HEAVY T.O. FESTIVAL 2011
By: Fridae Mattas
This two day festival of metal is a first for Toronto, it started out in Montreal but this year they brought it to TDot not to mention it was the exact same weekend as HeavyMTL. To me that was weird, I wanted to go to HeavyMTL this year but when I found out there would be a HeavyTO, I just had to be there to see how it went and not to mention check out the bands. Day one was Saturday July 23rd, there were 24 bands in total that were scheduled on the bill, twelve to play each day but one band had issues getting across the border so they couldn’t make it over. The metal fest was held at Downsview Park in Toronto, no stranger to that venue it hosts most of the music festivals the city has and is a great venue for it.
Last time I was at the park it was for Edgefest two weeks prior, when I arrived for this event the set up was completely different; the media area was not backstage but off to the side close to the front entrance which I thought was extremely inconvenient. It was a trek to get to the stages, granted for most interviews they took us on a golf cart to the catering building which was also off site but I still ended up missing two bands during that process even though we got a lift. At least put the media tent inside the venue, there was more than enough space to place us within. We were sectioned off like we had some kind of disease, quarantined. There was no water for us or anything; it was a scorching humid day but finally after someone asked them to bring us water they finally did, it was super warm but hey at least they brought some. I did not drink any because I came prepared; I brought bottles of water and a few cokes which were much colder to drink and actually lasted me the whole day until I left just before Motörhead, who I really wanted to see! I heard they put on an outstanding show and I missed it. I left because I was not feeling well I packed everything except some Advil, usually I stick it out because I’m a trooper but when my interview with Underoath was a wrap I booked it, my head felt like it was going to explode, I never get headaches so this needed some attention.
HEAVY T.O. DAY 1
To the metal! The first band I saw was Endast who kicked off the festival popping the Jager West stage’s cherry and the HeavyT.O. festival which had two stages beside each other, right next to the Jager West was the East exactly the same size. The schedule for the set’s was fantastic, they went on smoothly without a hitch back to back. One of the stages would always have a band playing and another setting up, the bands were always ready to rock immediately after one another. The only delays were when ‘The Sword’ was to play but as I mentioned above they could not make it over the border and Rob Zombie was about ten minutes behind but other than that everything ran on schedule when it came to timing. Montreal band Endast brought the festival into gear with their version of heavy metal which was indeed growl filled to the fullest but they need to tighten up on the instruments. The band sounded off when they first started in a little confused, the beat and the guitars didn’t flow properly to my ears and it didn’t translate properly on camera either so it wasn’t my hearing or the delay off the walls, it was the band.
Next on my coverage list was Diamond Head on the same stage.
I skipped out on the band that was playing the Jager East stage just before because I didn’t like their sound. When at festivals and choosing who to cover I listen to the first song, if I like it I will cover it and if I don’t I simply skip them. I am pleased to have seen this band from England, they put on a great show, full of enthusiasm and genuinely happy to be there. Vocals are very good not to mention the band played extremely well and the songs are catchy. I definitely want to see this band live again and will be keeping my eyes peeled for another Toronto show; it was their first time here.
Next up was Underoath who I was excited to see because I have never seen them live before and this was my chance.
Although they are not original members and just lost the last of the originals they all have been playing together for the past ten years according to Timothy McTague Lead Axemaster who I interviewed along with Bassist Grant Brandell after their set. Be aware in the next few weeks I will publish that interview I haven’t even looked at it yet to see how bad I messed up the questions. Interesting little tid bit for you, when I was doing my interview with the two larries, Vox Spencer Chamberlain was doing another interview a few tables beside us with another publication and FridaeTV photographer Joanna was being shared between the two simultaneous interviews.
This Tampa bands performance was incredible; everyone who was there just to see Underoath definitely got their monies worth! The other members in the band are Daniel Davison: Drums, James Smith: Guitar and Christopher Dudley on those Keys. I need to see them again when they make their way back north or maybe I’ll trek it to Tampa when they play there or somewhere closer to Toronto. Unfortunately for me when I was doing my interview “As I Lay Dying” was on stage but I couldn’t make it to the stage on time. Although I didn’t have my usual three media songs because they didn’t give me pit access which was a blessing in disguise. I got to choose which songs I wanted to film and there was drama the next day during Billy Talents set, the photographers and media in the pit could only shoot two tracks for their own safety. As much as I really wanted to check out As I Lay Dying’s set I also wanted to watch all the other bands I ended up missing. Oh well, I guess I’ll catch them when they come back to Toronto.
HEAVY T.O. DAY 2
Sunday July 24th went much smoother than the day before when it came to me covering bands. I arrived just in time to catch the last half of Melissa Auf Der Maur’s set which was a relief because she was retched, how can people listen to that shit? She sounded like a dying whale. No wonder she was in the background of Hole where she needed to stay because clearly she is not a singer and definitely not Heavy Metal. Thankfully, Anvil was about to hit the Jager East stage I honestly thought I was going to miss them because my meeting ran a little late. All I know is they needed to start the show soon because this chicks voice was giving my ears a hard time.
Anvil hit the stage and immediately did an instrumental piece followed by 666. After the track was a wrap Lead Vox Steve “Lips” Kudlow said to the crowd “It has taken us 30 years to play a crowd this big in Toronto.” I find that amazing yet sad at the same time, sad because they put on a decent performance and they still couldn’t make it back then when it was so easy for mediocre bands to make waves.
I don’t know how they think they are still metal, these days they are considered more on the classic rock side as would many of the oldies on this festivals bill. The fascinating part is that today, it’s just as easy for mediocrity to pass the airwaves even more so than in the past and Now finally Anvil is making a name for themselves mainly due to the hype of their documentary. Vocals are not at all what they should be live, he has aged but his vocals have always needed work and that is what has held them back all these years. Rob Reiner on those cans is always fantastic and Glenn Five on the Bass brings his flavor to the people, all they need to do is get Lips some vocal lessons but someone should have told them that thirty years ago.
Just before Anvil finished their set I migrated over to the Jager West stage to find a decent place to photograph and film Baptized In Blood’s set because my photographer wasn’t there yet. I had to do both competently and effectively which I always manage to do. Finally I got to see them live, there have been numerous shows where they were headlining and I was actually there but couldn’t stay because there was always another show to hit up. This time it was different, the London Ontario band had my undivided attention for the duration of their set and I must say what an experience. Johl Fendley’s Vocals are precise and his enunciation is amazing for a metal vocalist. By infusing some personality into the live performance it made him likable to the crowd not to mention his voice has this kind of strength I haven’t heard in a while. Musically the rest of the band is, Josh Torrance – Guitar/Vox, Nick Bertelsen – Guitar, Matt Harris – Bass and Alex Johnston – Drums/Backup vocals. They were all phenomenal, rocking out to the fullest with heads banging all while shredding Axe’s n Bass’ all while building their fan base because they definitely won over some new fans with their relatable metal blend. Baptized in Blood is another band I need to see again because they were that good, no metal fan will be disappointed by these five.
Soon after Baptized in Blood finished their set I wandered over to the Jager East stage to catch Testament, an old school Heavy Thrash Metal band from California. They were ok, I could barely understand what vocals was singing, it just sounded like one long growl at certain times and it sounded like there was no structure to the songs. It didn’t matter from where I filmed, the sound was amazing everything was so crisp, musically this band had it down but vocals need work and they need a little style refresher because they sound way too similar to Slayer who was up next. Just because you’ve been in the game for so long, does not mean you do not have to refine and continue improving your talents. The band is Chuck Billy – Vocals, Eric Peterson – Rhythm & Lead Guitar, Alex Skolnick – Lead Guitar, Greg Christian – Bass and Gene Hoglan on the Drums who is filling in for their regular Drummer on hiatus and Slayer’s touring Guitarist Gary Holt is filling in for their other Guitarist. I know many bands out there feel they don’t need work on a single thing because they are perfect as is. What world are you living in? Maybe to your group of fans but if you want to expand and touch base with a whole new group of people and stay in the game, you have to bring it up to today’s standards.
It was funny when they told me I had no pit access to shoot anything, I was pissed off at first but then got over it because my video camera has serious zoom. As long as I could roam freely within the crowd to film I was cool. My photographer had the perfect lens for this type of event and she was allowed to shoot in the pit for Underoath thanks the bands awesome team who put her on their list. By the time Slayer hit the stage the crowd was overflowing an estimated 18,000 people came out for the first ever two day festival of Metal that took over Downsview Park last weekend. Never in my life did I ever think I would cover Slayer, they are legends in the Thrash metal world right up there beside Megadeath and Anthrax who I missed the day before but really wanted to see live. Before the band even hit the stage the crowd was going crazy with chants bodies were getting ready to launch across the ocean of people that gathered to watch Slayer come alive on the stage. The band is Tom Araya – Lead Vocals/Bass, Kerry King – Guitars, Gary Holt – Guitars and Dave Lombardo on the Drums. They started their sixteen track set with World Painted Blood which you can watch on FridaeTV along with many other performances covered in this editorial and for photos of the two day festival hit up FridaeTV Facebook and check the slide show at the end for unreleased shots from the editorial that couldn’t be squeezed in.
The crowd was loving every minute of their performance, you can hear them chanting “Slayer! Slayer!” in my video clip which was not an easy task to accomplish, of all the bands that performed this was probably the hardest of mosh pits to stand in without losing footing because the crowd was rocking out to the point where you would just drift with their motions letting them carry you. I loved many of the guitar solos especially when Holt unleashed with his Signature V, both King and Holt had some sexy guitars in their hands! Such amazing sounds I had goose bumps, as I always do when I hear incredible guitar playing! The shredding of guitars has been my favorite sound other than solid vocals which Araya delivered with ease. This year is the year of the Bassist Front Men because Tokyo Police Club’s Vocalist who I saw two weeks prior is the Bassist for his band which is new to my visuals. Last year it was Singing Drummers, this year it’s Singing Bassists, I love watching bands I have never seen rock out but only if they are good and Slayer was exceptional!
Immediately following Slayer’s set a number of people from the crowd headed for the exit because they were not thrilled about the next band which was Billy Talent on the Jager West Stage.
When I got to the Jager West stage I migrated my way through the crowd to find a decent film spot. I thought the area I had chosen was perfect, until the moshers and some clearly retarded dudes started throwing things and yelling at the band because they didn’t like their music. This loser right beside me kept pushing into me just so he could get a clear shot to directly throw something at lead Vox Benjamin Kowalewicz. I don’t understand some people, if you don’t like the band then go get food and less beer, wander around to find your place at the headliner’s stage instead of wasting your time harassing the band, do something productive with your life. It’s not Billy Talent’s fault their agent totally fucked them over by setting them up for obvious heckling, anyone in the music industry who saw this unfolding knows it was a huge mistake.
What were they thinking when they scheduled the band for this event?
Billy Talent should have performed before Slayer if anything because like Melissa Auf Der Maur they were a little misplaced at the wrong music festival. These fans were here to listen and see their metal Gods and even though in reality Slayer is pretty much just as heavy as Billy Talent musically but alters in lyrical comparison because the content in the songs are completely different. People will do what they want and this was a test for the band of how literal the saying “The show must go on” is. Ian D’Sa – Lead Guitar/Vocals, Jonathan Gallant – Bass Guitar/Backup Vox and Aaron Solowoniuk – Drums, percussion along with Front Man Benjamin Kowalewicz kept rocking out to finish their sixteen track set despite the madness. The brunt of the heckling was directed towards Benjamin who read a sign that one of the audience members was holding, it read “Go home Billy Talent from Toronto”, which was absolutely fucken rude because they are from Mississauga and the venue was pretty close to their home. I have seen many bands that blow donkey dick but I’ve never thrown shit or yell at them to get off the stage, I may think that sometimes, but I do leave if my ears can’t handle the sound. Why would I waste my time spreading negativity? It was hilarious to watch as this one drunk-ass kid kept trying to crowd surf, note the word “Try” as his attempts flopped he was always falling on his head. Too funny because he wanted to surf close enough to launch something at the band but he was a failure to launch himself. Vocals were fabulous, the music was on key and timing was perfect, this band went through a lot of shit to finish this set and they did incredibly well regardless of the haters. They still had their fans cheering them on and in the end the hecklers were found and booted. Go see Billy Talent rock the shit out of your town if you get the chance.
Last but not least the headliner of the first ever Heavy T.O., The new king of gore, Mr. Rob Zombie and his crew of interesting characters. I have always wanted to see him live but the last time he came to Toronto his show was at the Sound Academy and I try to avoid covering shows at that venue as much as possible. Not to mention I try to evade crazy groupies who try to befriend me just to latch on for a quick spin on my coat-tails to meet and mingle with people in the industry. You would be surprised at the psycho groupies and girlfriends I have encountered but thankfully none of them were at this show, from what I could see and there weren’t any new ones added on. People need to just let me do my job.
The crowd was chanting Zombie! Zombie! Zombie!
As this giant robot looking statue with glowing eyes was erect on the stage, just before Zombie came out the robot thingy exploded and lit up in flames. A few minutes later the band came on the stage and then out popped Zombie to his microphone which was held up by a cool looking skeleton stand and that reminded me of Adam Gontier’s skeleton hand mic stand but Rob’s was much cooler as was the stage production. The band including Zombie on vocals is: John 5 – Guitar/Backup Vox, Piggy D. – Bass Guitar/Backup Vox and Ginger Fish on the skins.
They all had some pretty sick make up going on especially on Bassist Piggy D. he was full out awesome gear, Zombie’s mask was fresh too and the music was incredible, no lies you can see for yourself from the couple of tracks I filmed. Rob Zombie has a sturdy solid tone with grit and power making his music easy to listen to because he makes it sound so easy without being a monotonous bore. White Zombie was Rob’s former band and there were fans of that band that came to see Rob rock out for sure and there was also fans of his solo stuff and film work.
All the members in the band entertained the mostly male crowd thoroughly, Rob Zombie and his team of wicked outcasts put on a pretty fantastic show filled with ghouls, wandering skeletons, music, guitars, lights, colours and flames! It was a great way to end the first ever HeavyT.O. festival, this definitely needs to be a yearly event and I hope next year the media tent will be closer to the stages. Major thank you goes out to my photographer Joanna for trooping it out both days with a popped blood vessel, Live Nation, HeavyT.O. and Underoath, their management and publicists.