OZZFEST 2005 (Live)

in Indianpolis, Indiana, USA, July 31, 2005

OZZFEST is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2005, and on July 31, 2005, the tour made its way to Indianapolis, Indiana, on a day characterized by intense sun and sweltering heat. Currently at about the midway point of this year’s tour, Indiana fans were aghast to find, upon approaching the entrance gates, that Black Sabbath would not be playing on this day due to apparent health issues with Ozzy. Right from the get-go, this news put much of the attendees “off kilter,” and made for a memorable event … although perhaps not memorable in the way OZZFEST 2005 organizers envisioned.

Local radio had announced that due to Sabbath’s cancellation, persons not entering the venue would be entitled to a full refund of their otherwise “non-refundable” tickets. However, persons who decided to stick it out, would still be treated to some 19-odd bands, most on the “cutting edge” of Heavy Metal, capped off by Iron Maiden filling the “headliner’s” role. Since Maiden hasn’t played in Indianapolis for a number of years, the thought of a full headliner’s set by the “kings of death on the road” initially sounded like a pretty decent compromise … especially for those who attended last year’s Ozzfest and had already taken in a top-notch performance by the original Sabbath members.

Well, even sans Sabbath, the adage in the entertainment business is “The Show Must Go On” … and that’s exactly what happened. Early bands to take the stage before the sun starting wilting the concertgoers in the wee-hours of the morning included Wicked Wisdom, Gizmachi, and Soilwork. You gotta give the OZZFEST crew credit, by the way … these folks relentlessly got each band on for their 20 – 30 minute sets on the Second Stage within about 5 minutes of the prior act bidding their farewells. Considering about 14 bands played the Second Stage in total, this is more than an impressive feat, and has become an art within itself. In fact, the crew was so efficient that the bands were generally starting 10 minutes or so AHEAD of schedule throughout the day!

The crowd was strong in numbers by the time As I Lay Dying and Killswitch Engage took the stage towards the end of the Second Stage segment. People were jam-packed into virtually every crevice of the grassy area supporting the Second Stage, and were certainly enthusiastic and loud. The majority of the crowd appeared to be comprised of teenagers and persons in their early 20’s … with plenty of body piercings, tattoos, and provocative clothing (if not noticeably uncomfortable considering the weather). Makes sense, after all, since basically all of these 14 Second Stage bands are in the early years of their product life cycle. That is, except for the headliner of the Second Stage, Rob Zombie …

Rob Zombie

Rob Zombie, accompanied by guitarist John 5 from Marilyn Manson fame (in full Manson makeup), took the stage to a deafening roar. Bodies started to get passed overhead from the back to the front in a remarkably steady fashion, and the veteran security crew at Verizon Wireless Music Center picked them off the top near the bottom of the stage area in a manner similar to a professional baseball player catching routine fly balls in the outfield … the crew retrieved the fans before they fell to the ground, helped them to their feet, then with a pat on the tush, directed them to the makeshift reentry gate so they could get back into to the crowd to do it all again!

Fun stuff adding to the ambiance of Zombie’s set, which was excellent, and sounded great too. Zombie spent a good amount of time conversing with the audience, usually tongue-in-check, and announced that it was John 5’s birthday. As a gift, many of the well-endowed females in the crowd treated John 5 to a cornucopia of free boob shots … a gesture John 5 was evidently quite grateful for! In the end, classics such as “Dragula” and “More Human Than Human” stole the show, but Zombie’s entire 45-minute Second Stage headlining performance was indeed top notch and very entertaining … possibly the main highlight of the day. (Dan Skiba)

In Flames

The band In Flames had the pleasure, or maybe in this case the burden, of being the opening act on the Main Stage. The band played relatively loud to a pavilion crowd that was roughly one-third full. It seemed that the band suffered from being too close to the energetic show of the Second Stage’s popular closing act, Rob Zombie. Now you’d think with Sabbath canceling that POSSIBLY the organizers of the event would have cut the crowd a bit of slack and allowed In Flames to start a few minutes later, thus allowing the massive Second Stage contingent to make their way to their Main Stage seats before flipping the on switch. But Nooooooooooooo … within 5 minutes (or less) of Zombie wrapping up his gig, In Flames began their set. Not even persons with Press Access (i.e., the Metal Express Crew) could make it to Main Stage in time to catch the beginning of the In Flames set (thus the reason for no picture included within this paragraph).

To make matters worse, the fans that were at the Main Stage, for the most part, took limited participation in supporting In Flames. The Pavilion got eerily quiet for some reason, right before the band played “A Quiet Place.” This was likely due to the fact that the fan base that was already seated in the Main Stage area was comprised largely of Maiden and disgruntled Sabbath fans (i.e., the “over 30-year old segment” who was less interested in the Modern Metal acts). Even with limited crowd interaction, though, the band did a commendable job playing through tracks such as “My Sweet Shadow” and “Pinball Map.” (Scott Jeslis)

Black Label Society

The next band, Black Label Society (BLS), were well-received, mostly due to ex-Ozzy guitar slinger, Zakk Wylde, being the band’s main man. By the time BLS had taken the Main Stage, the crowd had filled in quite a bit more. Zakk treated fans in attendance to a lot of Jimi Hendrix-like guitar histrionics, replete with numerous solos, feedback, behind the back finger picking, and “teeth picking.” Zakk also made sure to change up guitars now and then by cycling through his crowd-pleasing favorites (e.g., the Polka-Dotted Flying V, Sawblade Les Paul, etc.). The band makes no secret of the fact that this is Zakk’s band, as he gets more than his share of high visibility.

The band was extremely loud; so much so that Zakk’s singing was pretty much non-discernable. There was adequate coverage from their new Mafia release, with “Suicide Messiah” (complete with actual bullhorn vocals) and “Fire It Up” among others. The band’s light show was decent too, considering the sun was still shining brightly. One surprising thing about the set is that Zakk appeared to need the assistance of lyric sheets. A stagehand would burst onto stage between groups of songs, taking and replacing large, clearcoat-protected sheets lying in front of Zakk’s monitor. An odd occurrence, but nothing that took away from the success of BLS’s set — overall, a guitar lover’s treat! (Scott Jeslis)

Shadows Fall

Shadows Fall took the stage next playing an energetic set to a mostly full pavilion area, with numbers now exceeding 19,000 total fans. There was plenty of thrashing and long, braided locks twirling by main man, Brian Fair. Brian did a commendable job of talking up the crowd to prove that he is indeed a very strong showman (other then slipping up about Black Sabbath coming on stage soon, when everyone in the house by that point knew otherwise – he showed obvious embarrassment when someone must have spoken in his ear that Sabbath had canceled for the night).

Lead guitarist Jonathan Donais proved that he was on top of his game by playing on-the-mark, sharp, fluid lead guitar. The band even overcame a small mishap as Donais had guitar trouble in the middle of one song. This resulted in him switching it out and he was literally out of the mix for nearly two minutes. Overall, the crowd was treated to loud, energetic renditions of “Thoughts Without Words,” “Stepping Outside The Circle,” and the current video track “Inspiration On Demand,” among others. (Scott Jeslis)


Gray - Mudvayne“It’s a F*#kin’ Rock Show … It’s a F*#kin’ Freak Show … It’s F*#kin’ Therapy” – These words from vocalist Chud Gray about summed up the set performed by Mudvayne, as the sun began to fall behind the trees of this Indianapolis venue. Coming out in a full gorilla suit, complete with a black derby hat and a baseball bat, Gray looked like a cross between Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare On Elm Street movies, Alice Cooper, and Wendy O. Williams of The Plasmatics. Along with Ryan Martinie on bass, shirtless but wearing a cape, Mudvayne hit the stage with brute force and energy, and was able to keep up the pace for a solid 45 minutes.

The problem of the day on the Main Stage was the volume (as mentioned above) … there were no issues on the Second Stage earlier, but the Main Stage sound engineers simply had it turned up too high, again causing the vocals to essentially be drowned out, and the guitars and bass sounds were mashed together into a musical blender of oblivion. Despite the sound anomalies, Mudvayne kept the crowd into it, and their set, which was a mix from each release, was generally very well received by the masses. (Dan Skiba)

Iron Maiden

You could feel the anticipation brewing in the audience as the stage was assembled for “the kings of death on the road,” Iron Maiden. The band blasted onto stage with “Murders In The Rue Morgue,” and treated the audience to a trip down memory lane with a 14-song set comprised of “classics” off of the band’s first 4 albums. The most notable aspect of the band’s performance was the presence of a stage show … not quite to the level found back in the 80’s, but a cool gargoyle-ish Satan arose from behind the stage for “The Number Of The Beast,” and of course, there was Eddie … still dead and well! These scripted highlights, coupled with an energetic Bruce Dickinson and Steve Harris on bass, along with numerous backdrop changes, made for a solid stage show to accompany the solid musicianship of the band (with their 3-guitar attack!).

The only negative marks of this show were (again) the volume level, along with Janick Gers’ Hair Metal antics and never-ending guitar flips and tricks that seemed to stick out like a sore thumb throughout the show. Janick was in his own little world out there … and it seemed the rest of the band wanted to keep him encapsulated and isolated in his 80’s Hair Metal fantasyland. That aside, “Run to The Hills,” “”Wrathchild,” and “Running Free” (during the encore) were enthusiastically embraced during the set, and Dickinson put on a clinic to the younger bands out there of how to keep the audience engaged throughout their set.

Maiden, when Sabbath headlines, is scheduled to play a 60-minute set … the fans, quite frankly, being told Maiden was headlining this day’s event, expected much more than the 75-minute set that Maiden delivered. The band appeared on top of its game, but it would have been a nice and welcome gesture to all of the “old time” Metal fans that weathered the day to fill up some of the dead space created by Sabbath’s cancellation. (Dan Skiba)

Overall, subject to a few glimpses of greatness, this stop of OZZFEST 2005 was a disappointment. The event has always been a vehicle to showcase what’s new in Metal … and that’s great, however, “what’s new” in Metal has typically been relegated to the Second Stage. Fans of “Classic” Metal – the typical Sabbath and Maiden fans, to be specific – normally can rest assured that once the Main Stage acts hit, “more familiar” music will be served up. That wasn’t the case this year. New Wave of American Heavy Metal bands dominated both stages this year, meaning fans of “clean vocals” were likely to the point of rather hearing fingernails scratching down a blackboard before Maiden took the stage.

The sound engineers on the Main Stage blew it too, making each band sound far inferior to what they were capable of generating. Lastly, with Sabbath canceling, the organizers forcing the start of the In Flames set so quickly after Zombie’s awesome set was nothing short of thoughtless and inconsiderate. All could have been forgiven, however, if Maiden would have picked up the time gap created by Sabbath’s no-show … but that opportunity to “make it right” with the audience was foregone too. In the end, definitely NOT an OZZFEST for the history books.


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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