Crazy, But That's How It Goes

Or: how I learned to stop worrying and love Ozzfest

The night before Ozzfest, I was regretting that I'd agreed to write about it for this week's music column while Dallas Observer music editor Pete Freedman was on vacation. There were precious few bands that interested me. Sure, I would have really been stoked to see Metallica in junior high, about the time their black album came out, before they dropped a Load on their fans, sued Napster and bitched out with a group therapist. That was a long time ago.

It didn't help that not a single friend was willing or able to go, even for free. Clearly, I need fewer indie-rock snobs, workaholics and family men as buddies and need to befriend a few more headbangers. A sampling of refusals from the past week:

"Sorry, my wife and I are going to a birthday party."

"Isn't that outside? You're crazy. Man, I'm too old for that. That'd kill me."

"I would love to not go."

"You're going to that? That's some gay shit."

Perusing the fan forums at ozzfest.com didn't do anything to boost my enthusiasm—or bode well for the likelihood of meeting new friends with common interests. A sampling from the "Security On Illegals" thread on ozzfest.com forum:

livelikewhoa: mk so i know u can get it in i jus wanna know how risky.. should i take my pipe in (and how) or just stick with blunts... idk

I LOVE wake of ashes: Stick your pipe up your ass. That should work

livelikewhoa: o thanks....great ida

livelikewhoa: anyone who actually wants to be a little nicer.......suggest ideas

I LOVE wake of ashes: Stick your blunts up your ass.

livelikewhoa: hahah ooo shit no im not gay like u id rather not put things in my ass ur a dumbass

I LOVE wake of ashes: haha notice how nobody gives a shit about your dumbass problem. Im the only who's giving you useful advice man

And, from the "What Do Hot Girls Wear..." thread:

livelikewhoa: what do hot girls wear to the concert hahaha idk

This turned from depressing to funny and somewhat confusing when I looked at livelikewhoa's profile and saw that it listed her as female.

At least the people-watching would be interesting, I thought, and called it a night. Here's a brief diary from my experience at Ozzfest itself, at which I stuck nothing up my ass:

2:30 p.m. Traffic wasn't bad at all, but I end up walking a loop around the entire complex, a distance of about a mile, before I find the right entrance. I'm soaked with sweat before I even get inside. I regret missing Rigor Mortis' 2 p.m. set but absolutely don't regret that I haven't already been standing in this heat since the gates opened five hours ago. Sorry, Goatwhore, maybe next time.

On the Main Stage, Cavalera Conspiracy sound pretty intense but not enough to keep me from heading to the Texas Stage to check out The Sword.

4:30 p.m. The Sword's set was awesome. The hair is flying onstage and off, the air is heavy with pot smoke and the crowd is really into their straightforward, throwback metal. No over-processed guitar or flashy soloing—just straightforward brutal, heavy riffs. By the time the band closes with "Freya" from Age of Winters, they've clearly won some new fans.

Sevendust is a letdown after that. They're not bad, but I've never cared much for Lajon Witherspoon's vocal style, and they're no more interesting than their minor radio hits in the late '90s suggested they'd be.

5 p.m. Jonathan Davis is doing Korn songs, and his band has about half the intensity of Korn. Even shitty songs can sometimes be fun live with the right delivery, but that ain't happening. Aware that his audience is bored, he actually starts a "U-S-A!" chant without a trace of irony.

5:15 p.m. I try to make my way down to the field to see Hellyeah and the Tribute to Dime, but am told by a security guard that my media pass is only good for the seated area. I go to a different gate and walk past the guards as they check another guy's wristband. "Hey. HEY!" one yells at my back. I walk into a throng of people, duck and remove my sunglasses and hat. Sure, I could have gone back to the administration building for the proper pass, but this was more fun.

5:30 p.m. Hellyeah is no Pantera. Of all the people Vinnie Paul Abbott could have started a band with, why two dudes from Mudvayne? But the crowd is eating it up, singing along with "Nausea," "Alcohaulin' Ass" and "Hellyeah" nearly loud enough to drown out the band. I can't help but enjoy Vinnie's goofball showboating.

6 p.m. The Tribute to Dime—the late "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott—starts out with video clips showing the slain Pantera guitarist onstage and clowning around offstage, never without a smile. The clips of him in his teenage glam-metal days get a few chuckles from the crowd.

The tribute consists of various guest musicians—including Scott Ian, Zakk Wylde and Jerry Cantrell—covering Pantera songs. The highlight was the two-King take on "Fucking Hostile." Slayer's Kerry King provided some absolutely insane lead guitar, and King Diamond, in full make-up and costume, came out for the last chorus. Turns out he lives in the area these days. Who knew? The dull, acoustic take on Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," heartfelt as it may have been, was the lowlight.

7 p.m. Serj Tankian provides the strangest set of the night. Not a conventional metal dude, his hysterical vocal style and overtly political lyrics don't sit well with everyone. Before covering "Holiday in Cambodia," he gave a shout-out to The Dead Kennedys that got no response from an unrecognizing crowd.

Serj: "For thousands of years, government and religion have conspired..."

Random dude: "Shut the fuck up!"

Later in his set, he remarked that humor and fun can have their place in a metal concert. The crowd pondered this observation in silence.

8 p.m. Walking toward the concession stand entails kicking piles of litter out of the way with every step. "Somewhere, an Indian is crying," says someone behind me.

8:30 p.m. Before Ozzy's set, the projection screens show a video with Ozzy spoofing various celebrities and reality shows, frequently in drag. Ozzy-as-Hillary-Clinton taking a bong hit got big cheers. He looks surprisingly youthful and energetic during his set of reliable classics and the requisite one new song ("I Don't Wanna Stop"). His vocals go flat on occasion but are overall quite strong—and there's not a teleprompter to be seen.

10:30 p.m. Metallica owned this crowd—including me, I have to admit. They played only one post-Metallica song, "Cyanide" from the forthcoming failure Death Magnetic. Starting out with "Creeping Death" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls," both from 1984's Ride the Lightning, made it clear that Metallica knows its place in this world is as a nostalgia act. It occurs to me that it's been 25 years since their debut album, putting them at roughly the same career stage the Stones were at when they released Steel Wheels. But regardless of the band's inability to match the quality of earlier albums, James Hetfield and Co. remain a force of nature live.

After the band thanks the crowd and Ozzy and Sharon, I realize that every single performer said, "Thank you, Dallas," or some variation on the phrase. Not once did I hear Frisco mentioned.

4 a.m. The Official Ozzfest After Party at The Clubhouse seems to consist of nothing more than strippers dancing to Metallica and Pantera songs—a normal night at the Abbott brothers' contribution to Dallas nightlife, from what I can see. Still, I feel it is my duty to stay until closing time to make up for missing the early sets.

Overall, it turned out to be a really fun day, despite my initial misgivings, and I enjoyed much more of the music than I expected to.

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