Ozzy Playing Ozzfest’s Second Stage For The First Time

'I think it's time for a change,' Osbourne said of his self-imposed downgrade.

Heavy metal icon Ozzy Osbourne’s namesake festival’s still seven weeks away from its June 29 launch in Auburn, Washington, but the 11th installment of the often-imitated mammoth known as the Ozzfest is already shaping up to be one highlighted by several firsts — most of which involve the Ozzman himself.

For instance, this summer’s tour will be the first in the festival’s history that Ozzy doesn’t plan on closing out each night; he’s committed to headlining just 10 of the tour’s 24 stops, leaving System of a Down and Disturbed to handle the rest of the trek’s dates (see “System Of A Down, Disturbed To Headline Ozzfest” ). What’s more, Osbourne revealed late Thursday night that, for the first time since Ozzfest launched in 1996, he’d be closing out not the fest’s main stage, but it’s much smaller — and generally much dingier — second stage.

Osbourne plans to headline the second stage during the festival’s July 8 stop at San Bernardino, California’s Hyundai Pavilion of Glen Helen. For each of the last ten years, Ozzy has headlined the main stage either as a solo artist or with Black Sabbath.

Over the course of the last decade, several lesser-known and up-and-coming metal acts have graced Ozzfest’s second stage, which is often erected in a dusty field or parking lot adjacent to the amphitheater housing the main stage. It’s become a much-coveted gig for the members of metal’s newest class, and has helped catapult a handful of bands into the mainstream’s consciousness — including System of a Down and Incubus (who graced the second stage in 1998), Disturbed (2000), Mudvayne (2001) and Chevelle (2002).

Ozzy announced late last summer, toward the end of Ozzfest 2005, that he wouldn’t be returning for the 2006 installment (see “Ozzy Retires As Ozzfest Headliner: ‘It’s Time For Me To Move On’ “ ). But between then and this March, Osbourne had a change of heart, revealing that he’d be popping up on 10 dates this year: the June 29 kickoff, July 1 (San Francisco), July 16 (Chicago), July 22 (East Troy, Wisconsin), July 29 (New York), August 1 (Boston), August 4 (Camden, New Jersey), August 6 (Bristow, Virginia) and the tour’s August 13 finale in West Palm Beach, Florida, as well as July 8′s second stage appearance.

Ozzy is scheduled to headline the main stage at his other nine Ozzfest performances. During each of Ozzy’s solo sets, he will be accompanied by longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde, marking the duo’s 20th anniversary together. Wylde’s band, Black Label Society, is the second stage’s proper headliner, along with Atreyu, Unearth, Norma Jean, and Bleeding Through.

Strapping Young Lad, A Life Once Lost, Full Blown Chaos, the Red Chord, and All That Remains are among the other acts booked for this season’s second stage. Lacuna Coil and Hatebreed will be joining Disturbed and System on the main stage; later this month, Ozzfest’s organizers are expected to announce a “major” mainstage act’s addition to the bill.

“After 10 years of headlining Ozzfest’s main stage, I think it’s time for a change,” Osbourne said, in a written statement. “I haven’t had a chance to play this close to an audience in years, and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it.”