Back when I was a senior in high school, a friend called me up and was yelling at the top of his lungs about an “Ozzfest.” When he told me about the dream line up, I was beyond excited. Who on this earth wouldn’t have wanted to see OZZY, DANZIG, SLAYER, SEPULTURA, and FEAR FACTORY in 1996? Unfortunately, my friend didn’t care enough to actually go with me to the show and I was the only person in my school that cared enough to go. Thus, I missed the show.
So 1997 rolls around and I’m a freshman in college and working as a school teacher during the summer. Most importantly, I had my own damn car. When the announcement for the second Ozzfest came out, I was beyond excited. To be able to see the reunited original line up of BLACK SABBATH meant everything to me. SABBATH were my favorite band at the time (and still are). Those first six albums changed my life. Not even Technical Ecstacy or Never Say Die hurt my feelings as much as Load but that probably has more to do with the fact that I was born in ’78 and not ’68. I still have those first SABBATH albums on cassette tape.
Unlike 1996, I wasn’t going to be deterred by the fact that I did not know a single soul who wanted to go. Armed with a Thomas Guide map, I set out in my car on the furthest drive of my 19 year old life. After the over two hour drive, I arrived at the venue, which is out in the middle of shitsville (AKA San Bernardino County, California). Lots of dirt, rocks, scorching heat, and rednecks. As I pulled up to entrance of the venue, there were the obligatory Christian groups protesting the show with a focus on Ozzy. They were holding up signs about damnation and devil worship…completely harmless stuff.
After I got inside, I walked by the merch stands and was disturbed at the uber high prices of everything. I think shirts were like $45. They were even selling water “blessed by Ozzy” for some cash grabbing price. I guess some things haven’t changed since back then.
NEUROSIS were playing the second stage but my dumbass could not locate the second stage (no thanks to the unhelpful venue staff). I was turned onto the band through the Ozzfest website that had a live video of “Locust Star” from the first Ozzfest. I became a big fan after seeing this video and subsequently bought all their records.
The biggest thing one could notice at the show was the significant number of pubescent MARILYN MANSON fans and their parents. MARILYN MANSON had just hit it big and were the biggest hyped rock band in ’97. Perhaps, this was the start of mall metal as we know it. Their fans were all junior high or high school kids dressed in their pseudo goth style. It was pretty obvious that the “metal” fans in the crowd viewed their presence as an “us vs. them” kind of thing.
POWERMAN 5000: It didn’t take too long to realize that Rob Zombie‘s little brother’s band sucked. Nobody was impressed. Their best moment came when they played the first main guitar riff of “Crazy Train” for a few bars.
MACHINE HEAD: The band were touring in support of their second album, The More Thing Change, which I bought on the first day of release. I think most fans would agree that it wasn’t as good as Burn My Eyes. Anyways, the band was awesome and played with lots of energy in the scorching heat. I vividly remember bassist Adam Duce‘s excellent headbanging.
FEAR FACTORY: They opened with “Demanufacture” but what became immediately apparent was that FEAR FACTORY‘s music seemed out of place in the bright sun on a huge stage out in the open. It was a little difficult to picture a dark, apocalyptic future out in the Southern California sunshine. Regardless, the only death metal band on the bill played well and were very heavy.
TYPE O NEGATIVE: Despite the fact that I didn’t get into the band until after this show, I easily enjoyed their excellent performance. I became a believer after that day. It goes without saying but the larger than life charisma of Pete Steele captivated the audience, even the shirtless jocks that wanted to just hear something loud and fast.
PANTERA: PANTERA were enjoying the height of their popularity. Thus, it seemed weird to see them not headline a show. But man, they were so damn good. They worked the crowd really well and delivered the kind of performance that really took the show to a new level (pun intended). They played many of their hits and I was pleased that they opened with “The Great Southern Trendkill” for the simple fact that I love Phil Anselmo‘s super long scream at the beginning. Of course, his scream didn’t last as long live. Haha. Also, ANTHRAX‘s Scott Ian and FEAR FACTORY‘s Dino Cazares came out to play “Walk.” I’ll never forget Phil calling out Mike Tyson for infamously biting off a piece of Evander Holyfield‘s ear the night before. In his tough guy fashion, he called Iron Mike a “pussy.” Of course, this resulted in loud cheers from all the jocks.
MARILYN MANSON: So it was finally time for all the pseudo goth kids to see the band they made their parents drive them to see. Much of the “metal” audience watched with both apprehension and curiosity. They definitely put on a production and the thing I remember most was Marilyn Manson standing at a pulpit and tearing pages out of a bible. I don’t think MARILYN MANSON won over many people that night but then again I could be wrong since they went on to get even bigger. It was kind of taboo to show your enjoyment for this trendy new band. They were not bad at all.
OZZY OSBOURNE: It took an eternity for the band to take the stage and it didn’t help that most of us were waiting for Ozzy ever since PANTERA left the stage. Needless to say, the crowd went apeshit for Ozzy. They played all the obligatory hits along with gems like “I Just Want You” from the underrated Ozzmosis. Throughout their set, Ozzy was throwing buckets of water on the people in the pit and was constantly asking us to scream for him. Shit, I nearly lost my voice. Haha. The most hilarious moment came when Ozzy asked the crowd if they had seen Mike Tyson bite Evander Holyfield‘s ear. Unlike Phil Anselmo‘s earlier take on the incident, Ozzy exclaimed, “Mike Tyson is my kind of guy!” Haha. Guitarist Joe Holmes (a former student of the late great Randy Rhoads and native of the San Fernando Valley) was just great. He nailed every note. On the downside, his guitar solo went on for too long while Ozzy took a breezer. At least Joe played the main riff from SABBATH‘s “Symptom of the Universe.” And for all the people out there that have seen Ozzy live, yes, his voice did crack a bunch of times.
BLACK SABBATH: The buzz in the air for SABBATH was unbelievable. Every generation of metal fan was in attendance to watch the godfathers. SABBATH exceeded expectations with their powerful performance. While they mostly stuck to their tried and true hits, it was great to hear them play “Dirty Women” from Technical Ecstasy. As I looked around, it appeared that much of the crowd was not familiar with that song but what did I care? I was in the midst of a religious experience! Their performance further solidified my devotion to them.
Aftermath: The drive home was insane as it took three hours and a lot of frantic navigating with my maps. I was beat down from exhaustion, sunburn, and heat stroke. My car sustained some bad damage from having to drive through the rocky desert floor that was the parking lot. My face was sunburned to the point where my nose peeled off in one giant gruesome piece of skin. But hey, we all bleed for metal, right?