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Devildriver embraces fest's emphasis on music

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007

A few weeks ago, singer Dez Fafara, of Devildriver, was starting a much-needed vacation when he got a text message from Ozzfest associate producer John Fenton:

"I really need you to call me now."

A band, Mondo Generator, had suddenly left the tour. The six weeks Fafara had so looked forward to -- his first extended vacation in 10 years -- quickly became an afterthought. How could he turn down a chance to be on Ozzfest, which stops Friday at the Post-Gazette Pavilion in Burgettstown?

"A lot of band would have paid to be on it," Fafara says.

Ozzfest is discernibly different this year. Ozzy Osbourne is back, but the big names who previously joined the tour -- the Judas Priests, the System of a Downs, the Slayers -- are absent. Because Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy's wife, manager and founder of Ozzfest, decided to give tickets away, there was no money for stars.

"I've known Sharon for a long time," Fafara says "and I think it's a very smart move."

Instead of flash, the emphasis is on the music. There are bands such as Lamb of God, longtime metal warriors from Richmond, Va., finally getting a chance to perform on the main stage. There is an international cast, with Poland's Behemoth, Finnish metal group Lordi, and Chthonic, which hails from Taiwan.

"The bands that are here are here purely on their own merit," Fafara says. "... You walk into catering, and everyone wants to shake your hand, talk to you. Everyone gets along on this tour."

It's a situation that perfectly fits Devildriver's intense, hard-charging profile. On "The Last Kind Words," the group's latest album, the music starts at 100 mph and slows down only with the last note. Recorded a stone's throw away from the U.S.-Mexican border about an hour from El Paso, there was little to do save "make music and shoot guns.

"We really wanted to capture the intensity of our live show on disk, so we needed to go to a place like that where we were away from everything," Fafara says.

Devildriver has joined Ozzfest mid-stride, but there's been little if any transition. Playing the second stage a couple of weeks ago, Fafara was amazed that there were, by his own estimate, 10,000 fans listening to the music.

"It was unbelievable, people coming over the top, just enjoying it," he says. "The connection between the fans and the bands is just a little tighter (on the second stage). The seats (in front of the main stage) prohibit that kind of interaction."

But, he quickly adds, the groups playing the main stage are still worth seeing. And at the top of any list is Ozzy himself, still quite the presence and the performer at 58.

"Anybody who can tour like he can and do what he does, man, ... " says Fafara temporarily at a loss for words trying to describe the metal icon. "He's Ozzy Osbourne, for God's sake. Just before we went on stage today we were drinking and listening to Black Sabbath. I owe a lot to him and his family, to Sharon. They've done a lot for Devildriver."

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