By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
In early April, Bruce Corbitt awoke from a late sleep to find a voicemail awaiting him.
It was a stranger, a woman who had seen his band, Texas Metal Alliance, perform a gig earlier in the year. She said she worked for the local branch of national concert booking conglomerate AEG Live. She said it had taken her forever to find his number, and now that she finally had it, she wanted to ask Corbitt a question: Was his old band, Rigor Mortis, available to play Ozzfest?
It had been some time since Rigor Mortis had been in the national spotlight. In 1987, it became the first metal act from the region to sign to a major label—Capitol Records—back when a major-label signing meant something. But, by the mid-'90s, Rigor Mortis had all but faded into oblivion. Remained there, too, despite a 2005 reunion tour that saw the band's original lineup taking its show around Texas and to the East Coast. It wasn't the old days, no, but the tour found the band some renewed fanfare.
So when the call came, Corbitt balked. "I thought it was an April Fool's joke," Corbitt remembers.
Could Ozzfest really be interested in having Rigor Mortis on its bill?
He called the woman back. Her response: Yes, really. His: Shock.
"This band is like Jason from the Friday the 13th movies," Corbitt says with an excited laugh. "We get killed every which way, in every movie, but we just won't die. Ten years ago, I did an Internet search on our band, and I only found one link. One! We were a forgotten band."
A few phone calls to his equally surprised Rigor Mortis band mates and Rigor Mortis was back from the dead again, this time to play Ozzfest.
"This is probably the biggest show we've ever done as Rigor Mortis," Corbitt says.
So, with what he understood as the booking agent's permission, Corbitt giddily announced the upcoming show on the band's MySpace page.
Only one problem: No other band had yet announced its participation. Turns out Corbitt wasn't supposed to have either. And with his MySpace post, Corbitt inadvertently unveiled the metal world's biggest secret of the summer:
This year's Ozzfest, the biggest annual metal festival in the country, was going to become a one-day, one-city, one-off show. And it was set to happen in, of all places, Frisco, Texas.
Since launching in 1996, Ozzfest has sat proudly atop the summer metal touring circuit.
Created by metal legend Ozzy Osbourne and his wife, Sharon—right between the 1995 launch of the punk-inclined Warped Tour and the 1997 debut of the female-oriented Lilith Fair—Ozzfest, following the same Lollapalooza-tested model as the other touring fests, offered audiences a decidedly heavier take on the idea and gave fans the chance to see the heavyweights of the genre on a single bill. Over the years, Ozzfest lineups have included the likes of Slayer, Marilyn Manson, Megadeth, Motörhead, Tool, Slipknot, Disturbed, Korn, Iron Maiden1, Lamb of God, Judas Priest—acts that could fill arenas, or at least come close, on their own. And every year, at every show, Ozzy, the Prince of Darkness himself, headlined, like the cherry on top.
Since early in 2008, though, it became clear: This year, Ozzfest would face some competition.
As early as January, regular Ozzfest standbys started popping up on other bills. Slipknot and Disturbed signed up to tour in the inaugural Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival. Motörhead and Judas Priest later announced they would be touring as part of the Masters of Metal tour. Others defected as well—enough for metal fansites and blogs to erupt with open-ended speculation about Ozzfest's fate. In fact, things looked so bleak that, by April, when Osbourne announced that he would be headlining Canada's one-day, late July Monsters of Rock festival, metal news sites—and even MTV News—bemoaned Ozzfest's demise.
Then came new rumors and talks of a rebirth for the metal fest.
First, speculation was that there would be an Ozzfest—but this year it would only hit a couple of cities. London was likely, maybe a date or two in the States, as well. Second, to make up for the diminished muscle on the bill, word had it that Osbourne's camp had convinced metal juggernaut Metallica to hop on board. Nothing was confirmed, though. And, amongst these rumors, for reasons no one could really explain, Dallas kept popping up as a possible host site for Ozzfest.
In late April, though, Corbitt's MySpace note went live.
Almost immediately, metal news site Blabbermouth.com caught wind of it—a post that not only announced that Ozzfest would be playing Dallas, but also that Metallica would be co-headlining the gig. The site used Corbitt's word to confirm it all.
Today, Corbitt shrugs the whole thing off: "I was told I could say it," he maintains. "But the bass player for Ozzy called us and was like, 'Man, you gotta take that down.'"
Corbitt did, and the big, revealing MySpace post was lost in the annals of the Internet. For the next two weeks, not a peep came from the Osbournes—just a teasing note on the Ozzfest.com blog saying, "Announcement coming soon!"