Hot Summer Days like this One usually remind me of havin’ cookouts and journeying through music-filled festival grounds in an appreciative daze.
Even when the festivals I attended were incredibly upbeat and badass as Ozzfest was during the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s. These Ozzfests were definitely more fun and fulfilling than any other day-long concerts I had been to, and always had a winding, topsy-turvy evil circus side-show-type feel to them, a brutal dose of dropped guitar chugs and maniacal war cries always underlying the spread of expanse setup at each show. The wonderful thing about these festivals was that, even as a young teen, there was usually a feeling that arose in me, upon frolicking the tents and stages of this hearty world-traveled freak-show entourage, that I wasn’t supposed to be there. Except, in reality, I always knew I really was supposed to be there; this wonderworld of revelatory heavy-metal music led by the Prince of Darkness himself was catered to children! How exciting!
It was for me, at least. For example, I always knew that Marilyn Manson was a positive role model for kids because I understood and agreed with him. Not to mention him and his band’s music being a fresh new take and poise on this featured “genre that was dying music,” as Phil Anselmo humbly admonishes, and then proves incorrect as his fans uproariously respond intensely to the suggestion of Heavy Metal dying, in Pantera’s legendary Official Live: 101 Proof, on Heavy Metal Music. Anyway, “Nu Metal,” the so-called sub-genre of Heavy Metal Music that Ozzfest featured bands of, and is what kept this type of music thriving during its time, at least, is dead in its original form, and has been every since Lynn Strait crashed his car with him and his poochie. (See: Get Some) I attended quite a few Ozzfests throughout the years, even though there were a couple of monumental Ones I regrettably missed that featured Tool and Pantera, in all their 1990’s heavy glory.
Thankfully, though, I still managed to receive incredibly enjoyable heavy live music fixes from the likes of Slipknot, System of a Down, Coal Chamber, Static-X, Mudvayne, and Disturbed; during their heavy, startling domination of their heyday, through and to the point when the overall general excitement for seeing these bands live seemed to tragically crash-land like a New York airliner meant for Los Angeles into a deserted field in Iowa. No pun intended.
Out of the wicked intense Summer Ozzfests I attended at Great Woods in Massachusetts, with friends, or just alone, One great experience comes bearing to the forefront of my mind more than any other. It was immediately prior to 9/11. My best bud D. Ratt. and I had third-row seats for the Main Stage acts, of which ultimatley climaxed emotionally with the dark performance of the legendary Black Sabbath, all original members. This was long after their “Last Supper” tour, mind you. (Go figure?)
The third-row seats we had were far stage-left: the spot traditionally reserved for the rock guitarist. This meant that we would be in face-looking range of the epic Tony Iommi! I was really looking forward to what I could depict from his guitar-picking and facial expressions later that night, but I still had the whole day ahead of me, and I typically like to arrive at these things when they open, at 9AM, when, actually in my opinion was usually when most of the really sickest, innovative, heaviest bands of the second stage would go out. At Great Woods, between stages, there’s this high-rise grassy hill that cuts into the air half as high as the treetop line and we would usually go there to smoke joints I had previously labeled with the band’s name that was currently playing in the distance at the time, and then walk right up to see them directly as they came on. It was so chill.
Then The Union Underground came on. They’re like a cross between Powerman 5,000 and Alice in Chains. I was a big fan and I was really looking to feel what these guys could bring live. I actually remember some young audience member dudes standin’ around with over-priced beer cups, who had never heard of these guys, have impressed looks on their faces as they watched them, more than just because they were stoned. I distinctly remembered seeing One hot rocker audience-goer among the crowd clad in black leather who was a bit older than the rest. He was obviously enjoying the set, which included songs about tripping with Jesus and Lucy being in the Sky again. You know it’s a good set when it seems it just started and they’re already chuckin’ drumsticks into the crowd. This was One such performance. D. Ratt., fierce-faced beside me and ready, as I, to embrace the metal, concurred.
“Yo, I’m gonna go take a piss,” I said, and turned for the restrooms with a sense of urgency to arrive there before all other onlookers still dazed from the harsh silent wake of what The Union Underground had left behind it. In a hazy rush on the way to the bathroom to unload a bladder full of beer urine I caught sight again of that older rocker dude who was clad in black leather, noticing his mustache and goatee and neck-length brown hair. “Damn,” I remember distinctly saying to myself, “that guy looks an awful lot like Tony Iommi.
In the pissing trough-man-hideout-well that always acted as water refuge havens at festivals until the water pipes broke, I overheard some drunk dude say to his friend at the adjacent urinal as he was pissin’, “Yo, bro, there’s a crazy Tony Iommi look-a-like out there– his doppelganger! For real, bro, you won’t believe it! Hahaa!” he said with increased drunken emphasis. “Yah right, man,” the other replied, shaking his head and dick at the same time, “I’ve seen his look-a-likes. There’s a lot out there.”
After meeting up with D. Ratt., I consulted him. “Dude,” I said, “I think I just saw Tony Iommi in the crowd earlier, during The Union Underground. He was just by himself, rockin’ out. Like, for real.”
My bud looked at me and said with a huge frown, “during The Union Underground?! Naw, why would Tonny Iommi be alone here in the crowd of The Union Underground in Massachusetts? Just doesn’t make sense. He’s probably tail-gating with Marilyn Manson right now telling tour stories.”
I admitted that, yes, that was a much more likely scenario to occur then him just randomly rocking out at that seemingly arbitrary certain place and time, and it was not discussed again at all between us.
That night, just after the last bit of sunlight faded away from ol’ jolly Great Woods and D. Ratt. and I were super-braced for the epic conclusion of Ozzfest ‘01, Black Sabbath went on stage. And, I’ll just say straightaway that I saw, as Tony Iommi, legendary metal master of mystery himself, came out on stage and picked up his guitar and started playing it, I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see him clad in the very same black leather getup I saw him wearing earlier that day.
“See?! I told you!” I cried to my buddy, “It was him afterall!”
There was not much response from him.
Maybe it wasn’t as surprising to D. Ratt. because he hadn’t actually seen him earlier that day himself. But I did. And, ever since that great, fun hot Summer of 2001, I’ve had a higher sense of reassurance that my instincts hold true, and are accurate, and are sometimes, as in this case, synchronistically spiritual. May the Force of Metal be with You All! -MIKE EYE / darkesoterika.com
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