Given that Ozzfest has developed a reputation for breaking new hard rock acts (Slipknot and Godsmack gained larger audiences after performing on last year's tour), it's hard not to approach the all-day show, now in its fifth year, as a barometer for bands on the verge of making the transition from the underground to the mainstream. But judging by the rudimentary approaches taken by most of the acts on this year's tour, which visited Blossom on July 20, it wasn't easy to find new talent on either of the two stages. The climax of the event wasn't the performance by rock icon Ozzy Osbourne, who greeted the crowd by saying, "Let's go fucking crazy" and then hopped about the stage like a tired old man. Rather, it came when fans on the lawn engaged in a sod-throwing contest with the pavilion, creating such havoc Pantera had to ask the rowdy fans to settle down, and a bulldozer came out to clean up the mess.
While the Warped Tour makes a point of booking indie-label or unsigned acts, all of the Ozzfest bands were signed, and most were on major labels. Even the bands on the second stage that were relatively unknown had recently inked record deals: Shuvel has signed to Interscope Records, Slaves on Dope are the first artists signed to Ozzy Osbourne's Divine Recordings, and Reveille has a record out on Elektra. In addition, most of these acts sounded like second-rate versions of Limp Bizkit and Korn. Desperately in search of distinct identities, the bands tried to sound as tough and mean-spirited as possible. Reveille urged the crowd to sing "fuck you," and Taproot asked to see "the rock sign," which prompted audience members to throw their hands in the air representing the devil horns.
Even Soulfly, the band fronted by Brazilian Max Cavalera, sounded generic despite attempts to incorporate Brazilian folk music into the mix. And Kittie, the only act to have any women it, played the same blustery rock as all the other bands. With so much anger in the air, P.O.D., a Christian metal band from San Diego, did the more radical thing -- it urged fans to "give thanks and praise," and hung up a banner that depicted an emaciated Christ. And Incubus scored points for delivering a set that had more in common with British shoegazers and American indie rock than rap metal.
With the exception of headliner Osbourne, who introduced himself with a series of video clips into which he had inserted himself, mainstage headliners such as Static-X, Godsmack, and Pantera were all guilty of taking themselves too seriously. Godsmack's brooding songs such as "Voodoo" sounded like watered-down Alice in Chains, and Static-X rifled through a set that was memorable only because singer Wayne Static's sky-high hair never toppled.
The campy, Tommy Lee-led Methods of Mayhem provided a good dose of comedy, whether it was intended or not. Assisted by a rapper who wore a bright orange University of Texas jacket and had his hair dyed Day-Glo green, Jane's Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins, a guitarist who struck silly, robotic poses, and an energetic DJ, Lee yelled at the "lazy fuckers on the grass" and complained, "Y'all got the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and y'all are sitting down," but there was no point in standing up for such a ridiculous display. The Queens of the Stone Age, who played an early afternoon set to an empty pavilion, showed their apathy in a more humorous way -- bassist Nick Oliveri took off all his clothes and played in the nude for half of the set. After the Queens set, singer-guitarist Josh Homme delivered the appropriate closing to a set that fell on deaf ears, saying, "If you liked it, thank you very much; if you hated it, go fuck yourself."
From the clumps of grass that were still strewn about the venue by the time Osbourne came on to the broken seats and trampled fences that resulted after a throng rushed the stage, Ozzfest definitely left its mark on Blossom. It's too bad none of the bands can say they had as much of an impact.
Shades of Grey has recruited 11-year-old guitarist Daniel Simon, a local who has played with Buddy Guy and Carlos Santana, to be among the 17 guest musicians who will join its July 30 variety show at Lakewood Park. The local group, which hopes to turn the show into an annual event, will be playing material from its two CDs and will be accompanied by a string quartet for several songs. The group will also sell a limited edition of Just a Game, an album recorded live at the University Circle Arabica in December.
"We'll have some original material, and we'll do some cover songs from the 1400s, some barbershop, and doo-wop from the '50s," says Shades singer-guitarist Jacob Brady, who also says the band has written new arrangements of their original material to fit the show. "We just wanted to hold a music festival and do something different than the usual two-hour set. Beth Bryan, an actress, will be performing a one-act play. It will be heavy for the people of Lakewood Park, but they need that."
The concert is free and begins at 7 p.m.
Singer-guitarist Dave Crossland recorded his first CD with a group of musicians from his native Akron, and he will return there on July 29 to celebrate the release of his CD, Fields of Promise. Crossland, who now lives in Nashville, plays Dylan-inspired folk and roots music. The concert will take place at a 90-year-old barn at the Crown Point Center (3220 Ira Road, Bath Township). It starts at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door. For more information, call 330-668-8992.