The Ozzman: Pop hops back on top

Ozzy Knows Best

Staging a comeback on the same MTV screen that spurred Teen Pop Mania, Ozzy Osbourne not only officially buried the bubblegum phenomenon, he brought back to life the roots of rock and roll. It's strange enough that the man to revive rock in the 21st Century is a symbol of the 1970s. Stranger still, Pop hopped back on top not by rehashing Black Sabbath classics over and over on reunion tours for geezers, but by reinventing himself as a TV character for teens.

Just two weeks after Britney Spears breezed through Fort Lauderdale's NCRC with her getting-old-quick lip synching and gymnastics, the Ozzman cometh to Mars Music Amphitheatre as the freshest flavor of the month. Besides headlining the seventh annual edition of Ozzfest, the 53-year-old dyslexic rocker -- currently championed as the best dad in the United States after he got the highest ratings in MTV history with his reality show The Osbournes -- will once again showcase a quick rundown of who's who among his heavy metal offspring.

Even if you can't necessarily trace Ozzy's legacy through all of today's names, L.A.'s System of a Down, Dallas's Drowning Pool, and especially San Diego's P.O.D. can be easily related to the metal godfather. You don't have to force your imagination to see them, 30 years from now, as characters on a TV reality show. You just have to listen to their music.

Given such prodigious progeny, wife, manager, and tour mastermind Sharon Osbourne finds all the fuss about the MTV show a little much. "Ozzy's musical career is as big as it ever has been," she points out, "so TV hasn't added to it because Ozzy always sells out [his shows]. I think people in the press that cover TV don't realize how big Ozzy's musical career has been for the last 34 years."

What's the frequency, Kenneth?

The same night Ozzfest 2002 kicked off in Scranton, Pennsylvania, last July 10, Miami's own rock scene reared its ugly-but-not-plastic head at Billboardlive under the tricky name of LocalPalooza. Onstage, neither Nicolle Chirino nor Rachel Goodrich (from the band Deezal) wasted any time fondling teddy bears and wondering whether they were girls or women. Instead each rocked the house with guitars slung low. Far from the Orlando factory, nobody missed Britney.

Salsa star Willy Chirino looked on as a proud poppa as daughter Nicolle twisted his tropical legacy into power rock. Her bittersweet-meets-grrrl voice and aggressive guitar-playing led a band with only a few months together. But being good has never been enough to guarantee an audience. "It's not easy here to play rock and be heard, and I don't think it makes a big difference if you're singing in English or in Spanish," said Nicolle, who is also debating the idea of leaving Miami for good. "I can't decide what's worse: the lack of places to play or to be ignored by the radio," she added.

For the night at least, Billboardlive stood as a rocker oasis on Ocean Drive: fancy stage, nice sound, media attention, and support from friends and hardcore fans. For six hours new and not-so-new takes on rock rumbled toward the sea. Nicolle Chirino's band, the semi-punk/pop trio Deezal, and kind-of-grunge quintet Lift rocked straight with no chaser. Explosive yet tight reggae crew Dubskatta and cumbia-ska party boys Locos Por Juana dropped rock guitar riffs into their otherwise island mix. And Cuban underground legend Garaje H, led by attitude-driven exile Abel Garcia, catered to Bizkit fans dropping undecipherable Cuban slang rap on hard-ass rock.

Even if we admit that the swing back to rock is just another turn of the industry screw, this may be the time to start celebrating a new era for serious rock in this dance-music paradise. In Miami there appear to be some people who don't buy the bubblegum way of life, as Ozzy's family grows bigger day after day.


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