Report: Ozzfest at PNC Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ
Band Photo: In Flames (?)
After a long 3-hour drive, mostly due to traffic, I arrived with my girl friend and good friend at PNC Arts Center. Tailgating with some people from Metal Faction Radio in the main parking lot we clearly heard the second stage acts performances.
The first band we were able to pay attention to was Soilwork. Their unique style of blending thrash riffs with the melo-death style immediately caught my ear. Unfortunately, none of the other second stage acts suited my interest as much as Soilwork did. Mastodon was a disappointment because the songs they picked for their set I didn’t recognize, which caused them to sound more like the other second stage metalcore bands.
We decided to go to the main stage during Rob Zombie’s set to get a good view of the stage from the grass. In Flames, who I interviewed later in the show, played a short 20 minute set. The set list consisted of mostly newer songs from the past two albums. One guitar had lower volume than the other did. This may have been an issue with In Flames’ equipment rather than the venue’s soundman, since other bands didn’t have similar sound problems. The band rocked out their 20 minutes of performance with headbanging and being extremely tight. Their set would have been much better if they didn’t have only 20 minutes to capture the audience. The energy from every member in the band connected with me. Though the rest of the crowd wasn’t responsive to them compared to some second stage acts, people around me were still enjoying it. They were my favorite opening act of the night.
Next up was Black Label Society. I was looking forward to seeing them live because of all the hype I heard from people. I could tell after the first song that Zakk Wylde tried to play as many solos as possible during their stage time. Everyone song more than one solo and he created transitions between songs by soloing. Zakk Wylde’s solos contained too much of the wah wah pedal, so that all I heard was wah wah pedal and other effects he used in the foreground, rather than the melody and scales he was playing. Moreover, Zakk Wylde played the same kinds of scale runs in the same area of the fret board. People say he is a great guitarist, I can’t understand what is unique about his playing. On the other hand, he was a good songwriter and singer in relevance to his guitar playing. This really surprised me because I didn’t enjoy the vocals I heard on his recordings. The songs followed a tight formula that was composed of blues-rock riffs, which was nice to see, since it isn’t as popular with modern metal as it once was in the early days of Led Zeppelin. His voice reminded me of a cross between Layne Staley of Alice in Chains and Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver. Other than his meedly meedly guitar solos and his look, I had no idea why people consider Black Label Society metal. Overall, though, I enjoyed a few songs and his performance, but similar to the second stage acts, this band didn’t win me over as a new fan.
Shadows Fall was next. The singer’s hair was about as long as he was tall, so, like a mop, he swept the floor with his hair when he was headbanging. It was cool, yet funny at the same time. Their set consisted of songs from the past two albums. The stage presence was very active and energetic, unlike what Black Label Society, whose set was practically motionless. During Shadows Fall’s set, the first mosh pit formed on the main stage grass, which just happened to be right next to me. Moshing in the middle of a hill isn’t the best place to mosh. The result was injuries from people unable to stop themselves and being thrown into the railing at the bottom of the grass. I saw one guy get up and he was bleeding in the back of his head along with a girl getting a few of her teeth knocked out. I also heard about other injuries from the second stage acts after the show. To avoid injury to ourselves, we moved away from the pit, which sacrificed our great view of the stage. Shadows Fall impressed me with their newer material, which didn’t impress me before. I will consider checking it out again. Towards the end of Shadows Fall’s set, I left my friends to go get ready to interview In Flames, which you can read here.
After the interview, Mudvayne was finishing up their set. They were another band that had a sub-par performance in relation to their CD. The heat could have been getting to them. The singer was off key most of the time and had a whiney tone not heard on their CDs as much. The guitarist played a bunch of octave chords. The drummer and bassist played well, though. In addition, I saw no headbanging during their set. The singer crouched down and attempted to sing into the microphone while being still. The guitarist just stood there playing his simple guitar lines. I have nothing against simple music, but seeing a band that writes simple music that rocks the audience and does not show their energy and love for their own music makes me feel that they don’t enjoy playing and are just playing for the money. The bassist and the drummer really stole the show from the rest of their band. This is coming from an ex-Mudvayne fan too. I downloaded a live clip and it was actually better than what I saw at ozzfest, but it was still disappointing.
Iron Maiden’s long set up time was well worth the wait. Unlike Mudvayne, this band was a complete crowd worker. Bruce Dickinson is amazing. This band alone made sitting through the other bands in the heat worth it. I don’t know how this band does it. They aren’t nearly as young as the other bands and still manage to retain all this energy, put on a great show, and deliver an amazing musical performance. Charisma, something that Maiden had, is lacking in many bands of today, especially with up and coming acts. The bands either just play their set and leave or try to work the crowd so much that barely any music gets played. Maiden created a perfect balance between the two. They had their songs perfected, put on a great show, and had props to enhance the atmosphere of their performance. A projected image of the album, that they were performing a song was from, was displayed behind the band on a screen. Characters, representing the songs played, acted on a raised area in the back of the stage. The entire crowd sang along to all the songs, banged their heads and enjoyed every moment of it without the need of a mosh pit. The best part about maiden’s set was when Bruce Dickinson made a small speech explaining how he never did an MTV reality show or any huge media opportunities and how iron maiden got big because they play metal and it’s good. This speech made me realize how much of Iron Maiden’s success was driven by word of mouth.
After Iron Maiden, my friends and I decided to leave the main stage area because we were tired of being around the sweat, pot, and drunken fans. We sat on a grassy area in the parking lot and heard Sabbath. This became the biggest disappointment of the night. Ozzy’s voice cracked 10 times more than Zakk Wylde played guitar solos. On top of that, Ozzy couldn’t hold or hit a note. I assumed it was just an off day for him, since I’ve seen live videos of Ozzy where he did a good job, so I figured this was a bad day because of the heat. I found out later of his throat ailments. If it was just Ozzy having an off day I would have understood, but this was not the case. Tony Iommi, the guitarist, was not having a great day either. He was the first guitarist I looked up to, which made this more disappointing. Luckily, Iommi’s troubles were not nearly as bad as Ozzy’s. Iommi’s playing was a bit sloppy; he was missing notes and not hitting frets in solos. The thing that really upset me was that in many of his solos he was using the wah wah pedal. This gave a similar effect that Zakk Wylde gave. The wah wah is a great effect to enhance your performance, but it shouldn’t be your performance. I heard from other friends that he didn’t do that at every show, which got me thinking. Does he do this on bad days to cover up his mistakes? After hearing them live, I think they should pack it up and call it a career. Ozzfest is cool because great bands headline and lesser-known bands open for them giving them a great deal of exposure. However, if the headlining band cannot perform up to par, that is a major disappointment to the fans, like me, who probably will not go to Ozzfest next year.
The next day I find out that the next Ozzfest date was canceled because Ozzy had problems with his health. Some people got angry cause they missed seeing Black Sabbath. Personally, it would have been better not to see them play the poor performance. A band that has been around since the 70s should have their classic songs down perfectly. Iron maiden did it, why couldn’t Sabbath? Overall, I had a good time and enjoyed a few bands. It was well worth the ticket price, time I spent there, and the suffering in the sun.
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