Monday, August 15, 2005

Maiden OzzFest

The exciting sequel to Maiden Brazil.

When I was a teenage Metalhead in the early-80's, Iron Maiden reinforced the idea in my head that intelligent and literate people could also be METAL. They wrote songs inspired by subjects such as World History, Literature, ancient myths, movies, The Occult, Biblical prophecies, and certain cerebral British t.v. shows... Pretty much everything I was into as a teenage geek who preferred books to Donkey Kong. And I wasn't the only one... [click for link]

The Geeks shall inherit the Earth.

Plus, Maiden were (and are) great musicians and an astounding live band.

To quote Maiden: "I left alone, my mind was blank. I needed time to think to get the memories from my mind..."

Oakland Stadium, Oakland, CA - July 18, 1982

The Number Of The Beast Tour - Pt. 1.. Maiden's debut Bay Area show in front of 45,000 and OPENING for Foreigner (!?.. the headliners..), Loverboy (!?), and Scorpions. We had been waiting at least a year to see Maiden since stumbling across Killers in the Tower Records import (VINYL!) section. Unfortunately, the 1981 Killers Tour (the band's first U.S. trip) didn't make it to the S.F. Bay Area. Needless to say, I was as excited as only a 17-year old can be for a concert.. We were down front as Maiden stormed onstage and left after the Scorps played... However, Rich Hellhound's car had been towed and his dad had to come bail our asses out. He was NOT pleased despite the fact that Rich and I had finally seen Maiden.

Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA - Sept. 4, 1982

The Number Of The Beast Tour - Pt. 2.. Maiden were middle of the bill between Scorpions and Girlschool. We waited in line all day and the kids who eventually formed the band Death Angel waited next to us. During Maiden I ran into a guy known as "John Maiden" (His favorite band being...). He stuck his tongue out to show me the tab of acid he had just taken. John went on to become a cop with the SFPD.

Cow Palace, S.F. - July 2, 1983

Piece Of Mind Tour.. Saxon and Fastway supported. At this time I had dozens of Metal penpals in Europe and the U.S.. One of them was a groupie Metal chick in St. Louis and she told me about her "encounter" with Bruce Dickenson when Maiden were in town on this tour. Furry. In hindsight, her choice of Rock Stars was suspect since there was another time she told me about her "encounter" with Ian Hill of Judas Priest [click for link]. Eww.

Cow Palace, S.F. - March 21, 1985

Powerslave Tour.. Twisted Sister opened at the height of their "We're Not Gonna Take It" MTV hype. Big Wayne and I wandered around the Cow Palace during their set because, despite what VH1 says today, Twisted Sister were NEVER Metal!

After the show we ran into James Hetfield who was with a guy named Ron Lafitte. Metallica had finished the Ride The Lightning U.S. Tour a week or so before. Some kids came up to James and asked for his autograph and we teased him about it afterwards. I think we asked him to sign our asses. Who knew that James really would become a Rock Star!? Pretty funny, innit?!

At the time Lafitte was Metallica's merch guy. He went on to become a big time music exec and managed Megadeth to multi-platinum success and also headed A&R for Capitol Records. Around 10 years later, Lafitte was being pitched a band by one of his people.. but he wasn't interested. He finally looked at the band's CD and saw my name listed in the "Thank You" part of the liner notes. He then gave them a listen because he recognized my name from the Old Metal Days. A true story. Kinda funny, innit?! Trivia: The band was Neurosis.

Epilogue: In the late-90's, Lafitte "discovered" Indie Rock darlings Spoon and signed them to Capitol.. However, as the story goes, he abandoned the band soon after their debut album for that label came out. In retaliation, Spoon recorded the songs "The Agony of Lafitte" and "Lafitte Don't Fail Me Now". Kinda funny, innit?!

Shoreline Amphitheater, Mt. View, CA - Sept. 16, 2000

Useless minutiae: (1) This was Maiden's first Bay Area show in 8 years, (2) After 6 years, Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith had rejoined Maiden, (3) After 15 years, I went to a Maiden concert. I was fully expecting it to be one of those sad nostalgic retro shows with an aging Maiden stumbling onstage. How wrong I was. Maiden stormed onstage and it was like no time had passed! I was as giddy as a little school girl and wasn't annoyed in the least when the 2 very drunk guys in front of me started going nuts during "Hallowed Be Thy Name".

Concord Pavilion, Concord, CA - Aug. 29, 2003

Maiden opened with "Number Of The Beast" complete with a huge lighted "666" flashing behind the stage. A teenager sitting behind us was dressed exactly like a circa-1982 Metalhead, complete with denim vest covered with Metal band patches and longish feathered hair. It was like he'd stepped out of a time machine. In the crowded Men's Room a guy took a piss in a garbage can and another guy waiting in line commented loudly "Dude in a Pantera shirt fucking pissing in the garbage can..." After the show, Big Wayne and I walked back to the car with the biggest smiles on our faces.

Okay... All of this brings y'all up to date with Umlaut and Iron Maiden.. which brings us to OzzFest.

I had only been to one OzzFest before.. I jetted down to San Bernardino for the very first one in 1996 (when it was limited to only 2 shows in Phoenix and San Bernardino)... Umlaut's old friends Neurosis opened the Main Stage.. Biohazard filmed a porn movie on their tour bus. Meanwhile, we hung out in the fancy Neurosis bus and drank Guinness from bottles, which was a LONG way from Gilman St.. Sharon Osbourne gave Neurosis a stack of free OzzFest shirts. Twas the first time I'd seen Slayer in years, but Sepultura ruled the day!! The Roots (Bloody Roots!) Tour and their final U.S. show with Max in the band. I saw Glenn Danzig backstage and he was shorter than me. We left just as Ozzy was going on.

OzzFest, Shoreline Amphitheater - Aug. 13, 2005

The good seats for this show were selling for up to $257 EACH on Ebay. Prior to the show, Timo and I had to combat some weird ticket energy, but we conquered it (TEAMWORK!). Also, for the first time in at least 20 years, Umlaut was at a concert with Rich and Steve Hellhound. The South Bay Maniacs rode again (some of us at least...)! I'd like to say that we raged like it was 1984 again, but we didn't.

On the way in, the biker chick security guard called me "Sweetie". Shoreline is one of those corporate amphitheaters that allows people to bring their own water bottle inside BUT they confiscate the cap at the gate (I assume to prevent the full bottle from being used as a projectile...). I was told years ago by some old Deadheads to "hide" an extra cap in my pocket in order to reseal the bottle and avoid buying the same bottle of H2O inside for $4. Works every time. Remember when concert security was more concerned about preventing M-80's from getting into shows instead of water bottle caps? Me too.

Meanwhile, guys selling bootleg OzzFest shirts had somehow smuggled in their wares and were selling them in the middle of the 2nd Stage crowd (Bootleg shirts = $10 vs. Official shirts = $35). Corporate Rock Rules!

Mastodon stomped the 2nd Stage.. and Brann's polka dot drum kit with Randy Rhoades on the bass drum was the geekiest thing I saw all day. For the Music Geeks: High On Fire stood stage right during the set and "Blood And Thunder" was dedicated to them. Awww.

Mastodon Stomping The 2nd Stage (Pic by Umlaut)

Unfortunately, we arrived too late to see Arch Enemy [click for link] since they went on at the very Un-Metal hour of 9:45am.. and I was still at home getting my morning coffee going at that point. I know: POSER.

"Best" Bad Tattoo: Jesus Christ superimposed over a swastika (nice concept but badly executed).

Best NOT Metal Moment: Three guys (one wearing a Slipknot shirt) playing hacky sack [click for link] during Killswitch Engage's 2nd Stage set.

Best Quote: Timo (during Killswitch Engage's 2nd Stage set) - "It's not a good sign when people are playing hacky sack during your set."

I like Rob Zombie's aesthetic but his set bored me after around 4 songs... but chicks dig him. Aside from "Dragula", the most entertaining part of his set was when they jammed on the James Gang's "Funk #49" and Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" leading into songs.. But I did like how he and his band came onstage wearing matching Ninja masks.. and I do dig John 5's [click for link] guitar playing.

After the 2nd Stage finished we wandered around the concourse (aka The Mall) filled with vendors that you only used to see at Dead shows. One booth had a 2-For-1 sale on bongs. Steve Hellhound went to Purgatory for food but emerged unscathed. A kid dressed as a pirate (ARRGH MATEY!) attempted to conquer the Rock Climbing Wall (Metal??) and failed miserably.

The Main Stage started up and I must say that Black Label Society (BLS) and Mudvayne were two of the worst bands I've ever seen. Zakk Wylde of BLS reminded me of one of those guys in Guitar Center who wanks on a guitar thinking he's Randy Rhoades.. but I suppose BLS fills that much needed "Band Who Dresses Like A Biker Gang" aesthetic that is so lacking in music today. Mudvayne were.... oh just forget it.

Iron Maiden fucking stormed the place!! After the crap bands, Maiden crushed OzzFest as if they were Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt [click for link] (GEEK!).

The guitar tech at stage left was having WAY too much fun while he worked. In between tuning and switching out axes, he played air guitar and sang along to every song. Obviously a happy employee!

Just before Maiden stormed the Main Stage.. 12th Row, dude!
(BLURRY Pic by Umlaut)

The band > crowd energy level was smoking and it was especially cool to see the entire place go nuts during "Run To The Hills". Skychick will be shocked to learn that Umlaut sang along to every song.

As much as Umlaut listens to all kinds of music now, Maiden are a reality check to remind me that Old Metal will ALWAYS run in my veins. Whenever I'm at an event like this a voice in my head says "These are your people..." That Techno shit you listen to is gutless. Up The Irons!

In high school, while other kids listened to Zeppelin and The Beatles, I listened to Black Sabbath and dismissed those bands (I eventually "discovered" them in my 20's..). I was WAY into the Ronnie James Dio-era Sabbath tours (1980-82 and 1992) and even the Ian Gillan / Born Again Tour (1983 - GREAT!). I also had the misfortune of seeing the horrible 1995 Forbidden Tour.. Which was basically guitarist Tony Iommi solo, but it did feature the late Cozy Powell (R.I.P.) on drums.

Although the reformed Sabbath has been around (off and on) for the past 8 years, I'd only seen them on the debut reunion in 1997.. and I had felt that was enough.

I must admit that I was not excited about seeing Sabbath because of the recent reviews about Ozzy's failing health and dodgy performances. Plus, it's still weird to me that he's so mainstream now.

However, as Sabbath came onstage with "N.I.B." I was completely surprised. My head started banging involuntarily and I found myself singing all of the words (Skychick will be shocked to hear this..).

From where we were in the 12th row, Ozzy looked and sounded good.. Also, I can't believe that I'd taken Tony Iommi for granted in recent years. He sounded AMAZING. Riffs to make Christians squirm. I was also surprised how solid Bill Ward was since he was always the weak link before Ozzy's MTV celebrity and health issues... and of course Geezer is still the heavy foundation to it all, dog bless him.

As good as Sabbath were initially, Ozzy started to lose me as the set progressed.. First, Ozzy mooned the audience with his blindingly white ass... Then Ozzy stuck his head in a bucket of water.. Then, at 10:15pm, Ozzy threw buckets of water on the front row. The Dark Prince of Metal who I grew up with is now the Court Jester of Shenanigans.

My mind started to wander and I found myself more interested in figuring out how a guy in the row in front of us could still be throwing up after having spent the past 3 hours hurling chunks. I suppose it could be sublime seeing a guy wearing a Motörhead "Everything Louder Than Everything Else" shirt sitting in a puddle of his own vomit.. Then again maybe it was just gross. Thank Dog our seats weren't near that guy! He was like a Monty Python skit.

In stark contrast to Maiden's air guitar-playing crew guy, Sabbath's crew at stage left looked COMPLETELY bored. Their expressions would probably be the same if they were working a checkout line at WalMart. I guess that's why they call it "work".

I'll never grow tired of hearing "War Pigs" but, truth be told, how many more times do I really need to hear "Iron Man" and "Paranoid" again? Overplayed and overdone. Plus, Sabbath committed what I consider a cardinal sin for any Rock band: They played medleys of their songs.. They teased by launching into songs like "Symptom Of The Universe" and "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" but, alas, they were only intros into other songs (i.e. "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" > "Paranoid").

Timo and I bailed during "Paranoid".. As we walked back to the car, 2 tour buses with police motorcycle escort zoomed down the street past us. Ozzy has left the building!

Beer count = 2. Green Day shirts seen = 1. If you had bought one of every Maiden merch item you would have paid around $173. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. THE best shirt of the day was some kid who had taken a plain white t-shirt and wrote the names of his favorite bands on it with a permanent marker... and on the back he had written "Lars Ulrich Sucks".

The End.