It began as a way for Venkatesh to bring people together that he knew in the heavy metal world. “I didn’t expect the reaction I got from the Montreal scene last year. We actually turned people away the second day because there was no room left in the space I’d booked,” he says.
This year promises to be even bigger because of a new partnership struck between Evenko’s Heavy Montreal music festival and Venkatesh. Grimposium will run in the days leading up to Heavy Montreal, which runs Aug. 7–9 at Parc Jean-Drapeau.
Venkatesh says last year’s inaugural edition of Grimposium was primarily internal and mostly funded through university grants. This year’s partnership with Evenko, as well as new funding from the federal and provincial governments and the university, has allowed Venkatesh the latitude to make Grimposium a destination for metal heads from both within academia and without.
“It’s going to be an interesting marriage,” he says.
Addressing social ills in heavy metal
Venkatesh has dedicated much of the past five years of his research to studying — and enjoying — extreme metal and the kinds of people who congregate around it across the globe. He and his team have published in fields as varied as niche online communities, consumer culture, tourism, philosophy and marketing.
This year’s Grimposium is in part an outcropping of that work. Venkatesh says he hopes some of the panel discussions will lead to exchanges promoting individuality and confronting social ills like sexism, homophobia and xenophobia in the community.
Kim Kelly, an editor with Vice in New York who is making the trek down to Montreal for Grimposium, says the politics of heavy metal have come a long way — but there are still major issues within the scene.
She says she’s perpetually harassed online by people who simply don’t like that she’s a woman writing about heavy metal, even after spending more than half her life doing so.
“Even after all this time, I still get nasty comments every day. I've been sent death threats, rape threats, been called every name in the book. Right now, I'm being harassed by at least three people, and it's not even out of the ordinary — and I'm absolutely certain that some of them will read this, and use it as an excuse to harass me even more,” she writes in an email.
Kelly says the problems in the metal community aren’t particularly unique to this subculture — they simply filter down through society to a number of people, some of whom happen to love heavy metal. Even so, she likes to believe progress made in society in general will also filter down to heavy metal.