My brush with Ozzfest 2005

(August 20, 2005)


When metal gets too hot, it can burn!
A letdown decades in the making... but for good cause.
"Daddy, I feel sick!" my fifteen year old daughter said as we were in line to get the overpriced water the Hyundai Pavilion at Glen Helen kept behind concrete barriers and a crowd thicker than fat thieves. Most of me felt that more water would do the trick and flick that sick away. We were next in line for the ordering window when my poor kid staggered to the wall "got sick". When your only child is under duress, you do your best to be logical. My inner Spock may or may not have been taking a sabbatical at the time, but judging from the time it was taking for each of the dim bulbs behind the counter to fill a single popcorn and coke order, waiting with a swooning teenager in vain hope of obtaining the same water she had been drinking religiously all day seemed to be an exercise in futility. So I pulled her out of line (and away from the swarming bees attracted to the "fresh" lemonade), and attempted to guide her through a sea of black shirts to some form of safety and comfort.

At that time my heart would have won the competition against the looming bass drums of the band Shadows Fall, because just about then she began to moan "Daddy, I can't see! I can't see!" This was an all-day show filled with Dark Heavy Metal, but there was nothing on any stage as scary as this. "I need to sit down!" she tried to shout, but we were still in the center of a crowd of rushed headbangers. It was walk or be trampled. She began to collapse in my arms as I tried to triage her condition, and I was carrying her as I guarded her from the chaotic, single minded crowd (not being insensitive, but not knowing something was wrong). I broke through to what could only be called a "Clearing", finally seeing the forest for the trees (or fans as the case may be).

I was still confused, and trying to carry my teenager, who was telling me her vision was black and white, her sight was blurry and spinning, and she couldn't walk. Regardless of where my inner Spock was at the time, the rest of me was as frantic as a mosh pit, and my spinning head lit upon the sweetest eight letters I could think of (aside from HOSPITAL, which is what I was picturing), those eight letters were: FIRST AID...

But let me tell you how I got to this point first...

A question was posed to me by a coworker, one day, when he discovered that I was one of those educated, yet unabashedly headbanging metal heads. The kind that knows what "British Steel", "Bang the Head that Doesn't Bang", "Up the Irons", and even "Pulse of the Maggots" means. He wondered what these "rock fans" were trying to prove with the surly attitudes and menacing appearances. I wasn't at all sure I agreed with his assessment (dismissing it as more of Metal's "Bum Rap"), so I wasn't able to answer that question. I think I can now. Heavy Metal fans are so pissed off because of the staff, management and security of the venues that hold metal shows treat each and every one of them like something between a spilled bag of fresh fertilizer on the carpet and the BTK Killer.

Following are some of the many things we were prohibited from bringing in. I remember this well because a four hundred pound, bearded woman in a medium tee-shirt screamed the list over and over into a megaphone, clearly earning her three seventy-five an hour. "No firearms or weapons of any kind!" Okay, that makes sense, methinks, but that should go for any show, right? Moving on! "No fireworks!" Sounds like a no-brainer! It's one of the hottest days of the summer... we don't want to burn in more ways than just the one. "No chains!" Uh... okay, I guess... you could... um... strangle someone. Sure, yeah, I'm with you, fatty! "No backpacks!" Uh... say what? We're being searched a the door, lady. So, backpacks are prevented to... what, make sure we don't do any homework while As I Lay Dying was playing (Look, we know it's the band, not the novel, okay?). "No Lighters!" In some ways this makes so much sense it makes dollars. But... what kind of damage are these going to do that matches (which were allowed) won't? Or is the whole thing because of the fortunate demise of the "Power Ballad"? "Hey, kids, Momma, I'm Coming Home! isn't going to be coming out of the Gizzard of Ozz tonight, so you don't need lighters to wave in the air!" Right! "No drugs, no drug paraphernalia!" Do I take exception to this rule? Well, no. I do, however, point out that, rule or no rule, there were clouds of Pot Smoke everywhere, and this was clearly as enforced in the real world as Asimov's Laws of Robotics! Now... here's the kicker, which I think we can all agree on... "No water allowed inside, open or unopened!" No... water. Now, logically I think we can all understand the reason for this, right? They can charge as much for one bottle inside as we might pay for a whole case in a store, so naturally we couldn't bring any water in. I mean, it's not like any teenagers could get heat stroke inside, right? Oh, wait a minute!

So, my teenager and I did an about face and made our way back to the car to stow our bag filled with bottled water (thank God that's a rule, I mean, the band could get wet, or... hit by plastic!!!!!!!!!). I find it interesting that a concert in San Bernardino, California should have parking in Provo, Utah, but we made the walk anyway. By this time the incredibly poorly trained and apathetic "Parking Attendants" had made damned sure that our car was completely boxed in and denied egress at every angle. So we stowed our wares and walked back from Provo to San Bernardino, realized how ineffectual the "search" really was (no wonder big momma was yelling to terrorize), and handed our $154.00 tickets (yeah, that's each) to the goober at the door who said "No reentry today!" My car's boxed in somewhere more than a state away... reentry from where, Joker?

Denied the basic building block of nature by the Hitler youth with the megaphone, I advised my daughter to drink as much water as possible to keep hydrated. Though we had some of the best seats in the house, the "Second Stage" show was elsewhere, so we copped a squat on the comfortable lawn and drank lemonade and water as the parade of opening bands thundered across the stage and rattled the rivets of the structure.

Many of these bands blended in together with similar sounds, and vocals consisting of screams and growls (not that there is an issue with this). Arch Enemy nailed the motif, sounding like a blast from the old Headbanger's Ball days with their technically proficient solos and a singer that can really wail. Still, there was something refreshing about the band, not sounding like a "throwback" but an evolution from the metal era, completely circumventing the "Numetal" movement. The Haunted was heavier than lead, and continued the solo tradition, as did A Dozen Furies. There's a formula to what they are doing, but it's not a bad one. Mastodon (as opposed to the '80's fat dude band Mammoth) broke the mold a bit with widely varying vocals and more melody than one might expect. Such multi-influenced nuances also graced the sets of Trivium and The Black Dahlia Murder. Current favorites As I Lay Dying and Killswitch Engage were excellent and proficient, even as Killswitch Engage's lead singer did everything in his power to offend the audience.

As a huge fan of (the music of) Rob Zombie, it was a thrill to see the man bouncing around the Hot Topic stage and belting out his multi-era favorites. The man is excellent live, and his speaking voice is as good as his singing voice. He's also funny as hell, continuing the cartoonish humor found on most every album. Although he claimed to be working toward a live album of "The old White Zombie shit", little of that was repeat-listenable, to be honest. In the heat (and I do mean heat) of the moment, the improvisational barking of Mr. Cummings/ Straker/ Zombie was too much fun, but the samples were distorted and his vocals (either for the sake of audience participation, too much heat, or forgotten lyrics) frequently sounded like a cell phone cutting out on the man. It was a hell of a show for the moment, and one I'd recommend, but repeated listening would probably sound like a bootleg.

Of course, it didn't help that half the audience started leaving before ol' Rob even hit his finale (and no, he wasn't running overtime). The OzzFest management in their infinite "efficiency" started the "main stage" show around poor Rob's half time. Unfair to Rob? Yep. Unfair to the band In Flames? Whoa, yeah. What I heard was good. Pretty standard but definitely listenable. Of course, in spite of the layers of Waterproof SPF50, the kiddo and I felt like we were "in flames" as we appreciated Zombie's rushed version of Thunder Kiss '65 and made our way to the main stage, huge cups of water in hand.

And let me tell you, we had some of the best seats in the house. My daughter was enjoying the water and snacks and being blown away at what the gifted $154.00 tickets (thank you Ananda) bought us. We were close enough to see everything The Black Label Society had to offer, and their sound was incredible), but still far enough back that we could see the whole stage. The BLS are an ultra-heavy gang of Biker-looking drinkers who have a solo-rich and heartily rising crescendo of a vocal style, but with just enough Southern White Trash to make us all think we could enjoy a quick game of pool with the guys. They weren't the only band of the night to pay tribute to Dimebag Darrell Abbott (the 20th was his Birthday), but their set ended with a series of "God Bless" wishes for him, the other dead from the day Dimebag was murdered and for the families. Tough Guys and Nice Guys aren't mutually exclusive! I'm sure Dimebag would agree.

Unfortunately, that was when everything started to go to hell, and not in an "OzzFest" kind of way either. It was time for a water break (at the cost of my good credit rating) and possibly some festival style food. In hindsight, when I look back and remember the second she said "Daddy, I feel sick!", I knew I was going to miss the bands I had come to see. Yes, I was interested in seeing Shadows Fall and we both were looking forward to Mudvayne, never have I been simply a "Casual" rock fan. But it was Iron Maiden that I was dying to see. Having been a superfan since I was thirteen (yeah, I can recite any lyric from the first album to Seventh Son...) I couldn't pass up Iron Maiden. Then, of course, the multi-generational appeal of Ozzy Osbourne, fronting not just a version of Black Sabbath, but the Black Sabbath... the original, with Bill Ward, Geezer Butler, and, of course, the ever-present Tony Iommi headlining. Credited as a special guest, was probably my favorite "current" metal band, the only guys who weren't risking a sunburn, the masked 9-man Slipknot!

I look back now and I see that, but at the time, though I was "dying" to see Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Slipknot, it certainly wasn't worth my only child doing so! Look, folks, when a sunburned teenager still manages to turn white as a glass of Milk, the parent in question shifts to immediate high gear, no? After fighting my way through the haunted forest of OzzFans, and finding the shining sanctuary known as "First Aid", you'd better believe that I did the sign of the cross (right side up).

This is where I present to you the only part of the enormous staff of the Hyundai Pavilion at Glen Helen that I have anything but bad words to say about. My daughter was fast triaged by the staff, and after spending no more than a minute on the curb outside, she was brought in to a comfy chair and given glass upon glass of Gatorade, under the cool shade of a roof with a fan going. Yeah, the room was overcrowded (are you surprised, considering no one could bring in water?), but the Medics (of Symons) took their jobs seriously, took names, symptoms and information, and treated the patients quickly and, I think, thoroughly.

My companion started to cry, saying "Daddy, I feel so bad for ruining this for you!"

I did my best paraphrase of the Scarecrow talking to the Tinman in The Wizard of Oz and replied "Don't cry, you'll dehydrate yourself again!" Then I told her "There will be other concerts, and I've seen a lot of concerts in my life... but I've only got one daughter! This is a fair trade! More than fair! I can miss a show, but if anything ever happened to you, well, it just wouldn't be worth it. Not at all!"

When she didn't respond immediately to treatment (she was declared "hot to the touch") my kid was brought to a misting room, filled with cool airborne water, which brought her back to as normal as possible. The Symons staff even locked her suede jacket away so that we could be together without damaging the leather. The Double Bass Drum that was my heart settled from "Are You Nuts?" speed to merely "Way too Fast!" as color returned to her face, and Gatorade re-earned its reputation. Yeah, she was better, yeah I had a show to see, but I wasn't about to play gambling games with my kid's health, especially because the heat hadn't died down a single degree by that time.

We were offered a Golf Cart ride half way back to the gnarled field that passed for a "Parking Lot" somewhere out East, and we carefully walked the rest of the way in our Pink Floyd T-Shirts and rock star boots. It would have been easier for a Camel to get through the eye of a needle than it was for me to get my beat-up, red, nineteen eighty-eight Mustang through the thicket of Detroit Steel I was in the back of. I curved forward one way (scratching a new white gash in my roof's paint job thanks to a low-hanging branch), then the other (breaking said branch off as my day's only souvenir) I was running out of options. After squeezing between two cars so close together the Barbie Dream Car would have had trouble navigating them, a gaggle of drunk tailgaiters recognized my plight (without me even saying "my daughter's sick!") and pulled back to allow both myself and another forlorn escapee a way out of this place. What followed was an ultra heated combination of the terrain of Q*Bert through a Pac-Man like Maze. A quick stop for more electrolytes and snacks sent us back home.

No reentry indeed. Hey, Glen Helen... The Long Beach Blues festival has free water! It's cheaper than treating dehydration.

Am I disappointed? Hey, I've been waiting my whole life to see Ozzy and Iron Maiden... yeah, I'm disappointed. Heartbroken, even. You see, when I was a teenager, I didn't think anything was more important than Heavy Metal Rock and Roll. Now, years upon years later, I realize that's not the case, and at least one thing turns Heavy Metal into light aluminum foil... Having a teenager of your own. Yeah, I had the shot at seeing some of the earlier day's Monsters of Rock, and all I've got to show for it is a crusty sunburn, about ten years taken off of my life from fear alone, and a destroyed paint job... but given the alternative... man, I'm glad she's okay. Like I said, there will be other concerts, but never another her. Not all of us have sold our soul for rock and roll.

So until I hit the next festival show and we're denied entry with carbon molecules or permission to breathe oxygen, I will most assuredly see you in the next reel! And so will my daughter Alex. She's okay today, folks. Let's hope everyone else under that First Aid roof was too.

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