OzzFest UK 1998


No Donington last year and after this event, I think it's bitten the dust. Donington always offered a more wide-ranging list of bands than OzzFest's predominantly heavy list. The lightest bands on offer this year were Foo Fighters, Ozzy and Sabbath. Hell, let's face it - what were the Foo Fighters doing on the same bill as Coal Chamber, Pantera, Slayer, Fear Factory and Soulfly? They aren't bad in their own right, but they were really out of place with all the other acts.
First impressions weren't too great. It took ages to get into the venue. The queue (OK, sprawl) was maybe 20 yards long, but it still took us over 75 minutes to get in. Once inside, though, it's an impressive venue even if it does lack the feel of Donington. One major disappointment was the "travelling carnival" or whatever that we'd all heard about. It amounted to a couple of crappy sideshow games, an overpriced piercing stall and a record shop. Of course, everything bought within the grounds was bloody expensive. And what was the idea of this token system for the beer? You had to queue once to get a token (£5) then again to exchange it for two pints - flat bitter or incredibly frothy lager. Why not just queue once and buy one pint for £2.50? Or even better, a reasonable price?
Another major problem was the mud. It rained a bit up until 11am, just enough to put some water on the grass. Thing is, with 60-some thousand people walking all over it it quickly turned into sludge. Having said that the weather was gorgeous the rest of the day and my forehead is still suffering painfully from sunburn!
One thing that The Bowl had going for it was the close proximity of the small and main stages. As one act finished on one stage, another started almost immediately on the other. Fortunately they were close enough together that you need miss nothing more than the band walking onto stage if you were nippy enough.
There were bloody loads of food vans and the like round the outside of the bowl, al of them damn expensive. The food, though, was of damn good quality, not just cheap tat. It was still overpriced, though. Next year I'm taking sandwiches...
There were three video screens, one above the main stage and one to either side. These only showed pictures of acts on that stage, though. Sound was good whichever stage the band was playing on and it only really carried to the back of the bowl. Ideal as it stops "outsiders" complaining about the noise.
There was one thing that I missed - the fireworks. Sabbath's set ended with the band wishin gyou goodnight and the organisers telling you how ot leave. No big lights, no fireworks, no flyover by the Red Arrows... nuthin'. Not Donington "always" had fireworks. Maybe next year - they did promise they'd be back...


Band listed in some sort of order. My memory fails me in my old age...

Pitchshifter

Not one of my favourite bands, and I was still busy wandering round the place bumping into people. They got a good response, though, and they tested the strength of the speakers early on in the evening. I was glad when they hit the stage, though. The "music" that was being played as warmup was absolute shit.

Hed(pe)

Cack. I have a feeling this band is one of Kerrang's flavours of the month. If they're a flavour, they're cat piss and baboon arse ripple. Hed(pe), aside from having a stupid name, sound like Cypress Hill and... well... Cypress Hill. Great chance to continue wandering around and check out the best food vans for later in the day.

Fear Factory

Now this was more like it. Fear Factory played as well as they ever have, putting a couple of new tracks in with crowd-mangling favourites such as Replica and Self Bias Resistor. My only complaint, which is true for just about every act on the main stage today, is that they didn't get long enough.

Slayer

Kerry King's putting on weight and growing that beard. I tell you, he could retire and take over guitars in ZZ Top if he borrowed a wig. Mind you, I can't see him playing anything near as well as he plays Jesus Saves, War Ensemble, Dead Skin Mask or any other of the absolutely choice set the band thrashed out. Absolutely brilliant and one of my particular favourite acts of the day.

Soulfly

One thing that puzzled me about Soulfly was how they got so far up the bill. I mean, they're good and all, but they haven't been going as long as Fear Factory, let alone Slayer. Even with the cudos of having Max Cavalera as frontman, Slayer's history outweighs Sepultura's by a fair few years. Anyway, their set was pretty good, though I'm not familiar with their material. Must say that Roots song sounded mighty familiar, though... If they're going to do old Seps numbers (which Max wrote for the main part, so no complaints there) can't they pick more of the old classics like Troops Of Doom and Mass Hypnosis?

Life Of Agony

LOA's first show in the UK with their new frontman seemed to go down quite well with the fans. Again, not a band I'm hugely hung up on but I have seen them live in the past. Whitfield Crane showed none of his previous musical history, droning out the more downbeat sounds of LOA like he'd never even heard of Everything About You.

Entombed

This band deserve to be nearer the top of the list. An excellent but very short (or so it seemed) set got a good crowd going very mental. Their last album was brilliant and well represented in the set. Here's hoping they're back over soon as well - oh, and they're a great bunch of guys to meet!

Pantera

Gurgle. What can I saw. They kicked bum. Up there with Slayer as my two best bands of the day. My only complaint was with the crowd. Nobody at festivals seems to know how to slam. You go apeshit and rapidly find yourself in the middle of a little hole with everyone ignoring you. Bo-o-o-ring. You could tell Pantera just wanted to play all night. Scott Ian of Anthrax was off to one side - hopefully scouting with an aim to bringing the rest of the band over next year, and the set climaxed, of course, with Cowboys From Hell. Oh, and the great news that the band would be back over here in 1999. Yay!

Human Waste Project

Another bunch of up'n'comers who went down very well with their fans at the festival. They certainly played like a band possessed and were more than just a filler on the small stage. Keep an eye on them in future - they're album's out soon.

Therapy?

This lot stepped in on about 4 days' notice to take the place of Korn. In my opinion, this was good because I don't like Korn too much but I could tell from the number of Korn shirts that there'd be a hell of a lot of disappointed people there. Andy and the lads played a great set, including most of the old favourites. The first time I've actually seen them live, and I hope not the last.

Coal Chamber

A band which deserved to be on the main stage, in my opinion. They had about as many people round their stage as many of the bigger bands managed at the other one. This band are big at the moment - they're going to be huge.

Foo Fighters

What the hell were they doing here? And more to the point, what the hell were they doing so far up the bill? The Foo Fighters seemed like a space-filler and it's a credit to the fans that they weren't showered in bottles of bodily secretions. Don't get me wrong, they played a good set and they're not a bad band but they hardly fit in with any of the other acts. Korn/Therapy? were both close calls but heavy enough to warrant inclusion but The Foo Fighters were totally out of place. It was obvious that most of the people round the stage were there to get near the front for Ozzy.

Ozzy

Ozzy is God. 'Nuff said. Oh, you want more? OK, he played a much shorter set than at Donington last year but one thing we didn't have to go without was the now-standard hilarious intro video. See Ozzy play bit parts in Titanic, become one of the Spice Girls and go the Full Monty. All the usual props were there - dancing dwarves, firehoses and buckets of water, all gratefully received considering the weather. Has anybody any idea how many times he yelled "Let me see your fucking hands!"? Ending his set on Crazy Train, Ozzy wandered off to huge applause. He might look old, he might run like your grandad, but he has more energy than a raver on E. But he won't be dehydrated afterwards. Hell, Ozzy'll live forever, unlike most of those sad junkies.

Black Sabbath

Hands up all those who don't know a single song by Black Sabbath. Good, thought so. The band played a great selection, including NIB, Black Sabbath, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, War Pigs (great opener) and Paranoid (of course) to end. Very few stage decorations, just some lights and some great music. I reckon Ozzy/Sabbath must have been the only set to actually be watched by every sod in the place. One of the best moments was when Bill Ward came on to prove he was doing fine after his heart attack. The crowd gave him a very warm welcome and probably the single largest cheer of the day.

Well, I seem to have good luck weatherwise as far as festivals go. Here's hoping next year's Fest is as good, and the sun stays out! I know I'll be there...

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