Ozzfest::First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre::08/17/10
I ran down to Ozzfest on a Tuesday here in Chicago. Upon arrival I met up with Front Of House engineer and someone I’ve known for many years, Greg Price. Greg has mixed Ozzy for a very long time. He also is one of those guys who works the top-tier acts whenever he’s available. He’s what’s known as “highly employable.” He’s also extremely gracious and a pleasure to deal with. Once we were in the backstage area we got to sit down with Greg and Myles Hale, who is Ozzy’s Monitor Engineer. We chatted for about fifteen minutes on camera about the finer elements of professional touring.
I had shipped an unusual piece of gear to Ozzy earlier in the week. There was a request for our SCM262 mixer – not a piece that is usually on a stage. This one wasn’t either. It turns out that it goes in Ozzy’s traveling entertainment center. Greg took me back in to the dressing room to see the monster he had constructed for his boss. Sure enough, there was the mixer in amongst loads of other gear, including Marshall cabinets for speakers. I think you could have fit two or three wardrobes in the space this beast would have occupied.
After we had wrapped up I grabbed everything and went to go pack up. Around about this time I noticed that someone else was strolling in the same direction. This person is someone I seem to take a short, incidental walk with whenever we are in the same venue, though I hardly think he notices. He also happens to sing for a little band named Judas Priest. Halford was solo this time out. He noticed a few people hanging out by the backstage fence, and diverted himself to go say hello and sign a few things. That is an extremely admirable thing in an artist. A few understand that they owe their livelihoods to those loyal followers.
After putting everything away I heard thumb-squealing in the background. This was a signature thumb-squeal though. I instantly recognized that Black Label Society had started their headline slot on the second stage. I ran over there quickly to see part of the show and chat with my friend Dave Allen, who has been Zakk’s FOH for years now.
After that set I returned to the backstage of the main amphitheater and briefly stopped to chat to a manager friend of mine who was rushing to get his band, Nonpoint, to the stage. I ran around front for their set. An energetic lot, those lads.
Our photographer, Paul, had shot Nonpoint and we met back in the lounge to take a break for a while. Soon Halford came on. He’s a vocalist like no other. I’ll confess to liking Priest shows when I had the preconception that I would not. Halford solo, while not the same as a Priest show, is engaging in its own right.
During Motley Crüe I mostly camped in the lounge. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m just not that in to hair metal. Gotta say though, the crowd was in to it. I did manage to walk towards what would be my perch for the start of Ozzy’s show while they were playing. En route I saw a guy ducked down by a road case with his fingers in his ears. It looked like he was trying to talk on the phone. “That’s a weird place to make a call,” I thought. Just then – BOOM! Crüe had been a soundtrack to a pyro show all night and I had forgotten to put in my earplugs before running backstage. My mistake. Those plugs were in after about two seconds.
I watched Ozzy’s show from the side of the stage. I was right behind Blasko’s (bass player) tech, Grape. Blasko is also a recent addition to the Shure family of endorsers. He’s a mercenary player who found his place with Ozzy. I had hoped to get him on camera that day, but we ended up chatting over at their hotel the next day (again, video coming to our YouTube channel).
While standing on the side I would occasionally peek in to the pit to check on Paul. See, Paul and Ozzy have this history together. Many, many, many years ago Paul shot this photo:
So they know each other. Nowadays there’s a game of let’s-hit-Paul-with-the-fire-hose that Ozzy likes to play while wearing a maniacal grin. And Paul knows when and where to duck…most of the time. This time he played his side of the game to perfection. The crowd looked like they had just come from a foam party. Paul was dry as a bone. Well done, sir!
I caught the first half of the show from Blasko’s spot and then wound my way out to the FOH , where I stayed with Greg through the remainder of the show. The encore ended up being “Crazy Train,” which was masterfully played on guitar by a nine year-old kid from Japan. He tore through the song and in to the solos, at which point Ozzy picked him up and held him aloft, just as he did with Randy Rhodes.
Another Ozzfest in the books, I bade my friends goodbye and drove the long way home.