Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
On May 11 and 12, 2013, Ozzfest will make its grand return… in Japan. Ok, so this is probably a bigger deal for fans who live in Japan. However, could the first ever Japanese edition of Ozzfest indicate bigger plans for the once predominant touring festival? In other words, is Ozzfest coming back to the States this coming summer? That’s the question Bram, Kodi and Zach are debating in this week’s Headbangers’ Brawl.
Zach: I have a hunch that it’s not coming back to the U.S. in 2013 (or at least not as a tour). But first, let’s discuss why it would seem plausible for Ozzfest to return. As proven by Ozzfest Japan and the newly announced Australian dates, Black Sabbath is obviously gearing up for more shows. Not only would Ozzfest be a good excuse for Sabbath to tour the States, but it would also give the touring festival an enormous attraction its 2010 attempt lacked. In other words, Black Sabbath is what could give Ozzfest life again.
Now here’s why I doubt that will happen: Black Sabbath doesn’t need Ozzfest. Maybe they would if Sabbath had done more festival dates last year as originally planned. But since they only did one U.S. date thanks to Tony Iommi’s battle with cancer, a full Black Sabbath headlining tour is still a major attraction in and of itself. In fact, I’ll be so bold as to suggest that a Black Sabbath solo-headlining tour would make more money than a Sabbath-headlined Ozzfest. Not because one is a bigger attraction than the other, but because of how costly a touring festival is.
If Ozzfest 2010 (which remember only had six dates, four of which were in the Northeast) was a bigger success, then maybe Ozzfest would return to the States in 2013. But it wasn’t, and to me it makes more sense to have Sabbath tour by itself then spending more money on a bigger summer tour package and compete with the likes of Mayhem Fest, Warped Tour and anything else that might enter the market. If the name Ozzfest does reappear in the States, though, it won’t be as the entity we knew it as.
Bram: I’ve gotta think that Ozzfest is going to come back in some aspect – but I don’t think it has to. There are more summer options for metal fans than ever, with Mayhem, Uproar, Warped and Gigantour, alongside destination festivals like Maryland Death Fest, Orion and Rock on the Range.
But if there’s one thing we know about Ozzy and his wife/manager, they’re not going to walk away from money. And with Sabbath coming out with an album, presumably next year, they’re definitely going to tour, given that Tony Iommi is healthy. Them headlining Ozzfest would be a great way to get people to see them, and since Slipknot headlined Mayhem last year, it’d make a lot of sense to have them play Ozzfest in America as well. One factor that would probably make it more of a destination festival or limited amount of shows: health issues. Neither Ozzy or Iommi will probably want to go out on a grueling multiple-date tour, so I think if/when it returns, it will be as a five or six-date tour. And the drawing power of Sabbath would likely make it more successful than 2010’s.
Kodi: Ozzfest was such a huge part of my formative metal dude years. The 2006 edition had System of a Down headlining, a pre-Colors Between the Buried and Me, a nearly-done Strapping Young Lad and a stage presence-laden show from Disturbed that I feel no shame in having loved. Without that 2-hour pilgrimage from West Virginia with my then-bandmates (who didn’t yet understand my heavier obsessions) to the Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, VA, I don’t know if I’d care nearly as much about seeing awesome live music in an outdoor space as I do now. It holds a huge place in my memory, and on that principle alone, I’d love for it to come back more than anything.
The only thing is, it’s like Bram said: there are simply so many good choices that have replaced Ozzfest since it went away. Gigantour has always felt like more of an indoor thing, but Mayhem did an amazing job of picking up the slack for Ozzfest over the past few years. As MDF continues to grow and Orion likely returning in 2013, the huge summer show market is starting to look crowded. But you know what? If Ozzfest can find a way to be profitable, I’m all for it. It just seems like the competition has never been tougher, even with the mighty Black Sabbath on board.