Event Reviews

Ozzfest ‘98

Ozzy Osbourne and Pals

PNC Bank Performing Arts Center, Holmdale, New Jersey • 7.3.98

The premier Metal event of the year had it’s American start right here in good, old New York City. No, that isn’t necessarily true. Last year’s disaster at Giants Stadium proved that no NYC-vicinity venues are worthy of supporting Ozzy Osbourne and his traveling Metalapalooza.

The precedent-setting Ozzfest ‘97, with the had-to-be-seen-to-be-believed genuine reunion of the original Black Sabbath, had potential for high excellence, but alas, the idiot factor, with the venue being simply too close to New York City, was amplified beyond even the most outrageous estimates. I mean, what would one expect when one sections off the stadium floor? Right, everyone kept out storms the stage, fights with cops, riots, etc. Besides, the bands had to finish at dark, which meant shorter sets, in the case of Machine Head, especially, who got an entire eight minutes. Note: that was only at Giants Stadium, most everywhere else, all the bands got at least half an hour.

Flashing up to the present, this year’s American model (the European Ozzfest, which included another Black Sabbath reunion of sorts, finished in late June) was held at the quite pleasant PNC Arts Center in Holmdale, New Jersey, about 50 miles outside the city. While one could elect to drive, there was an excellent option, provided in part by the venue itself. For $12.25 I got a round-trip on the New Jersey Transit train from Penn Station in New York City to Matawan., New Jersey – took about an hour and ten minutes. At Matawan, at no additional cost, the PNC Arts Center shuttle bus brought me and fifty other Ozzfreaks to the actual venue, which took another ten minutes. Not bad. However, the last shuttle bus was scheduled to leave at 11:30 PM, regardless if the show was over or not. And the last train left Matawan at 12:08 AM, so you could get stranded if you weren’t careful. Since I had twelve hours before worrying about implementing a strategy for leaving, the Show Escape Anxiety Factor was kept at unity.

After submitting my luggage to a quick search and presenting my ticket, I made the rounds of the venue, while being serenaded with the loving sounds of the Melvins, who were on the second stage. (I’d arrived at 2 PM, and missed Monster Voodoo Machine -2nd Stage, Ultraspank -2nd Stage, and Life of Agony -Main Stage. I was rather bummed about missing Life of Agony. I was interested in catching the new singer. Nonetheless, a courteous young man with an interesting hairstyle assured me they were “great.”)

The bathrooms at the PNC Arts Center were large and plentiful. The “Never-Never Land” sideshow that travels with Ozzfest was a bit understated, though. Sure, the giant inflatable Were-Ozzy was cool, but the carnival games and merchandise for sale (including a large collection of Hempware) didn’t spark much interest in me. The body-painting tent was too small as well; it was difficult to get a good view of the “ladies” having their breasts painted. (The show’s Babe Factor went through the roof, mind you.) T-shirt wise, well, I make it a rule never to buy T-shirts at shows unless something really, really incredible catches my eyes. Last year I bought a shirt (an awesome Black Sabbath reunion tour shirt), this year, nothing. Not even a program. The bootleg shirts were pretty cool, but too expensive ($20!).

After the Melvins’ fine set of vintage noise and King Buzzo’s strangely graying hair flopping demonstration, I got caught up in the massive crowd migration to the Main Stage, where Sevendust was about to play. After Sevendust, the schedule was thus: Kilgore -2nd Stage, Coal Chamber -Main Stage, System of a Down -2nd Stage, Soulfly -Main Stage, Snot -2nd Stage, Limp Bizkit – Main Stage and Incubus -2nd Stage. Folks, I can tell the bands apart because I know what they look like, but musically, it was one big, very loud, percussive pounding metal-rap show. One after the other, it could’ve been the same act playing for five hours. I did, however, take notice of which bands received the most crowd applause. Certainly, Sevendust and Coal Chamber were favorites, eliciting the most noise from the crowd, but Limp Bizkit drew more people, probably because their set was later in the day. On the Second Stage, System of a Down seemed to incite the biggest reaction.

Food-wise, the PNC Arts Center had a large-enough grilling pavilion, providing lots of meat-based dishes (hamburgers, sausages, grilled chicken), French fries, pizza by the slice, pretzels and plenty of stuff to drink, including beer. Specialty foods comprised Carvel Ice Cream, TCBY Frozen Yogurt, Minute Maid Frozen Lemonade, Hagen Dagz Ice Cream, some sub shop selling sandwiches (which didn’t show up until 7 PM), and lots of sweet cappuccino. I don’t mess with any of this “specialty” crap, though, as strange ice cream on a very hot summer day is a bad mix. The hamburgers, on the other hand, even though they were five bucks a piece, were great! I also noticed that the $5.75 French fries came in a big enough bucket to make the price gouging sting go away, the $4.25 slices of pizza would be hard to swallow. And at $6, the beers were big enough. You know, what can you expect at these kinds of shows? Just budget for way-overpriced food and you’ll eat well. And the lines moved fast enough; it only took 15 minutes for me to get a hamburger, with the wait for beer at a quick three minutes. I didn’t even get hassled about not having an ID! They gave me an “over 21” bracelet anyway. I guess being the token 35-year old amongst a swarm of 20-year olds has some advantages.

The remaining acts were really the appeal of Ozzfest ‘98. On the main stage, Megadeth performed a blazing hour-long set and received plenty of raucous crowd approval. Megadeth’s music, being “stuck” forever between 1985 and 1990, really might not have fit in with the “metal” of 1998, but the crowd response proves the skeptics wrong. Megadeth plays superfast, high-end guitar metal with no apologies. And they played “Anarchy in the USA” as a mini-encore! Next up was Motorhead, capping-out the Second Stage acts. Perhaps it was a bit of an indignity to put Lemmy and crew on the Second Stage, with only 25 minutes to play, but the show might as well have been dubbed “Lemmy-fest ‘98,” as people were jamming the second stage area, toppling over Hempware carts just to get a glimpse of the mighty Motorhead. It’s possible most of those in attendance had never seen Motorhead, so they’d better not squander their chance now. Highlight of the show: Lemmy puts on a pair of sunglasses and shouts “everybody go extra crazy!” mimicking Ozzy. And they did play “Ace of Spades.”

The next act on the Main Stage was Tool. I’m not a big fan of theirs, but I know excellence when I hear it. This band was amazing, and clearly the one most people in attendance were interested in. Tool belted out loud, hypnotic blasts for more than an hour. The entire venue seemed to pulse to the incredible rhythms of Tool.

Finally, Ozzy comes out after a ten-minute video of him appearing in Titanic, being sketched in the nude by Leonardo Whatshisface, a Spice Girls video, a Fiona Apple video, a scene from South Park (he kills Kenny, if that means anything to you mildly-retarded fans of that show), and a Hanson video, where he urinates on one of the Hanson sisters. His band: Joe Holmes on guitar, Robert Truillo on bass, Mike Borden on drums. He didn’t play a lot of Black Sabbath, he did do “War Pigs,” though; the 105 minute set concentrated on Ozzy’s own songs, like “Believer,” “I Don’t Know,” and “Suicide Solution,” and him spraying the crowd with water and saying “I Love You All.”

The idiot factor rose when Ozzy came on, but not because he entered the equation; these morons in front of me started throwing cups and garbage out into the crowd in front of them. Donutheads…

OK, by now it’s nearing 11 PM and the Show Escape Anxiety Factor began to multiply. I had to make the 11:17 PM train at Matawan in order to make the 1:20 am train (i.e., the last train) from Grand Central Station to home. My plan was to cut out before Ozzy’s last song (sob!) and be on the shuttle bus quickly, before the crowd started poring out and clogging the escape routes. So I left as he was singing “I Don’t Want to Change the World” and easily hooked up with the bus. But, we had a problem: the bus driver got lost! Really! Arrgh! He had to double-back twice before we hit the Matawan station. But we made it with ten minutes to spare. Then the NJ Transit train was five minutes late! And to top that off, the train conductors didn’t take anyone’s tickets, possibly losing the State of New Jersey $6,000, and the train experienced these strange five-minute stops every now and then during the trip! This was driving me nuts! I also had to endure multiple crying babies on the way down and back, as well as a few poopy diapers, drunken New Jersey locals and loud, inconsiderate jack-offs who don’t know how to conduct themselves public-like.

But I made it home in one piece. Overall, great show, worth the logistical semi-nightmare. ◼

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