Diversity thrives in Ozzfest’s pits

Nick Dobbins

Going into Ozzfest 2001, having no experience at all with the heavy metal debauchery that its bands and performers are lauded for, it was easy to let prejudices decide that I would be forced to deal with 20,000 drunk and rowdy heavy metal fans.

Looking out on the crowd packed into the intimate and energized second stage housing the bands playing before the main stage opened in the evening, my first surprise came: diversity. Granted, the metal heads were there; beer-bellied shirtless old men packed in close with the pale, skinny, pierced and black-clad kids at the front of the stage; but there were others. As prevalent as the stereotypical hardcore rock believers were the equally stereotyped mainstream frat boys and their sorority girlfriends – a small sea of khaki shorts and visors perched on the hillside to the back. Then there were the punks, the twelve year olds on musical explorations with parents in tow, a raver or two complete with white veils covered in Life-Savers and Powerpuff Girls backpacks, and even (gasp!) quite a few people I couldn’t immediately judge and classify.

This, I assumed, was a new occurrence. A class of people drawn to the concert by trendy, flash-in-the-pan main stage acts like Papa Roach and Crazy Town. People who were here for one year and one year only, and would forget about these bands as soon as MTV did, giving the festival back to the true metal fans in the coming years.

The crowd disagreed. Even when I may have led them a little, trying to get someone to talk about this new breed of metal fans, they attested to the devotion of the many-flavored crowd.

Jeff Andros, an Ozzfest regular since its conception, responded to my thoughts on a new kind of fan.

“Actually, no. It’s all ages, and it seems like all of us come out,” Andros said of the crowd. “We’re all different kinds of people, everyone seems to get a long real well.”

Missy Antenucci, a 22 year-old fan from the sorority girl side of the fence, agreed with his thoughts on the crowd over the years.

“Nope, we’re exactly the same. A buncha drunk-ass people having a good time.”

Like everyone else, she has seen little change in the three years that she has been making the pilgrimage from Des Moines, Iowa to Somerset. And like the majority of people there, she went to see Ozzy, the everlasting godfather of metal.

So maybe this music isn’t just the only alternative to N’Sync and Brittney Spears, or maybe it has been the only alternative for the past few years, breeding a base of fans with no place else to go. Maybe Ozzfest is just the best place to get drunk and see the bands behind the videos, or maybe all these different people actually really like this music.

For whatever reason, metal has its fans, and you may not be able to recognize them on first glance. They may be your neighbors, your classmates or your closest friends. Who knows, maybe you’re even a metal head. So be warned, they’re out there.