riot played on the same stage, while Watain, Harm’s Way, and Municipal Waste played on a different one. With four stages, the organizers had two bands playing at all times far enough apart to not interfere with each other’s sound, and while the other two stages were being changed over for the next act. There were no lulls at all.
The headliners were Ghost on Saturday and Slayer on Sunday. These bands have legions of fans, as do strong second line operators Anthrax, In This Moment, Godsmack, Clutch, Evanesence, Slash, and Dying Fetus. For the most part, these bands did not overlap, the exception being that Dying Fetus played at the same time as Ghost – although I would believe it if somebody told me that diehard fans for either of these acts are unlikely to be diehard fans for the other so there was limited damage. There are always a couple of tough choices in a festival with lots of bands you want to see, so I comfort myself with the certain knowledge that if you stayed to hear a band’s entire set instead of wandering off to another stage then you had a great time.
There are more posts coming this week about the festival, so for now I will just mention two of my favorite performances of the weekend: Clutch and Dopethrone. Clutch played with their customary laid back enthusiasm, opening with “Ghoul Wrangler” and passing through one crowd pleaser after another. The band stuck mostly to their newer albums, Book of Bad Decisions and Psychic Warfare, but did dip into the classic well of Blast Tyrant and, I’ll say of course, “Earth Rocker.” I have seen Clutch a dozen times in the past two or three years, and the set is always different. They have so many songs their fans recognize and love to hear that, whether they play six songs or sixteen, it is always a high adrenaline experience. I never get tired of Clutch – I always look forward to seeing them again. On the other hand, I had never seen Dopethrone perform before so I did not know what to expect. I have always thought of their music as particularly violent, drug-dripping doom. The band does not have any US dates scheduled this year so Heavy Montreal was my only chance to catch them. Their performance was like an interstellar shriek of wailing guitars and coarse vocal emanations. They seemed to vibrate on the verge of explosion. After just one set Dopethrone has made my list of bands I’ll go out of my way to see whenever I can.
For me, Heavy Montreal is a must every year on the festival circuit. There are always a few bands playing there that do not show up at other events and so it is often the only way to see them in the festival setting. The organizers keep prices low compared to other competing festivals (this is especially true for people coming in from the US given the current exchange rate of US$0.76 = C$1.00), but there is no skimping on the presentation of the music or on the festival grounds. There are more hydration stations with free water than any other festival I have ever been to and there is the occasional pleasant surprise like giving away sunscreen for free this year. Heavy Montreal is always a good time and this year is a shining example of that tradition.
Words and photos ©2019 Wayne Edwards
This weekend, Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal comes alive with one of the biggest heavy rock shows in North America – Heavy Montreal.
The festival headliner is Slayer, making their final appearance ever in Quebec on Sunday night. This year at Heavy Montreal is also a stop-over for the Summer Slaughter Tour featuring Carnifex, Cattle Decapitation, and Dying Fetus. The full list of bands and set times is below. Anthrax, Clutch, Slash, Ghost, Evanesence, Watain, and the list goes on and on.
Returning this year to its usual festival grounds, Heavy Montreal is Canada’s biggest show. See you out there.
Inkcarceration Festival unlocked its doors again last Friday, July 12 in an impressive return to the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. Unique among music festivals, Inkcarceration stands on three pillars: the venue, tattoos, and music.
The Ohio State Reformatory is an old prison (built toward the end of the 19th century and in operation until 1990) famous for being the primary filming location for the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption. The structure is currently undergoing a restoration after having decayed significantly in the last three decades. One of the great things about this festival is it includes entrance into the former prison and a self-guided tour. Looking around the prison, it is difficult to accept that it was used until 1990, even after you make a mental adjustment for the years of neglect. The cells aren’t very roomy, I can tell you. The building exterior is impressive and serves a stern and oddly poignant backdrop to the music as it is always in view from everywhere on the festival grounds. You are not going to see this kind of thing at any other festival in North America.
Roughly sixty tattoo artists attended Inkcarceration and inked the live-long day inside the Ohio Reformatory. Walking through the claustrophobic space you could see the tattoo art hanging in the stalls and you could watch people being permanently altered live on the spot. The festival organizers had links on their websites to all the artists and if you arranged for an appointment before the festival you had the best chance at getting some work done over the weekend. Awards were handed out in five different categories each day for the art created at the festival, and a best-in-show festival award was announced on Sunday for color and separately for black and grey.
There were two stages at the festival, and performances alternated between them with no overlaps, which is great because that way fans got to see every performance and hear every note. This is a standard set-up for smaller festivals and it is the main advantage they have over the bigger events: no long walks between distant stages and no making brutal choices between seeing one band over another that are playing at the same time. The headliners were Shinedown (Friday), Godsmack (Saturday), and Five Finger Death Punch (Sunday), supported by an eclectic undercard. The festival opened on the main stage with Broken Hands, a British band kicking off their US tour at the festival, and with The Everyday Losers, a Midwest favorite, on the second stage. The mulling crowd was a little distracted at the beginning but the festive atmosphere intensified as more people arrived during the afternoon and particularly when Fozzy took the stage. By the time Shinedown went on, the prison yard was packed. On Saturday, along with the much-anticipated Godsmack (memorably playing “Voodoo” – a song that grabs you by the spine live), the highlights were veteran bands Buckcherry, Stabbing Westward, and Live. It is always great to hear the old songs you know so well. Sunday saw the festival overrun by Five Finger Death Punch fans, who were legion at the affair. Earlier in the day, Rivals from L.A. and Issues from Atlanta got things going, and, as the crowd swelled to capacity and the sun started to set, the festival hit its pinnacle with the headliner’s energetic performance and pyrotechnic display. If anybody was disappointed, I didn’t run into them that night.
Inkcarceration marked a successful second year with a much bigger crowd than the inaugural festival in 2018 and with the luck of perfect weather – always a risk at outdoor events. The unique venue, tattoos, and two non-competing music stages ensure that there is no other event quite like this one.
Photos by Wayne Edwards. © 2019 Wayne Edwards.
Schedules below the ones released by the festival.