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Free OZZFest Gets Horns-Up From Fans
INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- If devil's horns are heavy metal's equivalent of thumbs-up, the 2007 edition of OZZFest won the overwhelming approval of the headbangers who packed the DTE Energy Music Theatre on Sunday (August 26th).
There were, of course, significant differences in the 11th edition of the Ozzy Osbourne-headlined roadshow. This year's free admission plan meant the 15 bands played for free -- which not surprisingly affected both the commercial caliber and the sheer number of those acts. Staging on both locations was noticeably scaled back, as well. But the fans, who acquired their tickets through a network of Internet sites, hardly seemed disappointed. Some balked at the $20 parking fee (DTE usually folds it into the ticket price) but "it's still better than paying $40 or $50 to get into the show," said Adam Smith, who drove two hours from northern Ohio with friends.
Devildriver frontman Dez Farfara, playing his sixth OZZFest, said that he could "definitely tell a difference" in this year's OZZFest crowd due to the free admission.
"The mood is better," Farfara noted. "They're buying T-shirts and CDs and things they couldn't afford before. I think it's a great thing to do for the fans."
Many of Sunday's OZZFesters took advantage of opportunities to upgrade their seats either through sponsor giveaways, by buying CDs at the FYE booth or paying an extra $20 or $40 at the DTE box office. Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy's wife and manager and OZZFest's founder, said 3,000 pavilion seats had been held back for the upgrades.
Osbourne also acknowledged that the tour had distributed more tickets than DTE's 15,000-person capacity figuring that, like passes to free movie screening, not everybody would come. Neither OZZFest nor DTE officials would confirm how many tickets were handed out for Sunday's show, though the venue appeared more congested than at a normal sellout.
For the most part, however, it looked and sounded like any other OZZFest, with battering ram rhythms provoking aggressive mosh pits, particularly during sets by second stage headliner Hatebreed and Devildriver. Osbourne remains the festival's much-loved icon, despite his diminished capacity to perform; he still brought the nearly 11-hour day to a satisfying close with an 85-minute set of material from his new album, "Black Rain," hits such as "Bark at the Moon," "Mr. Crowley," "I Don't Know," "Mama I'm Coming Home" and "Crazy Train," and the Black Sabbath favorites "War Pigs" and "Paranoid." Fans near the front of the pavilion were also treated to liberal showers from water cannon positioned in the lighting rig and from a hose that bathed the front rows in foam.
An unexpected hoot was Finland's Lordi, a costumed outfit whose macabre, pyrotechnic-laden theatrics drew from obvious inspirations such as Alice Cooper and Kiss but came off more like a Satanic Banana Splits -- not a lot of artistic weight, but a good time nevertheless. Poland's Behemoth and Taiwan's politically charged Chthonic lent an international feel to the show's second stage, where the emcee saluted Los Angeles' Ankla and its furious polyrhythms as "Santana on (bleeping) steroids."
A furious sod fight erupted on the lawn and spilled into the pavilion during Static-X's main stage set and subsided somewhat after Michigan-born frontman Wayne Static asked the crowd to stop and a subsequent stage announcement warned that the show would end if fans continued to tear up the grass.
The weekend booking brought out one of the tour's largest crowds for the 12:20 p.m. showtime, and besides the music fans checked out the freak show-style attractions in the Brothers Grim Sideshow tent, played Guitar Hero at local radio station WRIF's booth and scooped up freebies from sponsors such as Jagermeister and Monster energy drink.
"I've been wanting to do this for so long, and I finally got the chance," said Nezzer Edgerton, 46, of Madison Heights, who came with her sister and their children. "I've been a rocker for 35 years and always heard about this. My 16-year-old daughter wanted to go so bad, so I figured ... I'd go, too."
Josh Lester, 27, of Caro was ambivalent about this year's lineup. "I liked it better when we paid for tickets," he said. "There were more bigger bands." But OZZFest veteran John Weisberg, 38, of Sterling Heights, countered that the free OZZFest not only saved him some money but also enriched his musical knowledge.
"It gives me an opportunity to see newer bands I might not normally be exposed to," he said. "It keeps me young."
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