"Why not merge together?" Sharon Osbourne declared Thursday afternoon with typical bravado, standing between her husband of nearly 34 years, Ozzy Osbourne, and Slipknot singer Corey Taylor. They had come together to announce an unprecedented event: a two-day Ozzfest Meets Knotfest concert, set for September 24th and 25th in San Bernardino, California.
It was familiar scene from the days when Ozzfest was the leading annual gathering in the world of metal, with Sharon in charge and in good spirits, with no sign at all of the Osbournes' marital crisis that hit the news this week. "Turn out in San Bernardino, or else," she said, as Ozzy grinned, wearing tinted glasses and a bright blue jacket.
Standing with them onstage at the Hollywood Palladium were members of some of the 33 bands that will perform during two days at the San Manuel Amphitheater, site of many Ozzfests and other metal gatherings over the decades. Ozzy promised "a crazy weekend," with a lineup that includes headliners Black Sabbath and Slipknot, along with other marquee acts such as Slayer, Disturbed, Megadeth and Anthrax.
Ozzfest last appeared in the U.S. in 2010, with stops in Japan in 2013 and 2015. The fest marks its 20th anniversary this year while joining with Slipknot's Knotfest, founded in 2012 largely in the image of the Osbourne's influential creation.
"Obviously, Slipknot owes a huge debt to Ozzfest – not only to Ozzfest but to Black Sabbath," Taylor said, microphone lifted toward his Slipknot horror mask. Nodding in agreement was his bandmate Clown, face covered in black latex and a red clown nose.
One of the festival's three stages will be named in honor of the late Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister, a friend and inspiration to many on the bill. "I went down to South America with him last year, and he looked very frail," Ozzy said to Rolling Stone of his late comrade. "He said to me, 'Soon, me and you are going to be dead forever.' He says, 'Aye, I lived my life the way I wanted to live it. Who wants to live to 99 miserable?' That was Lemmy. He was a great friend of mine."
During the announcement, the screens above the bar showed a picture of Lemmy glaring and pointing into the camera from beneath a black cowboy hat. To close Thursday's announcement, former Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde and his band performed as Zakk Sabbath, opening with a raging take on Sabbath's "Paranoid." Fans at the announcement were invited to purchase early tickets for both days for $40 total.
Speaking for many on the stage, Disturbed singer David Draiman said, "Every single person on this stage exists in a band because of Black Sabbath. These guys pioneered everything."
For the members of Sabbath, the festival announcement was another reminder that the seminal heavy-metal band intended to retire from the road after their current tour, billed as "The End." Ozzfest Meets Knotfest is expected to be the group's final appearance in California. Guitarist Tony Iommi's battle with lymphona has weighed on the band in recent years, beginning just as Sabbath was preparing to record their critically acclaimed album 13.
"It's good to finish at the top rather than just dragging it down and down and down," bassist Geezer Butler told Rolling Stone, as he sat with Ozzy in a tent behind the Palladium. "It felt like 13 could have been the last tour. Mainly, Tony is the one that really wanted to finish it."
As time passes, the end comes nearer. "Everybody's dying, you know," Ozzy said. "I go, 'I hope don't die tonight!' It's like the year of the dying rock star, isn't it? And yet the Stones keep going on. Paul McCartney keeps going on."
"It's like the year of the dying rock star, isn't it?" –Ozzy Osbourne
"When Prince died, I was like, 'Wow, what the fuck?' David Bowie, Lemmy. Fucking hell, it's one a week," Ozzy said. Then he added with a laugh, "There's going to be some good equipment on sale soon."
After Sabbath stops touring, Ozzy will continue as a solo artist, but he is also looking toward his own retirement from touring, according to Sharon, who will continue to manage his career. "We'll continue until Ozzy finishes, and Ozzy won't be long behind them when he calls it a day," she told RS, still clearly guiding her husband's trajectory, as she has since the the beginning of the 1980s.
"It's not going to be within the next year, but it's coming up," she said. "I don't want Ozzy singing 'Crazy Train' at 75. I think it's best you go out before you hit that 70 and go out on top."