WORDS BY CHANCE BARKLEY and PHOTOS BY MAURICE NUNEZ | Go Venue Magazine
Osbourne. Zombie. Manson. Seeing these legends all perform on the same bill in one night has been a dream of mine since I was 16 years old, but I had basically given up hope. “It’ll never happen. There would be too many egos involved and too much resistance from their record labels. Maybe they already did it years ago and I missed it,” I thought. Luckily, my pessimism was unfounded because the lineup for Ozzfest’s New Year’s Eve 2018 delivered! From the opening bands to the headliners, I wasn’t disappointed for one second of the 10 hour event. Sponsored by 95.5 KLOS, the madness began at 1:00pm in Irvine, California as the Forum’s parking lot was transformed into a pre-show party. Outside festivities included a wide array of food trucks (Trejos Tacos, Viking Dogs, etc), bars, and merchandise booths. The outdoor stage was rocked by 3 groups: Wednesday 13, Devildriver and Zakk Sabbath. Inside, Body Count, Johnathan Davis, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and headliner Ozzy Osbourne thrilled the massive crowd.
First, horror punk icon Wednesday 13 (Murderdolls, Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13) set the tone for a wild afternoon by opening his performance with the Murderdolls’ “Your Mother Sucks Cocks in Hell.” With black and white face-paint and almost all-black outfits, they looked intimidating, but were hilarious. “Fart is the word of the day,” yelled 13 as he coaxed fans into chanting it with him. Songs were fast and loud, with lyrics about literally loving your new spouse to death (“Die My Bride”), and the joys of cursing (“I Love to Say Fuck”). Props included an oversized pair of scissors and umbrella that, when opened, revealed a large middle finger. Overall, the band had great energy and were a fun way to kick things off.
Next up, Devildriver performed many classics from their early albums. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Devildriver periodically since 2004 when they were touring to support their first album, and they have always been brutal. This year, they delivered their brand of melodic death metal with blistering renditions of “Grinfucked,” “Clouds Over California,” and “End of the Line.” Dez Fafara’s (formerly of Coal Chamber) voice was incredibly strong as he roared and screamed through each selection from the group’s ever-growing catalog. The energy was palpable during their cover of the AWOLNATION hit “Sail.” Afterwards, Dez took a minute to deliver a P.S.A. about drunk driving that was as no-nonsense as their music. “Don’t be an idiot. Don’t drink and drive. You can kill somebody.”
“Supernaut” was the opening song of choice for Zakk Sabbath, a Black Sabbath tribute composed of Zakk Wylde (Ozzy, Black Label Society), Blasko (Ozzy, Rob Zombie) and Joey Castillo (Danzig, Queens of the Stone Age). This intimidating initial track signaled that the they were there to take no prisoners as they injected their own flavor into cuts from Black Sabbath’s stellar collection of hits. Wylde, sporting a B.L.S. vest and a colorful kilt, shredded his classic bull’s-eye Les Paul guitar as he effortlessly belted out melodies. The audience seemed to really appreciate how hard the band was working as they thrashed around to “Children of the Grave,” and sang along with the chorus of “Snowblind.” “Lord of This World” thrilled concertgoers as Wylde entered the pit to do the first of what proved to be several extended solos among the crowd. The assembly was in awe, since the seasoned guitarist never played a sour note and never missed a beat, even while leaving and returning to the stage. Fans sang along to the bridge as they concluded their set with an epic version of “N.I.B.”
The doors opened at 6:00pm, and thousands flooded into the warmth of the Forum. Security was more vigilant inside the venue, especially in the rows closest to the front. I was in the fourth row and saw them patrol constantly. They were intent on keeping people out of the aisles and removed anyone who was getting rowdy (starting circle pits or fighting).
Body Count, fronted by actor and lifelong metalhead Ice-T, was the initial group on the inside stage. “This is the first time I’ve played a show in 10 years where there wasn’t a pit, but that’s ok,” the singer noted as he gazed at the seating. He looked ready to get down to business as slowly paced the stage wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and a scowl. The crowd roared as the thrash rockers opened with “Raining in Blood/Postmortem 2017,” a variation of Slayer’s “Raining Blood.” Ernie C’s guitar work was seamless as the band played various hits from throughout their 30 year career. Their lyrics were more blatant regarding vast social issues than most of the other groups present, and covered topics like racism (“There Goes the Neighborhood”), classism (“No Lives Matter”) and police brutality (“Cop Killer”). At various points during the performance, Ice-T took time to rail against President Trump and the “pussification of men.” They finished up with the frontman’s autobiographical song, “This is Why We Ride,” which described the struggles of growing up in the ghetto and his experiences with the violence there. In all honesty, I had never heard any of the Body Count’s music before, much less seen them live. I had only heard the name tossed around briefly among metalheads with more knowledge than me. However, I am definitely a fan now.
After that, the energy shifted to a slower, more grooving and gothic direction. Bathed in red light for the entire set, Johnathan Davis (KORN) mostly performed material from his solo album Black Labyrinth. The audience seemed hypnotized by the compositions’ colorful mix of middle eastern instruments, melodic basslines, pulsing rhythms, and Davis’ haunting melodies floating through the music. The frontman was in good spirits, smiling often, and his singing seemed almost effortless. The opening song, “Underneath My Skin,” solidified that his performance would be much lighter than those that preceded it. Lyrics mostly revolved around problems with identity (“What It Is”), rejecting religion (“What You Believe”) and romantic love (“Basic Needs”). Two cuts from The Queen of the Damned Soundtrack, “Forsaken” and “System,” were pleasant surprises and reminders of Davis’ first big foray into creating music outside of KORN. Speaking of which, I wondered if he would do a couple KORN’s hits like “Freak on a Leash” or “Falling Away from Me,” but he did not. Overall, the setlist was slow and sensual, but still thoroughly entertaining.
However, the tempo accelerated as Marilyn Manson opened with “Rock is Dead” followed by “This is the New Shit.” Just before launching into a raw rendition of “The Fight Song,” the notoriously accident-prone frontman quipped about a past injury sustained in the venue. “Last time I was here…we played this next song and I broke my ankle right over there,” he pointed and reminisced. Manson’s stage show is also famous for its production value, and this performance was no exception. He left the stage multiple times and returned after changing costumes. This gave stage hands time to put set pieces in the appropriate places. At one point, he stood behind a 4 ft tall podium with a pink neon symbol on the front to lead the congregation in singing “Say 10.” He was wearing what appeared to be a red cardinal’s outfit. Later, he sported a dress made of large, black feathers and smoked what appeared to be a joint on stage. “I don’t like the drugs,” he said as the group played the opening riffs to the corresponding song. However, he then jokingly said “I fucking lied,” and the band launched into “Dope Show” instead. Next, he ventured into the crowd and was swarmed as he sang “The Beautiful People.” Afterwards, he stood behind an 8 ft podium with a flashing shock symbol on the front and sang “Antichrist Superstar.” He concluded his part of the show in a black hooded robe with his classic cover of “Sweet Dreams.”
Rob Zombie pumped up concertgoers further by opening with the pulsing beat of “Dead City Radio.” The consummate showman, Zombie ran and jumped across risers at the front of the stage for most of his performance. Huge screens behind him played clips from: anime, his movies and his music videos as the raucous rock star belted out old and new songs like “Superbeast, “Living Dead Girl,” “Well Everybody’s Fucking in a U.F.O.” and “Get High.” Later, he stepped into the audience and ran over the 2nd row of seats during the White Zombie hit “More Human Than Human.” He danced while a variety of large creatures (gorilla with space helmet, large cartoonish satan) lumbered around behind him. The band took a break as John 5, adorned with his signature black and white makeup and a white fur jacket, did an impressive solo. Zombie returned to the stage to talk about concerts before cellphones, and urged fans to put them away “for the next 3 minutes.” The guy beside to me continued to film on his device and Zombie called him out saying, “You. Yes, you. I can see you. Put that back in your pussy!” The group then launched into “Thunderkiss 65” before covering “Blitzkrieg Bop,” (Ramones) and “School’s Out” (Alice Cooper). At one point, he challenged concertgoers to engage in some “mayhem” and, near my seat, patrons responded by dismantling rows of chairs in favor of a pit. Fans were pushing each other and thrashing hard to the music before security ran in and broke it up. I saw a wild young man get dragged out by 4 security guards as he was trying to break free of their grip. Near the end, Zombie invited Manson and Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue) on stage to perform a cover of the infamous Beatles’ tune “Helter Skelter.” Seeing all three of them on stage was special, so I took my camera out of my pussy to film that one. Zombie closed his energetic performance with “Dragula.”
Near 11:30pm, the lights faded and “O Fortuna” blasted from the speakers to signal it was finally time for Ozzy’s set. I hadn’t seen him play live since 2007 during the Black Rain tour and was excited to see how different it would be. Screens displayed a video tracing Ozzy’s life and career from childhood to present day. Finally, the Prince of Darkness took his place on center stage and flew into a spirited rendition of “Bark at the Moon.” The 70 year old legend seemed incredibly spry as he ran back and forth and sounded strong as he belted out classic tracks like “Mr. Crowley,” “Suicide Solution,” and “No More Tears.” Ozzy pulled out all the stops for this show, using lasers, snow cannons, confetti blasters and a snow/foam gun (which covered my section repeatedly) to excite the audience. The New Year’s Countdown occurred halfway through and he wished everyone a happy 2019 as streamers and balloons dropped from the ceiling. During an extended solo/melody of songs, Zakk Wylde toured the back of the arena (reminiscent of his earlier set outside), and made various stops to melt faces along the way. In recent years, Wylde seems to have become less reliant on his signature pitch harmonics in favor of more riffs and classical noodling. Next, drummer Tommy Clufetos, did a thunderous solo before Ozzy returned to the stage to perform “I Don’t Wanna Change the World” and “Shot in the Dark.” The legendary frontman rounded out the night with “Crazy Train” before cheekily leading chants for “one more song.” Lastly, they did an encore of “Mama I’m Coming Home” and finished with “Paranoid.” It was interesting that the band played no material after 1991’s No More Tears, however the crowd didn’t seem to mind the lack of more recent hits. I love all his albums, but I certainly wasn’t complaining. It was an incredible set: Ozzy’s pitch was stellar and he nailed all the lyrics.
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better show. It was a dream come true to see such an amazing lineup, and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life! The best parts about Ozzfest’s logistics this year was that weather wasn’t a factor once we went inside the Forum, and there weren’t multiple stages with bands simultaneously competing for attention. During past versions of the festival, I was faced with the dilemma of choosing between two groups that were playing on different stages at the time. This year, I was able to watch all the artists, and there was also an air of positivity. Most folks in attendance were very happy/friendly. The performers were in good spirits, staff were approachable, and lots of charities benefited from ticket sales (Reps from the Love Hope Strength Foundation encouraged attendees to register as a bone marrow donor to combat blood cancer). The Forum was great and security wasn’t so tight or lax that people couldn’t enjoy themselves. Most of the venues accommodations were useful, but I would suggest skipping the VIP parking. If you arrive early enough, you can save the $15 by getting general admission. The vendors had a lot of variety of food and drink. I ordered a Sour Viking from the Viking Truck and I highly recommend it. I’ve always had a great time at Ozzfest, but this was the first year that the festival has coincided with New Year’s Eve. I really hope they make it an annual event, and if so, I strongly suggest that you go. I can’t image a better way to start the new year!