By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
This year's Ozzfest stands as yet just another attempt to keep the festival ahead of the times3—kind of like last year, when it toured the country performing shows for free.
"Year after year, you can't just blindly go and do what you did last year," Sharon says. "You've got to keep changing things up to see what works better. Times are changing. The country is changing. You can't just do the same old, same old without taking into consideration the economy and what's going on over here. You have to take all these things into consideration and do the best that you can."
"I know how lucky I am," Ozzy says. "I ain't complaining about anything. I've always said that I'll be touring as long as they want me and as long as I can keep doing it. [But] I'm not living any illusion. I'm 60 years of age this year, and for more than 40 years, I've been doing music."
Ozzy knows this year, though, will be a challenge. "This is kind of the testing of the water," he says—and he keeps coming back to that phrase as he discusses the new format. He seems worried; metal fans are fickle people. As much as Ozzy's name recognition improved because of his television gigs, they might've hurt his credibility a bit. No doubt he's heard the rumbles of doubt coming from his fans about this year's Ozzfest, and more than anything else, he doesn't want to disappoint them.
"Before I go onstage, I still get stage fright," he says. "I still get nervous right up until I cross that invisible line onto the stage. People ask me how I can still get stage fright after all these years, and I go, 'If I didn't get stage fright, that would mean I didn't care.' And if I didn't care, it would be no challenge. And if I didn't have a challenge, it would get boring real quick."
He asks how the ticket sales are going and wavers between wholeheartedly trying to support the revamped festival and openly wishing it still followed its old touring schedule.
"Everyone's going, 'Oh, this is the end of Ozzfest,'" he says. "And if it is—I'm not planning that, but eventually, it has to come to the end, I'm aware of that—I'm not going to just start doing the one gig in Dallas. I'm gonna tour. But I'm also going to take a break now and then. I can tell you now: This is not the end of Ozzfest. I'm sure that next year, it will be the same as last year, with the full tour."
He has his doubts about this year's setup for Ozzfest.
"If I start worrying about it, I'm gonna get upset," he says, "I'm just keeping my fingers crossed, and I hope it's going to be OK.
Still, he leaves himself an out clause. Ozzy knows what he's doing—like he said, he's been at this for more than 40 years. And despite his reputations as both a performer who bites the heads off bats and as a bumbling television father who can't string a sentence together, he's smarter than you realize. Sly too. He doesn't want Sharon to know he's publicly expressing concern about the festival.
"People always ask me things like, 'Is it true that you once snorted a line of ants, Ozzy?' Maybe," he says. "I mean, it might be true, but I can't remember it. My memory's fucking terrible."
He laughs again.
"I'm sure that at the end of this interview, my wife's gonna go, 'Did you say this?' And I just won't be able to remember."
But like Ozzy, Sharon, too, has heard the backlash. She has seen the comments that littered Ozzfest.com's blog just moments after it announced the one-off Dallas date—the ones that called her out for making things too tough on the fans, the vitriolic ones, too, that accused her of killing Ozzfest. She's just trying to be practical about it all, she says. Trying to improve upon the model.
In late April, Sharon went on something of a reconnaissance mission. She visited Frisco to see Pizza Hut Park firsthand and attended the annual Edgefest concert thrown by The Edge, KDGE-102.1 FM. She liked what she saw in the space, liked how the stages were arranged, liked the fact that, geographically, Dallas is right smack dab in the middle of her festival's nationwide audience.
Check, check, check.
Deciding to move Ozzfest to Dallas, as opposed to a location on the East or West coasts, was that easy.
"It was just, really, the location and facility," she says. "And that was it, really."
But other than to say that there will be an Ozzfest 2009 ("Oh, God, yes—come on"), Sharon remains noncommittal about the event's future. Will it return to a touring festival ("If it's left up to Ozzy, it will"), or will it remain a destination affair?
At the very least, she says, Pizza Hut Park makes the latter possible.