Usually a promising prospect can be found among the unfortunate openers who play under the sweltering midmorning sun for a handful of die-hards, and this year the lucky party was Apartment 26. This rock 'n' rave quintet, fronted by Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler's son Biff, got the early birds moving and sweating with its pulsing industrial beats and precise, heavy riffs. Apartment 26 improved significantly on its second-stage performance from last year, proving not only that it deserved its slot on the main stage but also that it deserved to play later in the day.
Pitchshifter, one of Biff's band's main influences, followed the youngsters with a similar attack but was unable to elicit a similarly positive response. Likewise, the critically acclaimed desert-rock group Queens of the Stone Age proved its dense compositions are better served by indoor venues. Meanwhile, on the second stage, Reveille, Slaves on Dope, Taproot, Shuvel, Deadlights, and Primer 55 each had little trouble inciting boisterous moshing and body surfing, though admittedly some of the fans who flocked to this more intimate setting would have thrashed to anything with guitars and a beat. Of this up-and-coming crop, Shuvel seemed to generate the most genuine affection.
Finally, at roughly 2:30, came the first of the big names. P.O.D., backed by a painting that depicted a black, dreadlocked Jesus and two chubby cherubs, unleashed the intriguing rap/rock tracks from its gold major-label-debut, The Fundamental Elements of Southtown. Blending tight transitions, trippy breakdowns, and brutally heavy outbursts, P.O.D. entertained the growing crowd with such MTV favorites as "Southtown" and the set-closing "Rock the Party." The group also provided welcome respite from the inane on-stage proclamations from nearly every other band. For example, when describing the weather, singer Sonny said merely, "It's a beautiful day." Instead of chastising his fans for not yelling loudly enough, Sonny said, "It's an honor and a privilege to be on this stage." After P.O.D.'s impressive six-song showcase ended, Sonny left the audience with words of wisdom, saying, "Let love lead the way."
The antithesis of wisdom soon followed, as the event's emcee launched into one of many pointless tirades against boy groups and female pop sensations. At least one part of this tiresome sermon to the converted bordered on clever, as the bloke promised that the "most evil of evils" would follow Pantera, then substituted the Backstreet Boys for Ozzy. After this would-be comedian exited the stage, aggro-metal blasted from the loudspeakers until a ferocious industrial beat kicked in, inspiring drummers Tommy Lee and Stephen Perkins to pound away with the programmed beat. This was the highlight of Methods of Mayhem's set, although it was amusing to see manic rapping sidekick TiLo enter on a low-riding bicycle and guitarist Kai Markus outfitted as if he were on loan from Orgy. "I'm glad to be here and not sitting in a jail cell somewhere," Lee said, offering a bit of perspective for everyone who bitched about the heat. Clad in an open-chested jumpsuit, Lee proved he's still a heavy-metal sex symbol, as legions of female fans hooted their approval. Perhaps more surprising, Lee's band demonstrated it could entertain without the host of guest artists it paraded onto its debut album.