Earlier this month, we headed out to Canada to soak in our very first weekend at Heavy Montreal – the country’s biggest metal festival and one of the most unique fests in all of North America. Plus, as it turns out, the city itself is pretty sweet too. Here are ten reasons you should consider having a very convenient summer holiday around Canada way next August…
The lineup always slams
Previous years at Heavy Montreal have seen the likes of Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slipknot, Korn and Avenged Sevenfold play across the weekend, and this year’s lineup boasted a stacked bill featuring (deep breaths) Five Finger Death Punch, Nightwish, Disturbed, Volbeat, Sabaton, Killswitch Engage, Mastodon, Black Label Society, Beartooth, Suicide Silence and many, many more. They all killed it as well, which helped, not least a beast of a Killswitch set that saw them dust off Holy Diver again, as well as a Nightwish set packing all of their European stage show. We had a Lovely Time.
The site is beautiful
Located a quick Metro ride from the main city (if you prefer the scenic route you can cross the Saint Lawrence River), Heavy Montreal is placed in the heart of the gorgeous Parc Jean Drapeau, a part-natural, part-man-made park right in the centre of the river. Plonked in the middle of some Very Green Woodland and covered in wood chipping so as to avoid any mudbaths (not that we saw a drop of rain while we were there), it’s a tranquil, beautiful setting, with greenery, the river and the city itself making for one hell of a skyline when the sun starts going down. Your Wednesday night grotty rock club all-dayer, this ain’t.
There are hardly any clashes
In a similar vein to the UK’s own Sonisphere festival, Heavy Montreal prides itself on letting fans see as much music as possible, with the two main stages in the arena alternating slots so as to never clash with each other. In fact, if you’re feeling really lazy, you can just stand in the middle of the field and spin around each time a band finishes. Seriously, it’s awesome. And you don’t even have to go to the bar because…
The beer comes to you
You read that right. Roaming beer vendors mean that there’s always someone with a beer for you at short notice, and they even sell a not-totally-shit Canadian lager on site. They also treat Jack Daniel’s like a shot (seriously – ask for a “Lemmy” and they’ll look at you funny before subtly leaving a Coke can next to your whiskey), and you’ll regularly bump into vendors attempting to pour a few sickly sweet drops down your throat (for a fee, obviously). Booze isn’t cheap on site – it works out around £5 a beer, so pretty much the same as most UK or European festivals – but there’s almost zero queuing, which is nice.
They have their own pro-wrestling league
Wrestling is metal. It’s a fact that has weathered the sands of time like Harambe memes, and Heavy Montreal have capitalised quite spectacularly on this by starting their own wrestling league. Located in the more woody area of the festival site, Heavy Mania Wrestling has its own ring and entranceway, kicking off a few times each day, drawing in a crowd equal parts ecstatic and bemused. So, if you fancy a break from the relentlessness of riffs, riffs and more riffs, you can trundle over to the Chillzone and watch grown men and women batter the shit out of each other. We’re in.
It has its own hotels
The nature of the festival means there’s no camping, so the organisers have handily sorted out a number of hotels around the city that they can offer tourists at a reduced rate. This can range from basic and budget student-type accommodation to pretty damn lush suites – of course, at a higher price. Either way, it’s a decent way to make sure you’re not obliterating your bank when it comes to staying in the city. Check out the website for details of the kind of places you can expect to stay in next year.
Montreal is a metalhead-friendly city
One massive bonus from heading to Heavy Montreal is, of course, the city it’s named after -–and if you’re wanting to find more heaviness during your stay, you won’t be disappointed. There are numerous, excellent and very metalhead-friendly drinking spots to check out; we recommend Piranha Bar on Rue Sainte-Catherine (it has actual fucking piranhas in and is usually playing classic WWE on the TV, which is just straight-up awesome), the gnarly looking Katacombes on St-Laurent or, perhaps the city’s most popular rocker haunt, Foufounes Electriques (though be wary – on some days it becomes a regular, dance music-filled nightclub venue, which, unless you want to throw down to Kyga, may not be your scene).
The aforementioned venues also host regular gigs, so chances are, if you’re in town a couple of days early ahead of the festival, you’ll be able to stumble upon a kickass metal band laying waste to some delirious, black-clad Canadians.
In fact, it’s just a kickass city in general
Montreal isn’t just one of the prettiest cities and most metal-friendly cities you’ll find in North America – there’s so much to do and see in general that you’ll soon find yourself planning a way to come back for a full holiday. Our tour guide was quick to boast that it’s the “greenest city there is”, and you can see why; it seems like there’s a park on every corner, overflowing with lazing students and locals. The Saint Lawrence river is also stunning and makes for an epic backdrop to a place that is practically overflowing with stuff to look at
If rolling around in the grass and thinking about how pretty everything is isn’t your thing, you can take a stroll down to the port and breathe in some of that fresh sea air while supping on some local beers, nose around the numerous art galleries, workshops, boutiques and cafés in the arty Mile End district, attempt a trek to soak in the incredible view atop the not-really-a-mountain-but-still-quite-big Mount Royale, gaze upon the beautiful, French-slanted architecture around the Historic District or simply take a stroll down the huge, city-splitting Saint Laurent avenue and gaze upon the amazing street art. There are also so many amazing restaurants to dig into, be it Italian, French, American, Chinese, Vegetarian or Vegan, that you’ll come back at least 100 pounds heavier. At least.
It’s a very walkable city, too, so if you have the time, stroll around and see what you find – guaranteed you’ll stumble onto something awesome within a few minutes.
The people are wonderful
Seriously, everything you’ve ever heard about Canadians is true. They’re almost scarily friendly, and we quickly lost count of the number of times we were offered directions when lost, bought a beer upon someone realising we were in town alone or regaled with tales of the city’s impressive history, cultural diversity or, simply, the amount of rad things to do. We were even let off the few times we attempted to return to our dodgy A-level French when conversing with the locals (pro-tip: if you get stuck, just look sad, bow your head and sigh… “Je suis Anglais”. They’ll take pity on your idiocy. Or just laugh at you, to be honest). If the city itself won’t be enough to make you want to stay (as if), the people most certainly will.
Poutine is like the best shit ever
Honestly, we’re just gonna leave this one here. Just trust us.
Heavy Montreal will return Summer 2017 at the Parc Jean-Drapeau. Head to the official website for lineup announcements. Special thanks to Tourism Montreal - head to their website for all the best info on discovering the city.