By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
In the press tent, as the geezers slogged through their theme song, the horror-show masterpiece "Black Sabbath," a 5-year-old girl ran headlong away from the sound, hands clapped over ears, mom in hot pursuit. It was nice to see that. But by the time she's 8 . . .?
Or maybe crucifixion?
Except for GN'R-type throwbacks Beautiful Creatures and the romanticized angst of Linkin Park, the typical Ozzfest band -- from Mudvayne to Slipknot -- exorcised its demons with good ol' primal-scream therapy; the Blockbuster Pavilion was a rough place to be if you were the God-fearing sort. Slipknot singer Corey Taylor declared, "This next song is gonna piss off a lot of Christians," before launching into "Heretic Song" from the forthcoming Iowa. During Papa Roach's set, front man Coby Dick responded to the overhead invitation to John 3:16 with "Fuck that plane." As my friend Lane said, "Of course kids are gonna eat that up -- it's such an easy message to sell." Maybe so, but religion could never match the cathartic pleasures of amphitheater-quaking grooves, a sentiment nicely conveyed by Dick: "Does everyone feel all right? I was feeling like shit until I got up on this stage."
The modern advances in crowd control are impressive: Was the three-hour logjam on I-15 part of the plan to sap fans' energy? But some of the festival spirit was missing. Where were the riots and overturned portable toilets of festivals past? What happened to rushing the stage? With 30,000 people, couldn't someone at least have been trampled? Nope, this was controlled chaos. In a marvel of logistical planning, the bands were on and off exactly when the itinerary said they would be -- before, even. But if you paused more than two seconds along the corridor that ran through general seating to enjoy the antics onstage, your loitering self was gently prodded with a graphite baton. Two football fields' length from the main stage was where the fans were setting stuff on fire at dusk, so why weren't the patrol goons out there? In the main-stage vicinity, there was a security guard for every two people, and when a fight actually did break out, it was yours truly who got hurt after a uniformed gorilla slammed into me trying to pull apart the brawlers. Thank god for media passes and their access to shady tents with manicured lawns, icy tubs of Arrowhead, and lots of minor-league adult-film actresses. But these amenities could keep us from the pit for only so long.
Never mind that Ozzy Osbourne is approaching brain death; my beefs with the fest are that the reflexive lip service being paid to Ozzy's legacy borders on slobbering idolatry, that the importance of his band's contribution to music is accepted without question, and that the godfather of metal has long ceased to connect with his audience except on the shallowest level: "I smell some good weed out there," he trenchantly observed at one point. The anticlimax of Black Sabbath's set adds to a sense of incongruity: This band is the highlight of a festival that showcases a nu-jack brand of metal taking its cues from hardcore punk and hip-hop far more than from blues-based stoner rock, and Sabbath was at its prime years before the average Ozzfest attendee was even born. Yet even though dehydration, drugs, 113-degree temperatures and claustrophobia took their toll on the crowd, it was a sight to behold: an oceanic surge of bodies, hands over heads, swaying back and forth to the Iron Man's every incantation. Thirty thousand people can't be putting on an act, can they?
On this tour, Black Sabbath refused to submit even to the concert photo-op (first three songs) the other big groups permitted. When our photographer, Ted Soqui, edged toward the stage, experienced Ozzfest lensfolk warned him off, saying that any camera pointed in Ozzy Osbourne's direction would become the target of the Madman's liquid ammunition: water buckets and water cannons capable of trashing expensive equipment.
Wazzup, Ozzy? Last plastic surgery not too successful? Or are you afraid the camera will take your soul? We thought you'd already sold that for rock & roll. --G.B.