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Ozzfest attracts an eclectic metal mix

If you could have a dime for every square inch of non-tattooed flesh at Saturday's Ozzfest concert at Tropicana Field, you would have gone home with maybe about four bucks and some change.

But don't let all that decorated skin scare you. This generation of hard rockers, who turned out in droves for Ozzfest, the all-day traveling mecca of metal, are an accepting bunch.

They have to be. They are the most diverse metal audience in the 30-year history of the genre, which was kick-started by headliner and Ozzfest organizer Ozzy Osbourne and his chums in Black Sabbath.

The pioneering Black Sabbath, reunited with all four original members, is certainly Ozzfest 2001's most anticipated act. But this wasn't a scene from your father's hard rock concert. Gone are the days of long-haired white guys thrusting devil-horn fingers into the air.

In this era of hybrid rock and rap-metal _ consider Papa Roach, Crazy Town and Linkin Park _ the crowds at Ozzfest are an anything-goes bunch.

Saturday's crowd included black-clad Goth rockers _ surely fans of co-headliner Marilyn Manson. Fans wore ghoulish masks like Slipknot, and plenty of kids had Mohawks and spiked hair.

More than a dozen acts are touring with this year's Ozzfest, now in its sixth successful year. Several acts are not only musically diverse, they're multicultural.

Crazy Town, from California, and South Florida's Nonpoint are examples.

Nonpoint performed on a second stage outdoors. The act features two Puerto Rican musicians. Those moshing in front of the stage may have detected some Latin-inflected beats.

This was the first Tampa Bay area stop in the history of Ozzfest, which continues to draw about 19,000 fans in each city it visits and has outlasted other festivals such as Lollapalooza and Lilith Fair.

Tropicana Field officials would not release an attendance figure Saturday night.

Originally destined for Zephyrhills Festival Park, the tour got rerouted. Pasco officials decided they had had enough hard rock after this year's Livestock concert, where one fan died and nearly 20 more were sent to hospitals.

Local metalheads greeted Ozzfest with open arms, even if some were put off by the tight security at Tropicana Field.

Police officers patroled the halls and stood at points around the stadium floor's general admission area.

Otter McThenia, 24, of Tampa was one ambivalent fan. McThenia, whose head is shaved and covered in bright tattoos, wondered if an outdoor venue would have been more relaxed. "It's way too tight in here," he said.

Others in the crowd were put off by some concertgoers' behavior. A forty-something rocker, decked out in biker gear and a bandanna, admonished younger fans around him for not complying with the stadium's no-smoking policy.

Others were more flexible. Lorna Weatherford, 44, a substitute schoolteacher from Cocoa, said she isn't a heavy metal fan. But that didn't stop her from driving two hours to St. Petersburg so her son Wayne, 13, could use the $60 ticket his sister bought him for his birthday.

By 2 p.m., just as rain was pouring down on fans watching the outdoor acts, Weatherford said she was holding up just fine. "I have enough to eat and drink," she said. "So, I'm not faint from the heat or anything."

Theresa Novoa, 31, of Summerfield, is a mother of five and a heavy metal fan. Novoa's 15-year-old daughter gave her an Ozzfest ticket for Mother's Day. She has seen Osbourne perform seven times.

She says she feels a special connection with him. Novoa's even named a son after the singer _ though she opted for John, Osbourne's given name.

Novoa says she met Osbourne while she was pregnant in January 1992, after a concert in New York.

"I was due in June," Novoa said. "Ozzy opened my motorcycle jacket and rubbed my belly. He told me I was going to have a boy and it would happen in May, not June. And do you know? He was right."

As the evening hours crept on, the Ozzfest crowd grew rowdier.

During Disturbed's set, a bit of mayhem broke out as fans in the stands and fans on the floor began exchanging beverages. Police escorted out several people.

St. Petersburg police said late Saturday that they had encountered nothing out of the ordinary during the event.