Monsters of Rock 2008 Festival
Band Photo: Testament (?)
Nearly 20,000 hard rock and metal fans braved the heat on Saturday to show their support for the one-off, one-day Monsters of Rock in Calgary, AB. While the line to get into McMahon Stadium stretched over a football field in length as ticket holders went through to the necessary ticket scans and bag checks, Zimmers Hole grabbed the stage by the bull horns and audibly spurred concert goers as they trickled in. Zimmers Hole, fronted by Chris Valagao (who later signed autographs wearing nothing but red body paint and a butt flap), gave a short, but high energy sampling of funny, thrashy goodness. And it was super cool of Ozzy to have a Canadian band kick start the festivities.
Now, for some reason, Zimmers Hole started 15 minutes earlier than scheduled. They then proceeded to wrap up after their 25 minutes time slot. A 10 minute break was in the lineup schedule to allow for a gear changeover between Zimmers’ set and the next act, Priestess, all the way from the other side of Canada.
Okay, so this is where it gets kinda weird. I swear, I blinked for one second and Priestess began to play. I checked my watch and, yup. Sure enough, only five minutes had gone by. So not only did Zimmers Hole check in early, Priestess was on 20 minutes before scheduled. I felt bad for any fans of the Montreal metallers still stuck in the other side of the admission gates where the line still stretched a good Canadian football field length, although a length quickly becoming rivaled by the beer line on the floor.
But I digress.
Not only were the bands not falling behind schedule, they were ahead of it! Somebody call Guinness.
Of course, no matter when they played, Priestess killed. The sound was a bit shaky at the start, but by the second song, the sound peeps finally figured it out, allowing Priestess to take control of the stage. And, lucky for those who didn’t line up at a ridiculously early hour to beat the rush, the band’s 30 minutes of sound carried. Up and out and probably down to the river side where Calgary’s Annual Folk Festival was being held simultaneously. Oh yes, Monsters of Rock was a well-timed yang to the tree-hugging acoustic yin of Folk Fest. Ironically, city bylaw officers were on site for pretty much the whole day to monitor the noise levels – this was going to be one of those “heavy metal” shows, you know – and you know what they found? Even though you could be treated to the music a few blocks away, it was no harder on your little ear drums than a vacuum.
Bylaw must have taken a break for 3 Inches of Blood. These guys ripped things up playing mostly songs from their latest album, “Fire Up the Blades.” Another short set of 30 minutes, another quick change over, and Testament took over. And I mean took over. First off, these guys, who are probably the most popular thrash metal band from the ’80s that didn’t go mainstream, should not have been on so early. Whose idea was that? I mean, seriously? And why just 30 minutes? I’ll stop whining now and get on with it. Vocalist Chuck Billy crushed, even if his air guitar was a little out of tune. Kudos to the man for kicking the crap out of cancer and helping make our ears bleed.
I’ve never been a huge Voivod fan, so when they hit the stage, I hit the concourse and set out to find me a hot dog or something remotely edible. What I found instead were ridiculously long lineups and a hallway packed with half-drunken metalheads rabidly chanting “We want beer!” Turns out the venue ran out of brewskies and water mid day. Great.
Escaping the packed and potentially volatile beer rebellion, I headed back to the floor to catch the rest of Voivod and you know? I think I need to give them another chance. Their set was full steam ahead with ¾ of the band making the most out of the stage and sounding awesome. They played a lot their older tunes, including “Tribal Convictions” from 1988’s “Dimension Hatröss.” I just might have to revisit my old record collection.
Shadows Fall was next and I think by this time the schedule was so strangely ahead of schedule, I stopped looking at my watch.
Cavalera Conspiracy made my whole day. Performing a mix of older Sepultura fare and tunes from the Cavalera Conspiracy discography made for a nice surprise and variety. These guys were ace from “Troops of Doom” to “Dead Embyronic Cells.”
Hatebreed followed Cavalera Conspiracy, and this is where I was supposed to have gotten over Testament’s early and all too quick set. Hatebreed played for 40 minutes and to be honest it felt twice as long. I’d never really listened to these guys before and, while they put on an incredibly physical show, the music wasn’t incredibly diverse. They got the crowd rowdy, though, even if it was a bit wasted. Serj Tankian does not follow rowdy well. At least, his solo tunes don’t.
Arriving on stage wearing a pink t-shirt and a beige top hat, Tankian certainly stood out. The band backing him up donned similar pink t-shirts outfitted with Hawaiian prints and black top hats. The songs were fun and made for an almost needed break, but the polka-esqueness of it all really was realistically out of place.
But then, there was Judas Priest. And I say, “Serj who?”
Rob Halford was effectively creepy in a long, silvery robe, holding a tall, metal pitchfork, with the robe’s hood covering his head and dark sunglasses masking him completely. He slowly made his way towards the front stage while crooning out the title track from the band’s latest album, “Nostradamus.” This stuff sounds way cool live, and the crowd couldn’t have agreed more.
I think Halford ended up changing four or five times throughout the course of the band’s 60 minutes set. It seemed a bit overkill, but it worked. Heck, he even brought out the motorcycle, so what’s a little wardrobe switching?
Veterans of the festival circuit – they played the very first monsters of Rock festival in 1980 – they know what an audience wants and they gave it in the form of the classics: “Metal Gods,” “Devil’s Child,” and “Breaking the Law.” Judas Priest did not disappoint.
Called back for an encore, Halford led the crowd in an a cappella sing-along before the rest of the band came back out with “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.” Show stopper? Hardly. The crowd wanted more, and they got it.
Ozzy’s performance started off with a series of TV and movie parodies up on the large monitors on each side of the stage. I can’t remember all the crazy skits, but one involved Ozzy dressed up as Amy Winehouse auditioning for American Idol, only to be lampooned by Simon Cowell while another saw him doing something naughty with the Queen that I cannot mention here just in case kids are reading.
Then, of course, Ozzy himself made an entrance wearing the white cowboy hat he was presented with by the city upon arriving at the Calgary Airport the day before the show. Almost as if on cue, the sky darkened back to the cloudiness that had brought a little bit of solace in the form of shade and light showers to sun-baked fans periodically throughout the day.
With Zakk Wylde shredding things up on guitar and Rob “Blasko” Nicholson on bass, each sporting their own wall of cabs, and a fine balance of Sabbath and Ozzy’s solo tunes, I could have listened all night. The overall atmosphere was indescribable, especially when the pit went nutso after Wylde tossed his guitar into the crowd at the end of the first tune. Concert goers who had wandered during the sets of other bands had their eyes glued forward, and it isn’t difficult to understand: Ozzy was in fine form. He had energy, he was as on key as Ozzy gets, and he was amusing. “War Pigs,” “Paranoid,” “Iron Man,” “Bark at the Moon” and “Mr. Crowley” were just a few of the songs from the 90 minute set.
All in all, the day was a success. The bands were awesome, the crowd was supportive, and the neighbors didn’t complain so much that the show got shut down. Sure, the city cops showed up and tried butt out the bud, and the merch was stupidly overpriced, but people had fun anyways.
Especially once the venue restocked the beer.
You can check out photos from the Monsters Of Rock festival in our photo gallery.
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