The Inside Pulse on … Ozzfest!

The Spotlight

“I’m most proud of the success of Ozzfest,” says founder Sharon Osbourne. “Everyone said it would never happen and 10 years later we are still in business.” In fact, 125 bands, 238 shows and over 4 million fans later, the all-day extravaganza of music and deranged merriment is roaring louder than ever.
— Ozzfest press material announcing the 2005 tour.

Ozzfest originally launched in 1996 as a limited two-city trek. Over the years it has grown into a juggernaut, an insane carnival featuring a plethora of metal acts on multiple stages and a host of other activities to keep concert-goers entertained.

At the helm: Ozzy Osbourne, who has headlined the tour for the past 10 years either as a solo artist, or as the front man for metal legends Black Sabbath.

Looking at the various line-ups over the years, a veritable who’s who of metal legends: Iron Maiden in 2005, Judas Priest in 2004, Slayer and Pantera a handful of times over the years, Biohazard in ’96.

But in addition to showcasing legends, Ozzfest has also been crucial in launching a variety of bands to superstardom: System of a Down, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot, Hatebreed, Drowning Pool and Disturbed are only a few of the many acts that benefited from getting “the rub” from being associated with the biggest metal tour around.

Fans of the genre say that metal will never die, and it seems that, for 10 years and counting, Ozzfest just won’t quit.

The History

* Note: while all the bands mentioned were part of the annual Ozzfest tours, in some cases not all bands played at each venue and instead shared rotating slots. Also, in later years Ozzfest ventured overseas in different incarnations nothing close to the North American summer tours.

Ozzfest 1996

It was all so new in 1996. A metal-centric tour for the summer, with Ozzy Osbourne and Slayer, the godfathers of metal, at the helm. The tour did a good job of mixing in more established acts, like Sepultura, Danzig, Fear Factory and Biohazard, with newer or more underground acts: Neurosis, Earth Crisis, Powerman 5000, Coal Chamber and Cellophane. Some went on to greater heights after the tour, some just faded away (does anyone remember Cellophane anymore?).

Ozzfest 1997

’96 was a hit, so it only made sense to bring the tour back the following year. But how to follow it up? Well, for one, Osbourne pulled double-duty doing a solo set and a closing set with a reformed Black Sabbath. The rest of the bands spilled onto multiple stages, the Main Stage and a second stage dubbed “Never Never Land” for the tour. Filling the Slayer slot would be Pantera, a band at the height of its popularity. Fear Factory, Powerman 5000, Coal Chamber and Neurosis were welcomed back, along with hit-makers Marilyn Manson, Type O Negative and Machine Head. The tour would be rounded out by underground darlings Vision of Disorder, Sweden’s own Drain STH and up-and-comers Slo Burn and downset.

Ozzfest 1998

By 1998, Ozzfest was becoming a summer staple. Osbourne would once again act as ringleader to this travelling band of crushing artists. As back up, he had Tool and Megadeth. Coal Chamber was ready for its third consecutive outing, but the rest of the line-up, the biggest yet, seemed hit or miss. Limp Bizkit was just beginning to pick up steam, as was Sevendust. System of a Down and Soulfly (led by former Sepultura front man Max Cavellera) were also relatively unknown at this point. To counteract the wave of new bands, which also featured Snot, Ultraspank, Kilgore and the out-of-place Incubus and Monster Voodoo Machine, were the legendary Motorhead, the underground sensation Life of Agony and the Melvins. Tour drama came up at a stop in Massachusetts when the front man for Snot was arrested for simulating oral sex on stage.

Ozzfest 1999

Continuing the trend of bigger and better, Ozzfest ’99 featured a slew of metal acts, spread out on two or three stages depending on the venue. For the first time, Osbourne did not perform solo on the jaunt, opting instead to make a big deal out of Black Sabbath closing the show. Slayer made a triumphant return to the tour on a Main Stage that also featured Rob Zombie, the Deftones, Primus and Godsmack. A more-established System of a Down returned along with Drain STH. Headlining a second stage would be Fear Factory, but that was it for “name” acts. Static-X, Slipknot and (hed)p.e. would see their popularity rise after the tour, while Flashpoint, Pushmonkey, Apartment 26 (though invited back the following year) and Puya would soldier on unknown.

Ozzfest 2000

Bigger … bigger … and bigger. Osbourne returned to solo duties for the new millennium, inviting back Pantera (one last time), Godsmack, Static-X, Soulfly and Apartment 26. Incubus was also brought back though the band later admitted Ozzfest was no longer the best place for the band to showcase its music. Continuing the trend of hit-or-miss, the rest of the line-up was a mixed bag. On the one hand you had future stars Disturbed, Black Label Society, led by Osbourne’s guitarist Zakk Wylde, P.O.D. and Queens of the Stone Age, along with, to a lesser extent, Kittie and Taproot. On the other, you had Tommy Lee’s experimental Methods of Mayhem on the Main Stage, Slaves on Dope, Shuvel, Deadlights and Pitchshifter. Then you had the should-have-been-big-but-never-made-it duo of Primer 55 and Reveille.

Ozzfest 2001

And the tour kept swelling: 2001 saw Black Sabbath, Marilyn Manson, a hugely popular Slipknot, Disturbed, Black Label Society and Taproot return for another ride. Joining them would be various hit-makers of the moment: Papa Roach, Linkin Park, Crazy Town, Mudvayne, Union Underground, Systematic, Godhead, Nonpoint, No One, Pressure 4-5, American Head Charge, Pure Rubbish, Beautiful Creatures along with strong up-and-comers like Hatebreed, Spineshank, Drowning Pool and Otep.

Ozzfest 2002

Returning for 2002: Ozzy Osbourne, System of a Down, Rob Zombie, P.O.D., Hatebreed, Black Label Society and Otep. Pantera front man Phil Anselmo returned to the tour in a different band, Down. Newcomers Adema, Meshuggah, Soil, Flaw, 3rd Strike, Pulse Ultra, Ill Nino, Andrew W.K., Glassjaw, The Used and Sw1tched joined in on the action. However, the tour is also notable for a sour note: one of the tours most popular bands, Drowning Pool, was forced to pull out when front man Dave Williams died from a heart problem.

Ozzfest 2003

Joining Osbourne in ’03 was the returning Marilyn Manson and Disturbed … everyone else were freshmen. The only other “big” names on the tour were Korn, long-time rockers Voivod and black metal masters Cradle of Filth. Future heavyweights Chevelle, Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage, along with the notable Nothingface, which was on its last legs, anchored the rest of the tour which also featured The Datsuns, Hotwire, Grade 8, Twisted Method, Unloco, Depswa, Motograter, Sworn Enemy, Chimaira, Endo, Memento and hardcore icons E Town Concrete.

Ozzfest 2004

2004 marked a year where not only legends, future legends and newcomers shared the stage, but a year where hardcore and metal collided at Ozzfest. On the Main Stage you had the legends: Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Slayer. You had returning favorites Black Label Society, Slipknot, Hatebreed and Otep. Phil Anselmo took the stage in yet another band, Superjoint Ritual. Then you had metal maniacs like Dimmu Borgir, Lamb of God, Magna-Fi, Lacuna Coil (!?), Devil Driver (featuring Ozzfest alum Dez Fafara, formerly of Coal Chamber) and God Forbid alongside band’s with a hardcore edge — Atreyu, Bleeding Through, Every Time I Die, Unearth, Throwdown and Darkest Hour. This was definitely the loudest tour yet.

Ozzfest 2005

Ten years later, Ozzfest shows little signs of slowing down. Joining Black Sabbath on the Main Stage this year is metal legends Iron Maiden. Alumni Mudvayne, Black Label Society and Shadows Fall already know what’s in store for the summer, Velvet Revolver and In Flames will have to figure it out along the way. Over on the second stage is the returning Rob Zombie and Killswitch Engage. The rest of the line up is a nice mix from the metal world: European metal bands like the Haunted, Arch Enemy and Soilwork; American metal masters Mastodon and Trivium; hardcore influenced bands like As I Lay Dying The Black Dahlia Murder, Bury Your Dead and It Dies Today; unknowns Gizmachi and, for drama, A Dozen Furies (a band that won a contest to get on the tour) and Wicked Wisdom (fronted by Mrs. Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith).

The Top 10 9

We’ll do this a little different this time out. Each tour was notable for one reason or another, whether it was drama or a breakout star. Who knows what this year’s tour will have in store …

In order:

“The tour that started it all …” (1996)
– Come on, 1996 was the inaugural year. How could you pick anything out from the year that started it all? Everything was important.

“Ozzy’s double-duty …” (1997)
– Not only does Osbourne play all of his solo hits, he takes the stage with a reunited Black Sabbath to send fans home happy.

“It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is …” (1998)
– Snot front man Lynn Strait takes the stage during a Limp Bizkit set in Massachusetts. According to reports, the singer appeared onstage naked on a dare and engaged in oral sex with a dancer that was part of Limp Bizkit’s stage show.

“Maggots get a pulse …” (1999)
– Slipknot makes its first appearance at an Ozzfest, blowing away fans nationwide. This would be the band’s first big exposure before blowing up with its self-titled release.

“Let your soul fly …” (2000)
– Soulfly ushers in a new millennium on the stage at Ozzfest proving Max Cavellera still has a voice on the metal scene.

“Sabbath still a force/No Pool too deep …” (2001)
– Black Sabbath proved its still had a relevant place in the metal scene, closing out show after show with ferocity and malice. Over on the second stage, Drowning Pool was on its way to becoming the breakout stars of the year.

“Empty pool …” (2002)
– Mid-way through the tour, Drowning Pool front man Dave Williams was found dead on the band’s tour bus during a stop in Virginia. The band was forced to pull out of the remainder of the tour. Williams cause of death was an undiagnosed heart ailment. On a happier note, Hatebreed solidified itself as the breakout stars of the tour.

“Second stage theatrics …” (2003)
– While Killswitch Engage was the breakout star of the second stage, the stage’s headliners, Cradle of Filth, brought a veritable theater of the obscure to the tour. The black metal carnival was one of the more interesting spectacles of Ozzfest’s history.

“Ozzfest gets heavy …” (2004)
– The influx of hardcore-rooted bands like Atreyu and Bleeding Through, coupled with the blistering, hard-hitting style of bands like Lamb of God and God Forbid make this the loudest Ozzfest on record.

The Inside Pulse .::.

Starting as a one-off deal that spun out of control, Ozzfest has become a staple of the summer touring scene. The 1990s saw an explosion of the touring festival. Every genre had one: alternative rock had Lollapalooza; chick-rock had Lillith Fair; jam bands had the H.O.R.D.E. tour … yet today, Ozzfest is the only one still standing tall. Ten years later and showing little signs of slowing down, Ozzfest is still a high point for metal fans that can’t wait for summer to hit and the tour to come to town.

Ozzfest 2005 Tour Dates.::.

Jul 15: Mansfield, MA
Jul 17: Hartford, CT
Jul 19: Camden, NJ
Jul 21: Darien Center, NY
Jul 23: Burgettstown, PA
Jul 24: Bristow, VA
Jul 26: Holmdel, NJ
Jul 27: Holmdel, NJ
Jul 30: Tinley Park, IL
Jul 31: Noblesville, IN
Aug 2: Columbus, OH
Aug 4: Clarkston, MI
Aug 6: East Troy, WI
Aug 7: Somerset, WI
Aug 11: Auburn, WA
Aug 13: Mountain View, CA
Aug 14: Marysville, CA
Aug 16: West Valley City, Ut
Aug 18: Phoenix, AZ
Aug 20: San Bernardino, CA
Aug 23: Albuquerque, NM
Aug 25: Dallas, TX
Aug 27: Woodlands, TX
Aug 28: Selma, TX
Aug 31: Antioch, TN
Sep 2: Charlotte, NC
Sep 4: West Palm Beach, FL

Jonathan Widro is the owner and founder of Inside Pulse. Over a decade ago he burst onto the scene with a pro-WCW reporting style that earned him the nickname WCWidro. Check him out on Twitter for mostly inane non sequiturs