|legeros.com > Writing > The Ozz-Fest|
"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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Copyright 2019 by Michael J. Legeros