Under the scorching heat of the sun, a steady stream of black apparel and band tees made their way to Toronto’s Downsview Park for an all-day headbanging exhibition. Heavy T.O. 2011: A summer weekend-long heavy metal/rock festival featuring some of the world’s biggest acts in the scene. Taking after Heavy MTL, this is the first year of Toronto experiencing the heaviness, which took place July 23rd & 24th.
Sponsored by Jägermeister, there were 24 artists over the span of two days, most notably including Rob Zombie, Megadeth, Slayer, Motörhead, Billy Talent, and Anthrax.
A side-by-side double stage set up proved an effective time-saving way of ensuring each band was up and playing on or around their scheduled time. Each stage was cordoned off for that particular area, which made things fairly organized. From afar, the mosh pit was like looking onto rough waters. Those who came out alive from behind enemy lines were drenched, rain or shine. A little cloudy downpour on Saturday evening did nothing to taint the party.
Motörhead and Megadeth were Saturday’s final back-to-back headliners, with Megadeth finishing off the day with a two-hour performance.
California’s 80’s thrash-metal band Slayer brought out the majority of fanfare to Heavy T.O.’s second day. Even the stage’s security was headbanging. Loud and proud.
Following Slayer was Toronto-based band Billy Talent and the reception was less-than-welcoming. As some form of ironic protest, hardcore metal fans made the effort to run up to the stage during BT’s set, armed with the sole intention of booing them. Taking it all in stride, Billy Talent somewhat depressingly took non-fans’ hateful signs and acknowledged them to the crowd; “We’re Billy Talent from Toronto. We’re ‘I hate Billy Talent from Toronto'”, etc. One concert-goer’s charming poster read “I came for The Jonas Brothers and instead got Billy Talent.” BT stated their awareness of not being a “metal band” and that they were simply happy to be there, as well as to be alive in this day in age. A little bit over-compensative, but props for the band playing through aggressive and live in-your-face hate, with support from a moderately-sized cheering section up front. Loyal fans are loyal. Overheard rumblings suggested Billy Talent should have performed before Slayer. This may have been true, although why there have to be such strict genre-boundaries imposed is beyond comprehension. Enjoyment of music is universal.
The headliner of Day 2 (and arguably the entire event) was Rob Zombie. Eagerly awaiting the final performance of Heavy T.O. 2011, fans basked in an opening soundtrack of Johnny Cash — the perfect mood-setter for Zombie’s image, as the evening approached nine-thirty. Pyrotechnic fireballs and giant moving robots were just a part of the outrageously theatrical performance. The first song was Jesus Frankenstein and the energy did not dissipate throughout the hour-and-fifteen minute show. With the entire band trading their feathery-gothic costumes for garb printed with the Canadian flag, the set included a tribute to Canadaland and RZ’s guitarist John 5 playing O Canada — with his teeth. All set against a backdrop of a custom-constructed set and projection screen of video clips, the show featured Superbeast, Living Dead Girl, Mars Needs Women, Pussy Liquor, Sick Bubblegum, Thunder Kiss ’65, and Dragula, finishing off a second encore with Lords of Salem — which is also the title of Zombie’s new in-the-works film. With Rob Zombie focused on movie-making, this Toronto show was one to catch as production of Lords of Salem will take time away from touring. And it was a good one.
Fancy Slayer is fancy!
Crowd Photos by Kaliopi Kuzyk & Julia Stacey