Words by: Michael Barrett
Photography by: Dakota King
As far as Monday night concerts are concerned, Parkway Drive with We Came as Romans, Counterparts and Out Of My League on the 10th of October may have been amongst the greatest of all time. Little did I know that a last minute plan on a Holiday Monday would turn out so great.
This was my first show at The Danforth Music Hall and considering it was an all-ages event featuring mostly bands I’d only just heard about, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I arrived, I was greeted by a friend of mine but noticed that there were groups of younger fans outside the entrance. I suddenly actually felt kind of old and out of place by comparison but when I thought about it, I probably looked a lot like them when I started going to metal shows. It was interesting to see the next generation of metal fans and how they would respond to the performance we were about to see.
Before Parkway Drive or even their pre-set sing-a-long (which I will get to later) I was introduced to the music of We Came as Romans out of Michigan, US. My first impression of them was that I understood how they could be so successful. In my eyes, they’re like metalcore only with a greater degree of pop sensibility and emphasis on clean vocals. They had a full stage presence and the each of the highly animated band members brought something unique to the stage.
I was most impressed by the guitars and drum work of We Came as Romans which is to be expected from me because I tend to lean towards the heavier side of metal. Although, I do really respect what they’re doing with music and think they put on a great performance. The crowd was responding with energy and they seemed to be having an excellent time.
After a brief smoke following the We Came as Romans performance I made my way back to the center stage/mosh pit area of the venue to secure a spot smack-dab in the middle of all the moshing I hoped would go down. The crowd packed in behind me and my comrade and we waited out the calm before the storm. Soon after, the stage lit up making the crowd scream in anticipation. I’ve never heard a bands name screamed in a South Asian accent before and I will never forget hearing “PARKWAY DRIVE! PARKWAY DRIVE! PARKWAY DRIVE!” in that voice.
I suppose this is the nature of gatherings en masse in a city as diverse as Toronto. I couldn’t help but marvel at the wide variety of ages, ethnicities and especially genders represented in the crowd that enveloped me. Part of that, I’m sure, had to do with the names on the marquee. Compared to the crowd at the Slayer show I reviewed earlier in the month, I can honestly say that there were probably more women in the mosh pits here than in Slayer’s entire audience. Though I can’t say what the main contributing factor for this was; I haven’t drawn up any Venn diagrams yet, the crowd in attendance was actually amazing and unlike anything I’ve experienced in all my years of going to metal shows. They were so involved and so energetic that it made this old fart love going to metal shows all over again.
To that point, I’ll get to what I’ve labelled the ‘Danforth Music Hall Sing-a-Long’. As the lighting and sound techs prepped the stage for Parkway Drive we crowd members were treated to some famous rock/pop anthems through the PA system. We sang along to Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. I can remember thinking to myself, “Damn! This should’ve been a Bon Jovi concert,” because this crowd absolutely belted out all of the lyrics ‘Living on a Prayer’ and did so to such an impressive level that I swear there must have been a rehearsal show I failed to get the memo for. Regardless, no one needs a memo to join in on singing Bohemian Rhapsody and boy, did the crowd ever rock this one. Without provocation, the men and women in the crowd alternated the lows and highs of “Galileo! Galileo! Galileo! Galileo!” respectively before rejoining in choir for a “Figaro – Magnifico!” that cued the flood lights causing an awkward moment of group self-consciousness and delayed laughter.
Once the sing-a-long was finally over and the stage lights dimmed the crowd exploded knowing that they were moments away from the headliner’s entrance. Now, I knew and had heard about Parkway Drive’s onstage presence but never witnessed them for myself despite being a fan since discovering the Horizons LP in 2007. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the performance I was about to experience. The stage lights went red and Winston, Parkway Drive’s Vocalist, made his stage entrance. The crowd went bat-shit crazy, from the youngest members to the oldest, from the boys to the girls and the non-binaries, every single person in that theatre seemed to lose their mind.
Parkway Drive kicked off their set with Crushed from their 2015 full-album release IRE. The track comes with a Gregorian chant-inspired intro section and then drops into a heavy, groovy riff that ignited a fire in the hearts of the audience. At the time, I was planted firmly at center stage with my friend who I’ve been going to metal shows with since we were fifteen years old. We’d become accustomed to starting pits for ourselves but this show was different.
As soon as the drop into Crushed broke out so did a mosh pit for the ages. In fact, I came up with a new term, “Instapit” to describe the kind of show bands like Parkway Drive put on. No one needed coaxing, no one hesitated, and everyone gave their all to the pit like they’d been waiting for it for months. The second song in the set list was Carrion from Parkway Drive’s 2007 album Horizons. The crowd, including myself, sang out the words to this one and carried out a perfect circle pit. Even though I’ve been going to metal shows steadily since 2002 I hadn’t been in a circle pit that good, ever. I was having a blast head-banging and throwing my weight around with my fellow metal heads.
Parkway Drives set continued on with popular songs like “Vice Grip” from IRE (2015), “Karma” from Deep Blue (2010), and “Dark Days” from Atlas (2012). The songs that the crowd seemed to sing with most were older tracks from the Horizons album. Specifically, PD playing the song “Boneyards” off of their Horizons album really kept the crowd going and when the drop came the whole building screamed, “THERE’S BLOOD IN THE WATER!” I’m sure you can imagine how the mosh responded but let me tell you, there was mayhem on the Danforth.
After Boneyards, Parkway Drive continued with “Writings on the Wall” from IRE, “Wild Eyes” from Atlas, before attempting to end their set with the title track from Horizons. Not once during this time did the mosh pit dissolve. Parkway Drive left the stage after thanking the crowd for their energy and welcoming Canadian nature. However, the crowd had other ideas and chanted, “One more song! One more song!” until PD couldn’t resist indulging them.
Winston and his band mates came back out to the stage front and demanded that the mosh pit for the encore be the best of the night and the crowd must’ve understood because they responded with the widest and fastest circle pit of the night. I was in the pit from the moment it started until the moment I got thrown into the path of a guy throwing down who caught me with one of his fists of fury under my right eye. He gifted me with a pretty serious shiner and I gifted him with a boot print. After realizing what he’d done he turned and apologized to me (which I was totally surprised by) and we proceeded to head bang out the rest of the encore.
Overall, this show had everything you’d want from a metal show. The mosh pits, the crowd members, and the bands were all truly remarkable. I certainly won’t forget this show and have nothing but respect for the people of Toronto, the Danforth Music Hall, the opening acts, and of course Parkway Drive.
Parkway Drive’s Set List:
Gimme a D
Writings On The Wall