Last week, when the official word finally came out of Osbourne camp that this year's Ozzfest would be a one-day, one-off festival to be held in, of all places, here—or, near here, rather—in Frisco, no one was all that surprised.
Anyone who, in the weeks leading up to the announcement, cared enough to ponder the not-yet-unveiled details of Ozzfest 2008 had plenty of online sources from which to find nuggets for rumor-mongering. Metal Web sites Kerrang and Blabbermouth were reporting as early as March, two months before the announcement came, that Ozzfest wouldn't tour this year as it had in the past. And though the rumors they reported—they spread word that Ozzfest 2008 would take place as separate two-day shows in two separate cities, Dallas and London—perhaps gave Osbourne and Co. too much credit, their stories weren't all that far off.
That, perhaps, explains the onslaught of negative reaction. Surely, fans had been eyeing the ozzfest.com blog with its "announcement coming soon!" tease, waiting to see if the rumored blogosphere speculations were indeed true. So there was no breath-catching necessary. When the rumors were more or less confirmed, you could see the collective swells of chest-heaving anger: Minutes after the Tuesday morning announcement on the official Ozzfest blog, the comments were coming in fast and furiously.
Metalheads united in a few common hates: How dare Ozzy and his wife and manager, Sharon, change up the traditional touring festival format? Why, in this day of increased gas prices, should they force loyal fans to rack up travel costs in exchange for a ticket to a single show?
The comments were especially hard on the city of Dallas. Yes, there were expletives. Yes, there were the snide and requisite "steers and queers" remarks.
In their defense, these loyal fans had reason to be upset. Ozzfest isn't what it used to be. Whereas other festivals have transitioned to accommodate the needs of the 21st-century concertgoer, Ozzfest has been crippled by stagnancy. Before last year's first step toward progress—in 2007, Ozzfest nationally toured as a free festival—the festival had already lost some of its luster.
Competing festivals, meanwhile, had substantially stepped up their offerings by changing with the times. In 2005, after essentially a seven-year absence from the relevancy map, Lollapalooza resoundingly resurfaced with a revamped format: Perry Farrell's alternative music brainchild now sits as one of the premier destination festivals in the nation, a three-day festival in Chicago. The Warped Tour, too, has found new legs to stand on: It remains a touring festival still boasting plenty of acts close to its punk-ish heart. Only, now, it's smartly transformed to include a fair share of acts from the girl jeans-wearing, guyliner-sporting emo-punk set. A change for the eye-rolling worse in my eyes and yours, maybe, but the Warped Tour still remains the destination for the whiny teenage set—just as it's always been.
And yet Ozzfest has remained mostly unchanged, proudly sticking close to the formula that had made it so successful since its launch in 1996.
A few problems there: 1) 59-year-old annual headliner Ozzy Osbourne ain't getting any younger; 2) with more and more weekend-long destination festivals popping up along the lines of the Austin City Limits Music Festival and the re-formed Lollapalooza, touring line-ups are looking less and less impressive, offering attendees a far narrower scope of fan favorite and up-and-coming acts to take in; and 3) the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival has launched this year, presenting itself as a hard rock alternative to Ozzfest's metal offering by stealing a crop of past Ozzfest favorites and placing them in the headlining roles they never would have found while touring under Ozzy's flag.
So here Ozzfest is: with a tired legendary namesake headliner unable, according to his wife Sharon, to keep up with the rigorous Ozzfest summer tour schedule; without Mastodon, Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God, the emerging stars of the genre; and with an increasingly disappointed fan base.
What's a metal fest to do?
Enter Sandman—er, Metallica, rather—the true headliners of this year's festival, making their Ozzfest debut.
There's that. Which is, yes, a very big deal.
But there's also another major oversight: By hosting the show here, the festival's asking its out-of-towner, black clothes-clad attendees (pardon the stereotype) to brave the Texas summer heat at the notoriously hot Pizza Hut Park.
Is that a small price to pay in exchange for Ozzy and Friends to go on with their planned salute to DFW's own Dimebag Darrell? Perhaps. Is it an excuse enough to book re-emerged hometown thrash heroes Rigor Mortis and genre favorites Drowning Pool (of Dallas) and The Sword (of Austin) to its third stage, named the Texas Stage? Sure.
But it is an oversight nonetheless.
Don't get me wrong: I'm all for this festival taking place in the area. Hell, I plan on attending, if only for the spectacle of it all. It's great for Dallas metal, and it'll undoubtedly be a weekend of economic boon for Frisco.
I'm happy about that. And I'm not alone.
"It's huge for the Dallas area," says Scott Strong, senior marketing manager for the AEG Live Southwest, who is helping Ozzfest put together this show. "Looking at it from a music fan's perspective, there are so many cities they could've picked. But they picked Dallas because they liked Dallas as a destination."
OK, then. Great. But Strong gives the heat and lack of attention paid to the travel concerns too easy a pass, saying summer heat and travel costs are a concern at concerts held throughout the country.
But that's one hell of a stretch.
And, still, there's yet another issue to take up with Ozzfest 2008: There's absolutely no guarantee this festival remains here after this year's experiment—just as there's no guarantee that Ozzfest won't return to its touring form next summer. If this festival goes off poorly—as it certainly could, for reasons already explained—won't it only mar Dallas' future attempts to become the host city for other festivals?
I hope I'm wrong. I would love for this festival to succeed. Really, I would. Maybe, then, the opposite happens. Maybe other festival promoters see the potential this city boasts as a concert host. Maybe, as a result, other fests would come to our fair city as well.
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That's what we should all be rooting for: A big-time Ozzfest with numbers AEG Live can proudly show off to its other festival-throwing friends. That's what Strong is expecting.
"Frisco will be overrun by Ozzy fans," he says, predicting how the show will pan out. "I think people that won't even be going to the show will visit the city. Frisco will be Ozzland for the weekend."
And that sounds...um...
Let's just make sure to not actually invite those other promoters to town that weekend. Dudes running around talking about whether things are or aren't "metal" are only so endearing.