Words by Andrew Bansal (Days 1 and 2) & Harry Walia (Day 3)
Images by Stephanie Cabral (Ozzy) & Chad Alexander (all other bands)
November 3-5 2017, Glen Helen Park, San Bernardino CA: In 2016, Slipknot’s ‘Knotfest’ and Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Ozzfest’ joined forces for a joint 2-day festival which took place in San Bernardino, California and was largely successful, not only reviving Ozzfest back from the dead for the first time since 2010 but also giving Knotfest more impetus. ‘Ozzfest meets Knotfest’ returned in 2017 to the same venue, and caught many pleasantly surprised by its diverse, eclectic lineup of bands big and small, and had everyone unanimously relieved that it was held in November as opposed to the summer time. Metalheads from Southern California and beyond turned up in large numbers, and were treated to an extravaganza of heavy music that offered big names, new discoveries, and the odd damp squib.
Night #1 (Friday 11/3): Camping Kickoff (review by Andrew Bansal)
Before the main course on Saturday and Sunday, there was the appetizer pre-festival concert on Friday night, open exclusively to holders of the 3-day camping passes. In comparison to past lineups for this kickoff event, the folks in charge of picking bands really outdid themselves with a very unexpectedly underground selection, which made for a great bonus treat for all attendees.
There was a very discernible chill in the air, as temperatures were “low” by Southern California standards. All four bands played on what would become known as “Second Stage A” through the main days of the festival, and about 200 people gathered to rock out with these bands on this Friday night. Columbus, Ohio quartet Lo-Pan became the first of the 43 bands to take the stage at this year’s festival, and set the tone perfectly with some chilled-out stoner rock jams that slowly but surely got this crowd interested, engaged and primed for what was to follow.
Los Angeles’ own Sasquatch has been a band for 17 years and has made quite a name in the heavy music underground, but it was refreshing to see them included on a festival such as this one, and they sure proved themselves to be more than worthy of the opportunity, with a splendid set of ’70s-tinged three-piece psych rock. The crowd seemingly fell in love with this band, although there was a funny moment when a man in the front row yelled at the band asking them to “play more metal”. “Sorry man, this is as metal as we get,” said vocalist/guitarist Keith Gibbs with a shrug of the shoulders before carrying on with the remainder of the set. Sasquatch were, in all honesty, as good a band as any that participated in this weekend’s festivities.
Brant Bjork, a true desert rock icon, was next. He has played in bands like Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Vista Chino, Mondo Generator, Fatso Jetson and others, but he also has a longstanding solo career, and he brought some tunes from it to this stage, much to the delight of an audience that was in the stoner/desert rock groove by now, thanks to the efforts of Sasquatch and Lo-Pan. Brant Bjork’s mellow jams were pleasing the crowd, but the highlight of his set was surely the appearance by desert rock legend Sean Wheeler of the band Throw Rag, and his performance as guest vocalist was quite simply magical. Brant Bjork and his solo band has toured with metal bands in the recent past and his set often comes across as out of place, but not this time, as this was the absolute ideal lineup for him to be a part of.
And headlining this pre-fest were New Jersey veterans Monster Magnet. Making a rare appearance on the West Coast, they did not disappoint whatsoever, and if not for the strict 11 PM curfew that forced them to end their set just when they had hit their peak, they would have played much longer than the 45 minutes they eventually did, and everyone in the audience would have been totally fine with it. Founder and sole original member Dave Wyndorf is nothing less than a legend in our world, and he was in his complete element not only on vocals and guitar but also bringing the full range of his on-stage personality, leaving the crowd awe-struck. His band mates were also just as responsible for putting forth a fantastic set, and sparks flew in the cold San Bernardino air as one Monster Magnet tune flowed after another. This was indeed a very special bonus for those in attendance.
“We’re not a metal band, but we play rock n’ roll”, with these words Dave Wyndorf perfectly summed up not only Monster Magnet but this entire pre-fest lineup, which leaned heavily on the rock side rather than metal. There really should be no distinction between rock and metal because it all comes from the same family tree. Credit goes to the organizers of this festival for injecting a healthy dosage of “rock” amidst all the “metal” throughout the weekend, Night #1 in particular.
More photos from Night #1:
Check out Page 2 for review and photo coverage of the Ozzfest festival stages …