TINLEY PARK, Illinois — Ozzfest has traditionally been about hard rock's heavyweights uniting to fight the encroaching pop hordes. But if the launch of Ozzfest 2001 on Friday was any indication, this year's model will be about rock policing its own ranks.
"This one's for every f---ing one-hit-wonder band that tried to sell you their record," Marilyn Manson barked from the stage of the Tweeter Center on Friday as he hurled "The Fight Song" at unspecified rock pretenders.
Ozzfest 2001 finds Manson sharing the bill with Papa Roach, Linkin Park, Crazy Town, Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society, Disturbed, Mudvayne, and (of course) headliners Black Sabbath; there's also an army of up-and-coming second stage acts. While the lineup is as eclectic as always (the tour has played host to Queens of the Stone Age, Slayer, the Melvins and Primus in past years), Manson and Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor sent a clear message on opening night.
"I'm sick of all these bands who say they are heavy, and then they come out and pull the balls off of heavy music," Taylor declared from the stage.
So is there room on the Ozzfest 2001 stage for the new-jack metal of Crazy Town, Linkin Park and Papa Roach?
"Aggression is aggression," said David Draiman, frontman of second-stage headliners Disturbed. "You can let your aggression out in different forms, but all the bands that participate in this tour are all using the music as a medium of releasing that aggression."
"From Marilyn Manson to Disturbed to Taproot or Mudvayne — there's a lot of variety there," Linkin Park singer Mike Shinoda said.
(Click HERE for photos from the Ozzfest 2001 tour kickoff).
Potential philosophical conflicts aside, it was Ozzfest business as usual on opening day. Playstation 2, Camel cigarettes, Pringles, Trojan condoms, Levi's, 1-800-COLLECT and Jagermeister all had prime midway real estate, and fans could also purchase snakeskin cowboy hats, leather collars, heavy-gauge jewelry, marijuana pendants and at least seven t-shirts prominently displaying the word "f---."
With the day's first act, Drowning Pool, taking the stage at 10:10 a.m., the mood at the beginning was more metal brunch than prime-time rock gig. But the Ozzfest crowd, as usual, turned out early in full force at this amphitheater outside Chicago. In past years, fans like these have propelled Slipknot, System of a Down, Static-X, and others from the second stage to metal's A-list, and Friday found Drowning Pool, Beautiful Creatures, American Head Charge, Pure Rubbish, Systematic, Hatebreed, Nonpoint, Otep, Godhead, Taproot, Union Underground and Mudvayne jockeying for attention with their allotted 20 minutes.
"There are a lot of new sounds on the second stage, so it will be neat to hear what's coming up and who's going to be on Ozzfest next year," Mudvayne bassist Ryan Martinie (a.k.a. Ryknow) said.
Ryknow and his Mudvayne cohorts seemed to drum up the strongest second-stage support on Friday, playing to a throng dotted with at least a few Mudvayne-esque painted faces, and whipping up a heated (and seemingly brutal) pit of activity.
"There's probably quite a vacuum in heavy music," Mudvayne drummer Matt McDonough (a.k.a. Spag) explained. "We're basically an anomaly, so in a transitional time in heavy music, we just happen to be something to cling on to."
Hardly up-and-coming, Disturbed drew on their platinum sales success and a hometown following to bring a fitting close to second-stage activity. "There's a lot of talent on this stage, and they make us work, believe me," Draiman said. "We were offered a spot on the main stage and we declined it ... I'm all about the intensity of the mass crowd, bodies against other bodies."
The dirt-pit madness of the second stage yielded to the more organized chaos of the main stage after Disturbed walked offstage shortly before 5 p.m. (Ozzfest's new, streamlined schedule means no more overlapping sets). Guitar wiz Zakk Wylde and his Black Label Society gave a decidedly old-school performance, and then Crazy Town emerged as the first of three hip-hop-flavored main-stage acts. Next, Ozzfest babyfaces Linkin Park proved they could deliver live, as fans bounced, danced and rapped their way through the band's 30-minute set.
Saying, "This is music for real people," Papa Roach frontman Coby Dick upped the ante, prompting the amphitheater crowd to bounce in unison during a 45-minute set that included the hits "Last Resort" and "Broken Home." Dick slammed his microphone into his head and flopped and twitched on the stage like the dying roach silhouetted on the band's drum riser while fans on the Tweeter Center lawn hurled cups, shirts, shoes, sod and any readily available objects into the air.
"You can take everything. As long as I got music and I got the energy we got here, I'm all right," Dick said.
While those acts worked to enroll students into heavy music's new school, Slipknot and Marilyn Manson called for a heavier, harder world. Drawing on the dark and dense material on their upcoming Iowa LP, Slipknot assaulted the senses with their tribal-drum-meets-performance-art approach to metal. "You're all going home in a body bag," frontman Taylor screamed before the band launched into new offerings including "People = Sh--," "Disaster Piece" and "New Abortion."
As his eight bandmates plowed through an hour-long set, Slipknot percussionist Shawn Crahan — decked out in the band's new black coveralls and a clown mask that now boasts an open head wound — wreaked havoc throughout the amphitheater, mounting the back of a security guard's head, hugging a Hell's Angel, riding a stuffed goat head, slamming a mic into his skull, sucking his thumb, bashing his drum kit with a lead pipe and running into the crowd.
It was a tough act to follow, but a lean and hungry Manson — returning to Ozzfest to re-connect with his metal core — was up to the challenge. Taking the stage to "God Bless America," Manson launched into a hard-driving set thick with chugging numbers such as "Beautiful People," "Disposable Teens," "Rock Is Dead," "The Love Song," "Antichrist Superstar" and "The Fight Song." Clad in a leather bustier, long black gloves, fishnets, a g-string and a spiked helmet adorned with a black feathered head-dress, Manson worked the Spartan stage like a twitching serpent — gliding, pausing, jerking and gliding again — during an appropriately bare-knuckled set.
While Slipknot and Manson came out swinging, Black Sabbath decided to lead by example. Playing with the confidence of a band at ease with its place in music history, the metal forefathers spoke volumes about the power and durability of heavy music without asides or pronouncements, but with 90 minutes of classics: "War Pigs," "Paranoid," "Iron Man," "Children of the Grave," "N.I.B.," "Snowblind" and more. The roles were familiar — Ozzy Osbourne as the mad jester, guitarist Tony Iommi as the leather-clad English gentleman, and the crowd echoing every word. The band managed to keep it fresh with a new song — the blues dirge "Scary Dreams" — and some fretwork from Iommi sprinkled throughout familiar gems.
After a day of pondering what is "heavy," Sabbath's set may have provided the clearest answer.