With a crisp, clear, serene sky above, Ozzfest 2003 roared into New Jersey with the force of a hurricane. The large crowd rocked through the day into the night upon the amazing performances of bands like Chimaira, Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, Disturbed and Korn.
The early risers who made it to PNC at or before the doors opened at 9 a.m. were forced to wait an hour and a half until the festival actually began, a full hour after the original start time. Through no fault of their own, organizers had to push back the set times after Nothingface (personal reasons) and grade 8 (no more tour support from their label) dropped off of the tour the prior week. Things would have been even later as Depswa (also lost their tour support) also had to leave but New Jersey’s own E Town Concrete joined to fill that slot.
On this particular date it was E Town‘s turn to open the second stage and that they did with fervor. Ripping through a powerful but short set, E Town managed to get some bodies moving despite the morning hour. Most likely, had the group had a later set time, they would have reached more of the crowd. Those few that were awake reacted best of course to the band’s single “Mandibles“.
Following them was another band that would have garnered a better reaction with a later set time, Chimaira. Primarily playing tracks off of their latest release, The Impossibility of Reason, the sextet had one of the best sets of the day, punctuated by a Braveheart. For those not in the know, a Braveheart is when the crowd parts and then crashes back into each other upon cue forming a huge mosh pit. As Chimaira‘s lead singer Mark has been tabbed the Metal Moses by some of the press, they call it Parting the Red Sea. It was an impressive move but, again, one that would have had more impact later in the day.
The body painted Motograter attempted to follow with their brand of nu metal but received a very mixed reaction, mostly poor. The Australian group Memento was next and had a small but loyal legion of fans that embraced their melodic hard rock. The lead singer, with a white stripe painted down the middle of his shaved head, leaned into the crowd in a very poignant moment. Upstart group Hotwire came on Memento‘s heels with an emo/metalcore set that was highlighted with a guest appearance by Howard Jones, Killswitch Engage‘s vocalist. Howard would have to wait a half hour until it was his shot as Twisted Method took the stage after Hotwire. Twisted Method had one of the more outrageous fashion styles of the day – their lead singer had white furry pantaloons, high socks, glitter and paint on his chest and rooster spiked hair. Their music could not match, with a set of generic melodic nu metal.
Howard retook the stage with KsE and had one of the best sets of the day. Playing just a few songs off of Alive or Just Breathing, KsE was tight and in control with a great fan reaction. The kids were able to keep the emotions going as Shadows Fall followed with another amazing set of metal. These are two Massachusetts bands that are finally getting the recognition that they deserve.
Unloco and Endo were the next two bands to take the stage and unfortunately for them, a good portion of the crowd seemed to be recuperating from the prior sets. By the time Sworn Enemy came up the kids were back and into the band’s brand of hardcore. Voivod was able to capture some of that energy, but most in attendance had no idea of the songs, just watched to see Metallica‘s Jason Newsted on bass. Second stage headliner Cradle of Filth had a very devoted following in attendance to watch them tear through their set with two performance actors on stage with them stilt walking, gyrating and belt sanding (sending showers of sparks around).
As per usual, most of the bands took some time after their sets to sign autographs at the various sponsored tents. But, getting one of the biggest turnouts, was someone not even on the tour, Kerry King of Slayer. King signed at the Jagermeister tent to promote this fall’s Jagermeister tour (Arch Enemy, Hatebreed and Slayer).
On the other side of the hill Chevelle started the main stage with one of the most laid back sets of the day. Much like as they were on Music as a Weapon 2, Chevelle just opened for Disturbed. Dave Draimen and company had probably the biggest and best fan reaction of the day throughout their entire set. It would prove to be a stark contrast to the ambivalence showed to Marilyn Manson. With every other word being “motherf***er”, Manson must have sensed it as well. Amazing that in the two years since his last Ozzfest appearance the winds could change so strongly. Even classics like “The Beautiful People” and “Sweet Dreams” (which seemed to be played half heartedly) couldn’t get the people back into it.
Jonathan Davis and Korn played a good, solid set hitting all of their great tracks from “A.D.I.D.A.S.” and “Shoots and Ladders” to “Got The Life” and “Did My Time“.
As always Ozzy capped off a great day with a typical set of his classics – “Mr. Crowley“, “Iron Man“, “I Don’t Know“, “Paranoid“, etc. While he is still Ozzy F***in’ Osbourne, sadly Ozzy is definitely losing it. In between songs he muttered unintelligibly, had seemed to have trouble reading the teleprompter and had his hands shake almost uncontrollably. It is always amazing to see Ozzy live, but he is slowly deteriorating and perhaps even tarnishing an illustrious career. Thankfully he was backed by the stellar work of guitar god Zakk Wilde, drummer Michael Bordin and Voivod‘s Newsted (on double duty).
With the sun long set, the show proved to be as pristine as the weather, and this Ozzfest was another year to remember.