So just over a year since my last concert I was invited by my then-bandmates, Chad and Idrees, to go with them to see Ozzfest at the Tweeter Center in Camden, NJ on August 26th, 2004. And if you looked at the main stage line up for this tour alone it’s easy to see why. Dimmu Borgir (fake, pretentious, symphonic black metal), Superjoint Ritual (Phil Anselmo acting even dumber than the last time I saw him), Black Label Society, Slayer, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath. Yeah, Judas Priest was THE big deal at the time, with the band announcing the return of Rob Halford on vocals just ten months earlier and following the release of the band’s box set. The three of us definitely had our musical differences – making me wonder how I didn’t quit them earlier – with me liking a little bit of everything yet leaning towards heavier stuff more and more, Idrees listening to Thrash and ONLY Thrash, and Chad being the Power Metal guy who was practically jerking off every night to all things Iron Maiden and Steve Vai; but who the fuck doesn’t even remotely like Judas Preist?? I’m waiting….
The morning of the show they were supposed to come to my house with Idrees’s dad driving to pick me up. They were very late and whenever I called either of their cellphones no one picked up and it really irritated me. When they finally did show up I do remember letting them both have it, although I don’t remember their lame excuse. Idrees’s dad reminds me of a cross between Nile Rodgers and Isaac Hayes, Niles in the voice department and Isaac in looks, it was pretty funny just hearing him talk. We arrived in Camden around 1pm due to shitty traffic once we got off the NJ Turnpike; ever been to Camden before? No? Ok, ever hear Chris Rock talk about why you should never anywhere that has a Martin Luther King Blvd? Well, we were on it and we saw why. Here’s an example of what we drove through to get to this place:
Isn’t this just sexy? I’d totally live here!
After maybe twenty minutes of my suddenly wishing we took Chris Rock’s advice and ran we finally got to the Tweeter Center, the huge outdoor arena placed in the location of the Armageddon we all apparently missed and right across the water from Philadelphia. Idress’s really cool dad was going to spend his day at the New Jersey State Aquarium not to far down the road from us and right by the ferry that was bringing in drunken Philly trash for Ozzfest. But I’ll get back to that later!
The three of us walked in to the horrible sounds of Otep on the second stage, having just missed God Forbid, who I really wanted to see. They sadly broke up in 2013 but if you’ve never heard of them check out their 2004 album Gone Forever. So we walked around for a bit, bought beads to throw at girls to have them show us their titties, etc. We went back to the second stage because I wanted to see Lamb Of God. They were literally five days away from release of their major label debut on Epic Records, Ashes Of The Wake, following the success of their last album, As The Palaces Burn, and it looked like they totally did a major gear upgrade with there being to big walls of speaker cabinets like only Slayer would do.
Chad and Idrees left me there because they weren’t fans of the band. I think it was literally just too modern for either of them. Lesson #1: if you’re only 19 years old – like these two knuckleheads were (I was a year older) – nothing is too modern for you. Life’s too short to be THAT pretentious over music. I may have just turned 32 but I still have an open mind! Lamb Of God were absolutely awesome, playing a good chunk of their material from the last record as well as the first single off the new album, called “Laid To Rest”. What I didn’t understand was Randy Blythe’s need to curse literally every other word – that’s not an exaggeration – as well as constantly saying he was in “Killadelphia” when we were actually across the water. Dumbass.
My two dopey friends came back just in time to rescue me from Shitknot (I was a fan of them for a few years but 2004 was the year they broke my heart Godfather Part 2 style) and Hatebreed. In fact, after LOG there were no others bands I wanted to see on the second stage at all! So we had lots of time to kill. While there I bought a BLS shirt that I still have today and the classic Slayer eagle shirt, which mysteriously disappeared on me a few years back. I’m still pissed about that one, by the way. While walking we came across a lot of that drunken Philly trash I mentioned before. I’m talking a bunch of ridiculously sunburnt dudes in Eagles jerseys (the football season had just started) yelling out in unison “E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!!!!”….over….and over….and over again. We also found a good spot at the guard rail on the lawn, where we could throw beads at bitches AND have a pretty good few of all the bands.
After while it was finally time for the main stage acts to go on. First? Black Label Society. This was to be my first of seven times seeing them, in fact I can’t make fun of Chad’s fixation on Maiden without stressing that between 2002 and 2008 I wanted to play like Zakk Wylde so bad. I had other influences, of course, but at that time Zakk was the ONLY one who was that popular while playing that kind of music. Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul had already risen from the ashes of Pantera, but their current band, Damageplan, was not getting over on the old fans easily.
Right out the gate he was ripping it up on a custom made Jackson Randy Rhoads guitar. He’s shredded for maybe two minutes before breaking into “Funeral Bell”. Idrees and I loved it. Chad? “Zakk Wylde’s not that great”, he said with this arrogant smirk on his face. Chances are he was already jaded from listening to technical shred nerds who never left their mother’s basement. Lesson #2: It really doesn’t matter how much better one guitar player is than the next. Zakk himself will even acknowledge that there are players that will bury him. But what’s more important than having all the technique there is to have is being able to have your playing reach out to more than one niche crowd. That’s why Zakk passed the audition to play with Ozzy in the first place. Even Ozzy knew Zakk had already developed a sound that would one day make him recognizable!
Superjoint Ritual were next. Where Phil Anselmo pretty much told us last year in Brooklyn where he stood in music (as in not with Pantera) he pretty much took that and acted like a dumbass this time around. First off, their latest album, A Lethal Does Of American Hatred, sucked balls in plain English. Also, it’s one thing to command your audience to mosh; but when you tell them that they’re pussies if they don’t you’re just a jackass. The band were still great…so long as the played the music off the first album…but it was weird when Phil ended the band’s set by saying “keep sucking dick!” on the mic before doing his classic shitty rendition of the last words to “Stairway To Heaven” that he’d been doing since the Pantera days. Drugs are bad, m’kay?
Dimmu Borgir were TRASH. Bad enough I already don’t like Symphonic Black Metal but Dimmu were and are just awful. Next? Slayer. How funny that, as Idrees left us to mosh in the makeshift pit area right behind us, Chad and I both realized that the guardrail was pretty wobbly – yeah, we were fucked and we knew it. Because as soon as Slayer got on stage all Hell broke loose and we were almost instantly pinned to the guardrail. That shit hurts! Of course, once they kicked into “Raining Blood”, the pit had become it’s most violent. But who really fucking cares? This is Slayer – and with the classic lineup back together! Whenever I was able to get a glimpse of the band without getting pummeled I look straight at Jeff Hanneman. He tore that guitar up better than Kerry King that night….and all the time.
After surviving the moshpit from hell we made sure Idrees came to us so we wouldn’t lose our spots before Priest came on. At this point on it was more like an arena style concert, because who moshes to Priest or Sabbath anyway? This was the one band to have a really elaborate stage setup. Here, look for yourself:
I was able to notice on my own that Halford was relying HEAVILY on a teleprompter because he’d go to one place on stage and just stay there for two of three songs before going somewhere else. Didn’t matter though because he was on fire, proving why he’s the Metal God. When they played “Breaking The Law” I called up my college radio station’s programming director to bust his balls and left him a voicemail of the band playing the chorus line. Why was I busting chops? Well…let’s just say he did just that over a month earlier.
Up last? Sabbath. But of course there was a catch. Before the band were to go on stage Bill Ward came out to announce to everyone that Ozzy was sick and could not play. BUT, apparently Rob Fucking Halford volunteered to sing so the band wouldn’t have to cancel their performance. There’s a bootleg floating around of Halford doing the favor for them back in 1992 but I was actually going to hear it?? Needless to say I wasn’t bummed out much longer after hearing that!
Being that someone else was singing, regardless of the fact that it’s a guy that’s STILL amazing at his age, they kept the setlist floating around the just the first three albums. I’d bet that was just to make it easier on Rob, who surely didn’t have enough time to practice. But it still was pretty awesome to hear.
Idrees’s dad was waiting for us right outside the arena, having stolen banana daiquiri mix from some vendor stand during what I think he said was some kind of police situation…or something. The show was awesome as a whole. If I only knew then that I’d NEVER see the classic Sabbath lineup. But was this THE best Ozzfest lineup ever? I think the following year’s beat it; but I’ll get to that in the future.
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