Themed music festivals have taken over the summer tours schedule in recent years, and this year seemed to offer a festival for every conceivable stereotype. The now eight-year-old Lollapalooza festival caters to young suburban slackers, while the H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons Of Rock Developing Everywhere) aims at neo-hippies, Smokin' Grooves draws in hip-hop followers, the Further Festival pulls in older, nostalgic hippies, the WARPED tour attracts punk, ska, and skateboarding enthusiasts, and the Lilith Fair celebrates female singer/songwriters. Only the R.O.A.R. (Revelations of Alternative Rhythms) Tour didn't seem to attract much of any one group--save the cult following of headliner Iggy Pop, who then dropped out after sustaining a serious shoulder injury from a stage dive.
Unwilling to pass on the latest trend (or perhaps just out to prove that there truly is no rest for the wicked), the former rock-and-roll retiree and original bat-biting godfather of heavy metal, Ozzy Osbourne himself, put together his own festival this summer and dubbed it with the catchy (if somewhat predictable) moniker: Ozzfest 97.
The big news centered on Osbourne's reunion with his former bandmates in Black Sabbath, who performed the night's final set on the main stage. Other main stage acts who performed after dark or in twilight included Osbourne with his most recent band, Marilyn Manson (for the tour's last nine dates), and Pantera. Type O Negative, Fear Factory, Machine Head, and Powerman 5000 performed on the main stage early in the day. The festival also offered its patrons the chance to visit Never Never Land, where second stage acts Downset, Vision of Disorder, Coal Chamber, Slo Burn, Neurosis, and Drain Sth performed. Plus, attendees could also take advantage of various piercing and tattoo booths as well as plenty of T-shirt and other merchandise vendors to add to their already singular fashion statements.
"This is the first time in my life that I have ever felt conservative," LD Butch Allen laughs. "I've seen more unusual body piercings, makeup applications, and tattoos than I ever have before."
Allen contends that you couldn't find four more different acts on the main stage, "unless we threw Kenny G into the mix or something. Pantera is a really hardcore, flash-and-bang, speed metal, outrageous Texas experience, and then you've got Marilyn Manson which is this theatrical show--it's such an overwhelming shift from Pantera, like night and day," explains the LD. "Then after them you go back in time to Ozzy's set and Black Sabbath.
Not only did Allen's design have to account for so many bands, but there was an even tighter-than-usual time crunch on this tour. Most days off were effectively travel days for the crew. "This whole event is really a story of cooperation. Every day, the rig went up, but we had no time for maintenance, and no time to interact, because it had to go up every day and we needed every single person," Allen says. "Everybody had to work together--the sound guys' side fills were going up the same time as the lighting rig, and the backline guys were rolling in then, too. We needed to come up with some little tricks day to day to make it happen. More times than not we were focusing while bands were playing because there just wasn't a minute to spare. You had to define your territory like an old tomcat in the morning."
Allen came up with a design he calls conventionally unconventional. "It's your big, fabulous 172 PAR can show because not only did the rig have to accommodate several different acts, it had to be flexible enough to work in stadiums, arenas, and sheds. I used absolutely the same system everywhere; we just had to be flexible with our rigging. So, some days it was set up in its normal, beautiful, asymmetrical plan, and other days it was lined up to be 20' [6m] center on smaller roofs. And there were days when we had to cut the trusses for the backdrops down to 40' [12m] from the normal 60' [18m]."
The rig, which was supplied by The Obie Company, also included High End Systems Dataflash(R) AF1000 strobe units. "We also had lots of Wybron Colorams and they never broke--they're awesome," Allen says. "With the lack of time, any gear that needed maintenance out there would not have survived." A Wholehog II desk controlled all of the equipment, which LDs Ethan Weber (Marilyn Manson) and Sonny Satterfield (Pantera) also used for their shows.
"Pantera played later in the evening before Manson joined us, so we had a few things programmed for Sonny should it get dark: a whole color show, and his amber yellow/open white daylight looks," Allen says. "But he brought in his own smoke, and they had so much of it that you could see his show. I have never in my life met an LD with better timing than Sonny. He is the executioner. Unbelievable. He's been with them since they were a club band and no one knows their music like he does. He finds moments in it that are really fun. He never misses a cue or a bump."
Marilyn Manson's more theatrical show strayed far from traditional smoke and beams looks, but also used a lot of smoke. "Ethan used two desks--he's amazing. If he were calling spots at the same time, he'd have multiple personalities," Allen says. "They were both great to work with. But definitely the biggest challenge in putting this together was how not to make the rig specific for myself. And keep it open enough so that the other two designers could find a little something to work with."
>From Weber's perspective Allen more than succeeded. "Manson wanted to recreate some of the theatricality of his solo shows in the Ozzfest set, so we brought in some drapes, a few special effects, and some supplemental floor lighting. Even though we came in and disrupted their routine for the last nine shows, Butch and the Obie crew couldn't have been any more accommodating to both me and Steve Wojda, our Upstaging representative.
"Butch was great--he programmed for everybody, and was at the console for the start of each band's set to make sure that everything was okay," Weber continues. "His design was unselfish--nothing too fancy, so it worked well for all of us. There was plenty of white light, color changers, and big washes, which was perfect for those of us whose bands were on in the late afternoon or early evening. I've done too many festivals that had rigs with interesting truss shapes, but with colors and focuses that didn't really work for anyone."
Yet Allen regrets that the other LDs did not have any time to program on the tour. "Our one week of production rehearsals flew by, so they had to just look at the plot and submit lists of cues written out. Whenever I found a few minutes during the day, I'd blast them into the desk," Allen says. "Load-in was at 6am, doors at noon, first band at 1:30pm. When you first step into a project like this, you can never realize what you've gotten yourself into until all seven bands' worth of gear are sitting onstage and you still haven't started focusing yet. That's when you had better organiz e yourself in a hurry, because this is about to eat you alive. But if you get good people who all want to work together, and you're all working hard, you can still turn out a quality product and have a good time."
Certainly a good time was had by the fist-pumping Black Sabbath fans who have waited for years for Ozzy to rejoin the band. Allen worked very closely with Osbourne's manager and wife, Sharon Osbourne, on the concept for Black Sabbath's set, which was to focus on the 1970s. "We had a laser, a mirror ball, and a lack of automated equipment. Ozzy doesn't need a light show--he is the man. They are there to see him during the part with Ozzy and his band. But when we switched over to Sabbath, we needed to shift the whole scene," Allen explains. "On the Ozzy set we had the distressed, old, run-down theatre look. I got the idea for the set from Stan Crocker in last October's LD article about Ozzy's show.
"Everything Stan said was true about the show being a circus with Ozzy as the ringmaster," Allen continues. "He wants the audience lights on for almost the whole show because he gets all of his energy from being able to see the kids. So you can take subtlety and put it in a suitcase and send it to Simon Sidi. I have a great deal of respect for the subtlety of his Tori Amos work--it's gorgeous. But on this show, behind 10 open-white Molefays that burn for an hour and 15 minutes, you can't see a thing. And Ozzy doesn't like smoke, but that actually helps with the video, because if there's smoke in the air, the FOH camera can't get Ozzy."
After Osbourne's set, the drops all rotated to black, and all the way upstage center another drop was revealed. "Atomic Design, using Wildfire UV paint, made me this beautiful cut drop of crosses, with invisible blue paint and orange and yellow--it was almost like being in someone's basement with a big blacklight poster of Black Sabbath from 1970," Allen says. "Tait Towers built the set for us, and as it's all soft goods it really took a lot of thinking, especially the fabrication of the rotating legs. Tait is brilliant. They just do it. They have this really cool traveler track that is a 10' (3m) section of truss with three traveler tracks built permanently into it. We had 120' (37m) of that to accommodate my two drops, Manson's three drops, Pantera and Type O Negative's drops--we had 8-10 drops on six tracks.
"Everybody wanted their own backdrops, so it saved us because we had no time to hang six individual travelers every day," Allen continues. "It has a mechanism on it that is like the switcher on a train track, so you can route different pieces of soft goods to different tracks. If we needed to strike something, we could move it into an open position and roll it right off the track and into a hamper. As the day progressed we were able to load out after each act."
As the last set out, Sabbath's show alone boasted a laser and a 4' mirror ball. "Michael Morehead from Laser Media came to our rehearsals and did the programming for us," Allen says. "Sharon requested putting them into the show, and she asked for laser pyramids and a graphic. We ended up making some crosses that morphed into this Satan/Sabbath logo--and the kids go nuts for it every night. We do nothing but traditional 1970s laser effects: 180-degree fans, typical air scanning, and beam chases. But it's a real young crowd, so they just haven't seen this in their lives. Our audience has actually been recycled on us. It's like bringing back spats and having a new generation think that it's cool.
"So the whole look was very retro. I found new fun in a PAR can, which I'd forgotten how to do, because the last few tours I've done have had all automated lights, and the one thing an automated show can afford you is the ability to use every light in every song," Allen continues. "But a PAR can allows you the ability to sit back and have fun and find the moment, which I think I'm going to do more of because it really was cool. And simple. You forgetthat less is more sometimes."
But the LD would not have been comfortable with less video support. "I don't ever want to go anywhere without my Jumbotron again," he says. "It's more than a light, it's a television. It's a letterboxed movie screen and a piece of my backdrop--they actually shot the backdrop and put it up on the screen sometimes so the screen disappeared into it. It is just the most brilliant piece of technology, works like a charm, looks great, and when you put it up in all white, it blows people's eyes out of their heads. I love it."
Having recently finished up with AC/DC's last tour, video director Pat Paulson is a veteran of heavy metal tours. "He's very creative--he came up with this comic book for 'No More Tears.' It's a pornographic serial killer comic book that goes with the song, and it's just great. It's the centerpiece of the whole show," Allen says. "All night long with those Molefays blasting on people's faces, the only way people can see Ozzy all night is with the closeups of him on the Jumbotrons. I could probably have lost about 90% of my lighting rig, but as long as we had that Jumbotron we'd have been all right."
Before Ozzy actually hits the stage there is a funny Forrest Gump-like movie that puts Osbourne in Pulp Fiction and Star Trek, and pairs him with Beavis and Butthead, Princess Di, and Elvis. "It just has new parts added to the one they had last year," Allen says. "I have a feeling that the show is primarily unchanged from last year. I imagine the set list was pretty close too, but it's Ozzy, so you never know. They gave us set lists at the beginning of the tour and I stopped using them because he just started yelling out songs.
"All the 'link' looks between songs have to be pretty close to the same so you don't get weird flashes of color as scrollers change, and you always, at any given moment, have to be ready to hit the audience with white light. Needless to say, the first few shows were really hectic as I learned how the Madman ran the circus. Which he does. He is absolutely outrageous."
Lighting/production designer Butch Allen
Lighting designer--Marilyn Manson Ethan Weber
Lighting designer--Pantera Sonny Satterfield
Lighting crew chief Steve Roman
Lighting technicians Bruce "#6" Heard Tom Mayer Victory Mirabel Steve Wodja (Marilyn Manson)
Production manager Dale "Opie" Skjerseth
Rigger Norman Gomes
Video director Patrick Paulson
Video crew Hamid Zainhool Mike Goulding Dave Anderson Bruce Green
Laser crew Dave Moss Keith Willey
Video company BCC Video
Laser company Laser Media/Scott Cunningham
Set construction Tait Towers/Michael Tait, James "Winky" Fairorth, Kevin O'Grady
UV Painting Atomic Design/Tom McPhillips
Lighting company The Obie Company
Lighting equipment (50) Wybron Colorams (5) Wybron Molefay scrollers (4) Wybron cyc scrollers (24) High End Systems AF1000 strobes (4) Wildfire 400W UV floodlights (172) PAR-64s (4) 6x16 profile spots (26) sections of CTS truss (4) sections HD truss (6) 20.5" box trusses (12) 10' custom made Tait Towers Triple Traveller tracks (1) Flying Pig Systems Wholehog II console