By JOHN PATRICK GATTA
For those who do not pay attention to the music scene, the knowledge that there is a touring heavy-metal festival traveling across the nation called Ozzfest 2002 may be seen as the next step in the multimedia blitz that's coming along since the success of "The Osbournes," everyone's favorite heavy-metal dad and his foul-mouthed family.
But Ozzfest came together similarly to the way Lollapalooza galvanized the alternative music scene.
It brought together the purveyors of heavy rock music -- veterans and newbies -- under the umbrella of an all-day event. Uniting a dozen or so artists who were ostracized from tight radio playlists on one concert bill gave fans of the genre an annual meeting place.
It's no accident that during the course of Ozzfest's six previous summer treks across the country, record companies have realized that heavy-metal fans' loyalty can pay off in sales. It's also an example of the bands' unending work ethic to tour for months with few breaks.
In the world of Ozzfest, there is a pecking order that mimics free-market capitalism, with rewards going to those who do well.
It presents the genre's success stories of critical favorites and platinum acts on the main stage. This year's edition finds Ozzy Osbourne in his usual headlining slot with hyperkinetic System of a Down, schlock-horror fan Rob Zombie, uplifting Christians P.O.D., new metal Drowning Pool, melodic rocker Adema and the Black Label Society of Zakk Wylde, the tour's VIP who performs with his band as well as plays guitar each night with Osbourne.
The tour maintains the promise of rewards for those who perform on the second stage. If a group's music and brief time onstage develop an immediate following, there's the possibility of a more-coveted slot in the lineup as well as an immediate impact on album sales.
Drowning Pool proved this as last year's Ozzfest breakout act. The Dallas-based quartet hooked up on national tours before its debut with the heavy-metal festival.
And even then, the release of its major-label album, "Sinner," would not occur until three days after the band performed its 10 a.m. slot.
Contacted by phone during rehearsals for this year's Ozzfest, Drowning Pool vocalist Dave Williams said, "It was a challenge, but we were so happy to be a part of it, we didn't care. We told Sharon [Osbourne, manager of husband Ozzy and the festival] that we would play at 8 o'clock in the morning behind the bathrooms.
"Just to be a part of that in anything that [Ozzy] does is an honor. You got to see the true metalheads that were out at 10 o'clock in the morning."
When radio and MTV put the band's single "Bodies," an ode to moshing in the pit, on heavy rotation, album sales took a mighty leap, and so did Drowning Pool's standing in the lineup. No more opening sets; they played a late-afternoon slot. This year it's been bumped again, to the main stage.
"We're just glad that we get to do it again. I would do Ozzfest until I die if it was possible. I love the atmosphere. Sharon and Ozzy are just amazing people to work with."
Williams views the promotion to the main stage as another challenge, to show crowds that last year was not a fluke.
"We definitely have to step it up a notch. Look at the bands before us and after us. There's no slouches up there. We're just going to go up there with the same mentality and same attitude, and we're still hungry, and it's all about the fans. I'm going to put on a show for those people that took time out of their lives to come see me, and I'm gonna make sure they get their money's worth."
In the case of Chevelle, it's a matter of attracting fans. The Chicago-based trio of brothers Pete, Sam and Joe Loeffler is playing its first Ozzfest, featuring tunes from its sophomore effort, "Wonder What's Next," which doesn't hit stores until Aug. 27.
To make the situation even more difficult, Chevelle doesn't quite fit the mold of new metal acts. Its music can be fierce, but there are also softer melodic touches.
"We're not sure how the crowd's going to receive us," admitted Pete Loeffler during a recent phone interview, but he takes comfort in the fact that other second-stage artists don't fit a particular mold either.
"I think that the second stage is a diverse group of bands that they bring out every year, the newer, upcoming, harder bands," he said.
"I'm proud to be part of it, actually. I'm excited to see the headliners, but I'm more excited to see the second-stage bands that we're going to be playing with every day."
Although Loeffler isn't sure how Chevelle fits into the daylong series of heavy-metal acts, Switched knows it has broad appeal.
The Strongsville quintet has played in front of hard-rock crowds and punk-rock audiences. It took part in the annual Vans Warped Tour last year and is touring with it this summer as well.
Like Ozzfest, Warped brings together a mix of successful and underground acts, except its focus is on the punk movement and its fans' extracurricular activities, such as skateboarding or surfing.
"We've never done Ozzfest, so I really don't know totally what to expect," said vocalist Ben Schigel during a phone interview shortly after Switched's performance at the Sandstone Amphitheatre in Bonner Springs, Kan.
"The main importance is to promote and pick up different people. We're going to pick up a different crowd here at Warped tour than we are at Ozzfest, but it's all people. Everybody's a little different, but everybody's just as important. It's cool to have the chance to be able to go between the two and get a little more of a well-rounded fan base instead of just one genre of people."
Switched and another Northeast Ohio metal act, Mushroomhead, will join Ozzfest on Aug. 10 for a month's worth of tour dates. Both groups are promoting debut releases on major record labels.