The Ozz-Fest

Festival Review

By Michael J. Legeros


           "Beyond the vocals, it's the way a guitar
            makes you feel when someone hits a particular
            chord, the way a snare drum is cracked."
                                            - Rob Halford

Motorhead is playing the main stage.  I learn of this distressing
news on I-40, on my way to the airport, around 1:00 p.m. on Satur-
day.  Now, this sucks for several reasons.  First, I've just helped
a friend move, so I need to go home and get my gear-- at the very
least-- before I'm ready to roll to the concert.  Now, I live a
good twenty minutes from RDU and another, oh, fifteen minutes from
the amphitheater.  Also, I have to collect my metalhead friend,
who, like myself, isn't likely to like the idea of arriving at Ozz-
Fest *five* hours earlier than planned.  (Twelve bands in twelve
hours, but we're getting there late, to catch our faves Megadeth,
Tool, Ozzy, and Motorhead-- who were supposed to play at 6:30 and
on the *second* stage.  Sigh.)  At a pay phone next to the West
Popular Public Library on Duraleigh Road, I confirm with the Dude-
ette that, indeed, it would've made for a damn long day had we (a.)
caught the news early and (b.) caught up with each other in time.
So, per plans, we depart at the appointed time of 5:30 p.m.  (The
weather?  Mid-80's.  Low humidity.  Partly cloudy.)

Upon arrival at the Creek, the first order of business is the stuf-
fing of the crotch.  No, no socks or such stud-enhancing items.
Rather, I package my package with a small disposable camera-- wrap-
ped in plastic, thankyouverymuch-- that I'll attempt to smuggle in-
to the amphitheater.  (The widely-publicized rules include no cam-
eras, no blankets, and no wallet chains.)  With contraband conceal-
ed, we embark across the first of several parking lawns and arrive
at the main gate at approximately 6:05 p.m.  Entrance, we discover,
is a two-step process.  First, there's the security checkpoint,
where attendees (well, at least the guys) get patted down.  Staf-
fers stand next to a dumpster, where Bad Things (like pocket
knives) are disposed of.  (Blankies, however, are thrown on top,
presumably to be recovered upon exit.)  I'm toting instead of wear-
ing my butt-pack, to draw as little attention as possible to my
pelvic area.  The frisk is brisk; the man's hand stays clear of the
hot zone.  And with the subsequent tearing of the tickets, we're in
like Flynn.

After a quick restroom/souvenir stop, we ascend The Hill, behold
The Stage, and begin our journey Down Front.  Finding the correct
entrance proves problematic, as the yellow-shirted staffers won't
permit short-cuts between sections.  So, we walk around.  (Special
wristbands are also required:  yellow, for consuming alcohol; white
if seated in a reserved seat, up front.  Susan wears both colors; I
only require white.)  The speed-metal band Megadeth is due in mere
minutes, but we're busy surveying the crowd.  Black tees or shirt-
less (guys only) is the favored attire.  (The latter often accom-
panied by wince-inducing sunburn.)  Studs, spikes, dog collars, and
even the occasional pager.  Mostly guys, but with more girls than
expected.  Few teens; fewer geezers.  I pick out my next girl-
friend:  a plump beauty with stringy hair, spreading tattoos, and
that always-erotic drunken stagger.  (Lest I be accused of calling
a kettle black, I'm wearing a Beavis and Butthead-as-AC/DC tee,
shorts, sneaks, earring, ponytail, and one simple studded leather
bracelet.)

The roster for the sold-out show:  Monster Voodoo Machine, Ultra
Spank, Life of Agony, Melvins, Sevendust, Kilgore, Coal Chamber,
System of a Down, Soul Fly, Snot, Limp Bizket, Incubus, Megadeth,
Motorhead, Tool, and Ozzy.  The attractions:  food, drink, carnival
games, jewelry booths, etc.  (I'm offered a pair of CDs just to
*try* to ring the bell with the heavy hammer.)   At 6:30 p.m.,
Megadeth begins their set.  Music from the movie "Exodus" is played
and the members appear.  Vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine, his
shoulder-length strawberry-blonde hair gleaming, leads them into
"Holy Wars."  We stay for six or seven songs.  The band, while
tight, doesn't have the strongest stage presence.  Nor is the bass-
heavy mix user-friendly.  By now, I've taken my tee off, to conceal
the camera.  (The film speed is 400 ASA, no flash.  I shoot every-
thing from brawls to babes.)  We wander and gawk and eat and drink.
(Let's see... pop is $3 or $4, beer is $5 or $6.  A personal pizza
is $7.00)  At the piercing booth (!), I meet Avital and Katy, a
couple chicks from Hendersonville.  (They're really from Florida
and Australia and just *visiting* the Big H. for a "Jewish summer
camp.")  Avital shows me her Pooh tattoo.  We pass on watching what
happens to her nose.

Milling among the 20,000 or so metalheads, Susan and I agree that
the members of the crowd, while certainly *visually* aggressive,
are as tame as a pussycat.  Or at least a sleeping lion.  We gawk
some more, see someone from work, and have a hearty laugh at an
explanation for why blankets were banned.  ("Someone might try to
suffocate someone.")  The second stage has attracted a small crowd
and we pause, she listening and myself snapping some more under-
the-covers photos.  (Here, stacks of spent beer cases; there, a
woman spilling out of her swimsuit top.)  Life of Agony wraps and
we wander, claiming a couple free samples from the Trojan booth
("shared sensation lubricated") and, while visiting a jewelry
stand, chuckle that banned wallet chains can be *purchased* from any
number of visiting vendors.  By now, Tool has tooled onto the main
stage.  Susan stakes a claim on the lawn, while I continue to snap
pictures.  I spy Sheila from Virginia Beach sitting alone and ask a
couple of questions.  ("Best band she's seen today?  Incubus.  Fav-
orite Ozzy song?  Crazy Train.  Can she name three of Ozzy's past
guitarists?  No.")  I eat a funnel cake, pass a passed-out passer-
by, and ask a cop how many uniformed officers are on hand.  (28,
with eight prisoner transport units.  The numbers, so far:  15 to
jail, 30 on drug charges, and 100 booted out the back gate.)

At the end of the next-to-the-last band's set, I reclaim the Dude-
ette, who's being tended to by a quartet of drunken Tool fans.  In-
stead of going around, we dive into the thick of the crowd and bul-
ly our way back to our seats.  (Section 3, Row R, Seats 27 and 28.)
And, almost on schedule, at 9:20 p.m., the show begins.  Projected
onto several screens are several video clips, with Ozzy digitally
added to each.  First, he's being sketched by Leonardo DiCaprio on-
board a certain ocean liner.  (You can guess what gets drawn.)
Click and he's one of the Spice Girls.  Click and he's dancing with
Michael Flatley.  And it goes on:  "Southpark," THE FULL MONTY, a
pair of music videos, and, in a couple seconds from THE SHINING,
the announcement "Here's Ozzy!"  Lights go out.  The singer stands
in oversized shadow behind a white curtain as the crowd roars.  (In
crucifix position, but of course.)  And so begins the set, with the
familiar beat of "Believer."  The stage props are simple:  metal
arches hanging from the ceiling and a giant, bat-shaped drum riser.
Ozzy is also armed with a high-powered water cannon, to accompany
the lighting tower that also shoots several streams of water a good
thirty feet into the crowd.

Next songs:  "I Don't Know," "Bark at the Moon," and a sing-along
to the Sabbath staple "War Pigs."  Somewhere in there, Ozzy asks to
see our cigarette lighters and a thousand points of light respond.
(As I jot notes, the tattooed woman beside me asks "are you a re-
porter?")  "Desire," then "Goodbye to Romance," which we're also
asked to sing.  (Meanwhile, the $7/hour staffers occasionally ap-
pear, to ask someone to stop smoking.  I'm amazed.)  Ozzy loveably
lumbers back and forth across the stage.  He's slim, but sweating a
storm.  His patter, per usual, consists mostly of "let's go crazy,"
"lemme see your f***** hands," and "I love you all."  We wave and,
with a mile-wide smile, he waves back.  And blows kisses.  Next,
"No More Tears," with stills from an R-rated comic book.  Ozzy's
voice occasionally cracks.  Next, "Suicide Solution," dedicated to
"the f***** people who hate Ozzy Osbourne."  Then the solos, with
the trio thrashing for a few minutes before breaking into recogni-
zable riffs from "Over the Mountain," "Symptom of the Universe,"
and "Diary of a Madman."  (All accompanied by "extreme" sports
clips.)

As the evening draws close to a close, we're shown footage from
previous 'fests.  Ozzy sings "I Don't Want to Change the World."
Segue into "Mr. Crowley," with another request to see cigarette
lighters.  Pause after organ intro, waiting until we make enough
noise.  (Expectedly, occult imagery is displayed.)  For the final
song, the band breaks into one of Pat Boone's favorites, "Crazy
Train."  More water, from the buckets that Ozzy dunks his head in-
to.  The crowd stays wild.  He walks off stage, but returns for two
encores, the ballad "Mama, I'm Coming Home" and his trademark
"Paranoid."  We sing with the former and stomp with the latter.
(Ex-Ugly Kid Joe and current Life of Agony singer Whitfield Crane
joins Ozzy for that final song.)  "God bless you all."  Confetti
flies, the band takes their bows, and a recording of "Changes" is
played as the house lights are raised.  Say good night, Ozzy.  We
filter out, all smiles.  Everyone's happy.  Drunk, some, but with
an intense collective sense of satisfaction.  No disappointments;
not tonight.  The warmth of the Ozz-man's energy and enthusiasm
stays with us for the next hour, which is just about how long it
takes us to find our car and get back on the highway.  He loves us
all and, indeed, we love him back.

Copyright 1998 Michael J. Legeros

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