Possibly the best Ozzfest lineup ever? Ozzfest live at the Tweeter Center August 26th 2004

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:

  Image result for camden poverty 

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.

Quick Reminder

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“Hey, I hear you don’t like beatdowns?!” Shadows Fall live at L’Amour: August 10th, 2003

I first read up on Shadows Fall in a brief one page Guitar World article in 2000, discussing the release of their newest album, Of One Blood, which featured the debut of vocalist Brian Fair.  I’m pretty sure I still have that magazine in my attic somewhere in a big ass bin of old GW back issues….along with a shit load of Muscle And Fitness mags that I stole from my ex-job…several times.  Those security guards were and probably STILL are dumb as SHIT.    All these years later I can’t remember why it didn’t get my attention much in a time when Pantera was just a month away from releasing Reinventing The Steel, and shit rap-metal and pussy pop punk was king; but it was most likely because I read that they mixed thrash and death metal with rhythm guitar Matt Bachand’s love of new-age music.  At that time I most likely too young or ignorant to understand the idea or even give it a listen to see how the band melded such styles together.

That changed two and a half years later, by which point I was a few weeks into my college career.  They once again were featured in Guitar World, this time discussing their newest album, The Art Of Balance.  This time around, the article focused on the fact that lead guitar Jon Donais actually shreds his ass off on the record.  Both he and Matt discuss their love of all kinds of metal, as well as the fact that at that point in time the ONLY other guitarists known for TRULY shredding it up were Dimebag Darrell and Zakk Wylde.  True story.  So I was interested.  Then, I started seeing ads for the album in magazines featuring quotes from these rave…and I mean RAVE…reviews, calling Shadows Fall “The Next Metallica”, on the heels of the fact that this CD was supposed to have such a purist, old school thrash feel.  Ok…I was sold.  So I went to Sam Goody, maybe around Christmas time, bought the CD, and my ass was instantly KICKED so hard.  The riffage was very thrash.  Jason Bittner’s drums were so precise and so freaking fast on his debut recording with the band, Brian Fair really did sound like Ride The Lightning – era James Hetfield.  Then, there was those guitar solos.  Jon Donais is an AMAZING lead guitar player.  There are guys who shred to blow their load by showing off their knowledge of every scale known to man and there are guys like Jon who shred with aggression, technique…and feel.  GASP!!!  Not too long after this I finally heard Of One Blood and realized what I was missing out on because that record is even MORE brutal than The Art Of Balance!

Sometime in the summer of 2003 I was in a Hot Topic – the second to last time I ever went into one – and I found myself talking to the guy behind the counter, whose name I no longer remember.  The discussion turned to musical styles.  Around this time, the nu-metal/rap metal train was close to FINALLY crashing, but so-called hardcore with breakdowns that the kiddies would breakdance too was starting to become the new trend.  This guy played in a band called Resin and they liked to do those breakdowns.  Too bad.  But he told me that his band would be opening for Chimaira and Shadows Fall within a month and he had to sell tickets (gee, I wonder where I heard that shit before) and of course I told him I’d go.  They were practically THE only modern metal band I was giving the time of day.

So a month later my mom insisted on driving me to L’Amour on 63rd St, most likely because she was a sissy who couldn’t bare the thought of my taking car service there even though I had done it just three months earlier, when I was last there to see Superjoint Ritual.  No sooner did I close the door to her car did I hear a voice yell out to me “Hey!  I hear you don’t like beatdowns??”.  I turned around there was all of Resin.  In the middle was their gruff looking singer, who yelled out to me.  To the left was the guy from Hot Topic…who clearly had a great memory!  So we spoke for a few minutes and they gave me my ticket.

Going into the show, which was an Ozzfest ’03 off-date, the bill was once again HEAVILY booked by the idiot guineas that ran the place.  I think the first band I remember seeing was this band of kids who did a cover of Sepultura’s “Roots Bloody Roots” that was played waaaaaayyy too fast.  Even when I was that age I never understood why younger bands just need to speed up even those songs that need to be played a little slower.  Is it nervousness?  Is it lack of understanding of dynamics?  The original tempo for the song was just right because it allowed Igor to put the right kind of groove in there and, more importantly, it allowed the heavy ass riffs to breathe.  Most times, fast never equates to heavy.  Heavy is not about tempo, or even volume for that matter.  It’s about attitude.  If you’re a young musician and you’re reading this, don’t ever forget this.  Dynamics, more important than ANYTHING else in terms of songwriting.

While seeing this one band one the main stage, whose guitarist was clearly trying so hard to be Dimebag Darrell, I recognized Jon Donais standing literally feet away from me.  I went over to him to discuss the band on stage because the guitar player was in fact really good and he put on the biggest smile and even gave me his full attention.  That solidified to me once for all the humility of the underground guys.  They were playing their first huge festival tour as The Art Of Balance was selling 100,000 copies, the first album in Century Media Record’s history to do so and they were still down to earth guys.  I went up to Brian Fair after seeing Jon and he too was a cool guy.  I saw a few more local bands including Full Blown Chaos yet again (and they sounded like shit yet again!) and Chimaira came out.  Long story short: they sucked.

Shadows Fall went on around 10pm and, long story short: they blew Chimaira out of the fucking water within the first minute of being up there.  Although that part wasn’t hard.  They were so good, playing songs from the two most recent CDs.

The Setlist:

Idle Hands

Crushing Belial

The Idiot Box

A Fire In Babylon

Stepping Outside The Circle

Thoughts Without Words

Of One Blood

Destroyer Of Senses

Serenity

The show was fucking incredible…and I totally forgive Brian Fair for wearing a Clash t-shirt that night!  Someone in the middle of the set he asked us if we BOUGHT the new album and I’m pretty sure most of the crowd responded pretty positively…by which I mean horns in the air and loud chanting.  You could tell it meant a lot; let’s face it, bands in his position NEVER sell 100,000 copies of a record or even make that in combined album sales.  And that was a minor miracle compared to the success the band would see a year later!  What I did NOT know about that night was that it would be my last time going to L’Amour for anything.  They’d close down just over five months later in early February 2004.

Final Thoughts

Here’ a brief video of me squatting 235lbs for 6 reps without a belt last Thursday night.

I managed to pull this off without a belt and it was surprisingly easy.  Starting this week I began final preparations for my first meet happening on May 21st in Newark, NJ.  As of this past Sunday I’m focusing only on the big three lifts and light cardio, making my training sessions considerably shorter.