The Ozz-Man Cometh

After years of touring the nation, Ozzfest 2008 finds a home in Dallas' suburbs

It left metal fans hungry for more info. And with just three names in lights surrounding Ozzfest—Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica and Rigor Mortis—Rigor Mortis' stock skyrocketed.

"It's pretty rad that it was just our three names up there for so long," Corbitt says. "It's already had a positive effect on us. As soon as it happened, we saw more friend requests and more plays on our MySpace page. In the end, that was probably the best publicity we've ever had. Currently, more people know about Rigor Mortis than ever before."

Finally, on May 13, the full announcement came. For the most part, the bloggers had it right. There would be an Ozzfest. Metallica would be co-headlining. Somehow the Osbournes had patched together a respectable supporting bill featuring the likes of System of a Down's Serj Tankian, Korn's Jonathan Davis, Hellyeah, Devildriver, Sevendust and others. And, yes, it would all take place in a suburb of Dallas, as a destination festival.

Soilent Green vocalist Ben Falgoust (far right) will be pulling double duty at Ozzfest; he's also the vocalist for Goatwhore.
Jerry Moran
Soilent Green vocalist Ben Falgoust (far right) will be pulling double duty at Ozzfest; he's also the vocalist for Goatwhore.
When Bruce Corbitt (far left) announced Rigor Mortis' participation in Ozzfest, he inadvertently put his band under a microscope.
Beth Shelby
When Bruce Corbitt (far left) announced Rigor Mortis' participation in Ozzfest, he inadvertently put his band under a microscope.

That's the what—but why?

————

Ozzy doesn't mind saying it: He's tired.

In April, the 59-year-old metal frontman wrapped up his most recent world tour. If he had his druthers, he'd be relaxing right now, focusing on his music, finally getting to finish work on the new record he's been planning. The constant touring, the TV appearances—last month came the announcement that the Osbournes have a variety show in the works2—it's all starting to get to him.

So, he told wife Sharon how he felt. Now it sounds like he wishes he hadn't.

"You've got to be careful what you say to Sharon," Ozzy says with a laugh.

Ozzy likes bringing his self-titled tour to metal fans across the country. If it were up to him, he says, Ozzfest would've remained a touring festival this year. But he knows it's not his call.

"It's called the Ozzfest," he says over the phone from his Los Angeles home. "But it should be called the Sharonfest. She does all that negotiating."

With the bands, with the venues, with the fans, with the media.

Most of all, with him.

"I looked at my wife and said, 'Every year I'm on TV, and every year I'm doing Ozzfest. How long do you think this will be going on for?'"

What he meant to ask was why he keeps being asked to do television shows. Those, he says, he can live without. Touring, he can't.

But Sharon, it seems, misinterpreted him.

"When I tell her I need time off," he says, "it doesn't mean not necessarily doing Ozzfest. It means not doing some other work. There's got to be a time when you go, 'OK, let's pull back a bit.'"

The TV stuff, he means.

"When it's going well—the Ozzfest—I love it," Osbourne says. "People ask me, 'How many nights a week can you keep going with a set from 9 to 10:30?' And of course, it's a tough going. I get strained vocal cords. But that's what my life is about, you know?"

————

Sharon Osbourne is a woman in charge, at once confident, professional, to the point and careful with her word choices. She explains the change in format for Ozzfest simply enough: It's about what's best for Ozzy, she says.

"He toured for 11 months," she says. "He didn't finish until April. I'm not gonna saturate the market with Ozzy. I'm not gonna send him out for another 27 dates across the country. That's milking it for Ozzy, and that's not fair.

"So you think, let's tone it down for a year. That's all it is. We're only human, and we can only do the best that we can do...It's really nice, just once, to be able to do what we want to do through the summer. It's been a yearly event for years, and a lot of people plan on it for their summer, but obviously we're people too, and it's nice not to have to do this huge thing for one summer."

She's done her research, having traveled alongside a touring festival and having attended her share of destination festivals. Financially, she says, a destination festival just makes more sense than a touring one.

"You can actually, over a three-day event, make the same amount of money as you would in a 25-date event because of the touring costs," she says.

In recent years, destination festivals have been popping up everywhere—mostly because they're such big moneymakers. Even Lollapalooza, the alt-rock event that proved the touring festival a viable, profit-making option, is now a weekend-long event in Chicago.

As more and more destination festivals keep popping up across the country, the profits continue to increase. Concert industry trade publication Pollstar reports that in 2007 U.S. concert ticket sales totaled $3.9 billion, up 8 percent from the previous year. With dwindling CD sales profits, the touring circuit stands as the music industry's beacon of hope.

Dallas, meanwhile, is one of the few major cities in the United States to not be the annual host to a major summer destination festival. And Dallas has supported an annual metal festival in the past. From 1978 to 1988, the Cotton Bowl played host to the annual Texxas Jam—a show that Ozzy even performed at once, in 1984, alongside Rush, Bryan Adams, .38 Special and Gary Moore.

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