Chicago Open Air – A Festival Is Born Bridgeview, IL 7-15-16

Chicago Open Air – A Festival Is Born Bridgeview, IL 7-15-16

Chicago, Illinois, often called Chicagoland, Chi-Town, or The Windy City, is home of many great things. From the Midwestern city’s skyscrapers to museums, to their beloved Bears and Cubbies, there is always plenty to see when visiting. Bringing even more richness to the culture, in 2016, the inaugural Chicago Open Air Festival made its home just thirteen miles outside the cities boundaries in Bridgeview at Toyota Park for three days of music, crafted beer, and gourmet man-food.

The first of its kind in the area, hosted July 15th through July 17th at the home of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club, Chicago Open Air had tremendous scope and vision. Set against the backdrop of the Bridgeview water tower and a seemingly never-ending freight train, it reached into the well to put together a  killer lineup of the decade’s best, heavy music the likes of which could make it one of the country’s all-time greatest festivals. With so much on tap, in more ways than one, Friday’s opening day would see a total of fourteen bands perform, including Germany’s own Rammstein making their only US appearance of 2016. With that said, excitement was in the air as everyone kicked back, preparing for a total of forty-two acts over the three day span.

Through Fire

Newcomers Through Fire, from Omaha, Nebraska, kicked things off on the second stage to an eager crowd. Signed on with Sumerian Records in 2015,  the four-piece band are a hot commodity right now with their single “Stronger” climbing to the SiriusXM Octane number one spot on the weekly Big ‘uns countdown, just in time for the first day of the festival.

Supporting their debut album, entitled Breathe, Founder and Guitarist Justin McCain along with Vocalist Grant Joshua Kendrick, Bassist Jesse Saint, and Drummer Patrick Mussack delivered a high energy set starting with the aforementioned single before going into “Where You Lie” and album title-track “Breathe.” Putting on a great opening performance, they closed with “Blood On My Hands,” “Lights,” and “Damage.”  New to many who watched the set, Through Fire are a band to keep an eye on.

Butcher Babies

Next on the second stage was Los Angeles, California based Butcher Babies. No stranger to festival crowds, a large group of people anxiously awaited the arrival of Vocalists Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey as Drummer Chris Werner took his place behind the drums to a roar from the crowd. He was soon joined by Guitarist Henry Flury along with Bassist Jason Klein as Shepherd and Harvey exploded onto the stage singing, “There’s blood everywhere!” erupting into “National Bloody Anthem.” Black and blonde hair whipped around as the two singers crisscrossed the platform, giving everyone their attention.

Thrashing along with “Blonde Girls All Look the Same,” the pit swirled as the two traded vocals, each with distinct styles. Continuing in brutal fashion with “I Smell a Massacre,” Werner and Klein complemented one another for a solid and heavy rhythm section as Flury chugged thick riffs, propelling the band into “Monster’s Ball” before “Magnolia Blvd.” Met with plenty of noise from the crowd, the band closed with “C8h18,” a song combining cleaner melodic vocals with earth-shattering growls and screams. All in all, Butcher Babies delivered a brutal, violent set that left a lasting impression early in the day.


First up to the main stage was Orlando, Florida’s own Trivium. Formed in 1999, one of modern Metal’s heroes, Trivium had a crowd from the start as thick clouds hung overhead, the clouds deterring no one. Opening with “Stryfe,”  everyone gathered in the sparse sunlight to sing along before Lead Vocalist/Guitar Matt Heafy told all what an honor it was to open the main stage. Next came Lead Guitarist Corey Beaulieu providing backup vocals as the band rifled through “Rain” before “Dead and Gone,” and “Until the World Goes Cold,” the single from 2015’s Silence in the Snow.

Roaring in approval of the strong performance, the excitement kept coming when Drummer Paul Wandtke started “Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr” as Paolo Gregoletto and the rest of the band joined in. The high energy crowd bounced and slammed along as the threatening clouds returned, but thankfully, the weather held as Trivium went into “Capsizing The Sea.” Having everyone on one knee, Heafy told everyone how Trivium had been all around the world playing festivals. That in mind, he stated this would be Trivium’s last show for a little while and they wanted to make it a memorable one. Assuring it was, on the vocalist’s cue, the crowd sang “In Waves,” all at once jumping up and bouncing to the music. Always a fan-favorite at any festival, Trivium has earned some much needed R&R, but they will be back at it this coming fall.

Drowning Pool

Heading back to the second stage, Texas’ Drowning Pool were ready to go. Celebrating the fifteen year anniversary of their debut album, Sinner, in 2015, the band has a long history behind them. Always remembered for the hit “Bodies,” the song has once again come to the forefront of Metal with the recent performance of it on America’s Got Talent by 82 year old John Hetlinger singing the anthem and gaining a slew of attention. Interesting indeed, rumor had it Hetlinger was in attendance, but would he make an appearance on stage with the band?

Wasting no time, Vocalist Jasen Moreno aggressively took the stage as the crowd welcomed him with open arms. The band churned out heavy track after heavy track, beginning with “Sinner” before “Think” started with Moreno demanding hands in the air. Immersed in the set, the audience moved about for “Step Up” and “We Are the Devil.” Continuing with “Push,” “37 Stitches,” and “Feel Like I Do,” Drowning Pool was ready to wrap up with “Bodies” when Moreno announced that something really cool had happened recently. He asked if anyone had heard of a show called America’s Got Talent, to which everyone cheered as retired Aerospace Engineer and Navy Pilot John Hetlinger took the stage with the band. Embraced by the excited crowd, Drummer Mike Luce and Bassist Stevie Benton laid down the beat as Hetlinger spoke to his fans like a veteran of the big stage saying, “Are you ready for more Metal?” Living out a dream, Hetlinger delivered an inspired performance as he played to the crowd, singing, yelling, growling, and putting together one of the standout moments of the day.

Hollywood Undead

Overwhelming the main stage, Hollywood Undead’s Jorel “J-Dog” Decker, Matthew “Da Kurlzz” Busek, Dylan “Funny Man” Alvarez, George “Johnny 3 Tears” Ragan, Jordon “Charlie Scene” Terrell, and Daniel “Danny” Murillo rushed out to a ruckus response. With Mahurin setting the tone from behind the drum kit along with Busek adding percussion, the masked band spread out all over, starting with “Undead” and “Been to Hell.” Having everyone move as one, jumping with fists in the air, the band switched gears totally, performing an acoustic rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Showing great versatility with the cover, next was the more Pop “Bullet,” a cut that had the entire crowd singing along. Still enthralled, everyone was clapping and jumping along with the strong EDM beat of “War Child” before Alvarez pulled a young fan onstage and had him introduce “Comin’ in Hot.” A pleasant surprise, more kids arrived on stage as the band rocked out, putting smiles on the faces of everyone watching. Proving to be tireless performers, they wrapped up the set with “Day of the Dead,” “Everywhere I Go,” and “Hear me Now,” making them yet another highlight at Chicago Open Air.


Back on the second stage, Progressive Metal band Periphery was next up. Started in 2005 by Guitarist Misha Mansoor, Periphery is credited as pioneers of the Djent scene that has become extremely popular. Joined by Jack Bowen and Mark Holcomb on guitars, Adam Getgood on bass, Matt Halpern on drums, and Spencer Sotelo singing lead, Periphery was on the verge of releasing Periphery III: Select Difficulty. A follow-up to the epic double album release of 2015’s Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega, anticipation was high for their performance. So much so that a large crowd gathered as the band jumped right into “Psychosphere.” Following with the more frenetic “Make Total Destroy,” they combined heavily syncopated passages with open, airy melodic elements.

Creating a unique sound, “The Scourge” followed with a lighter touch, but no less powerful. Offering their fans a live preview of the opening track from the yet to be release album, “The Price Is Wrong” was a heavier, more straightforward piece. Then, the rain began to fall, fitting perfectly with the music, only to subside as fast as it started. Rounding out their performance with “Masamune,” “The Bad Thing,” and “Alpha,” the crowd sang along vigorously as the band completed the powerful set of complex, technical Metal.

In This Moment 

Returning to the main stage, the time had come for the ever-theatrical In This Moment. Formed in 2005 by Lead Singer Maria Brink and Guitarist Chris Howorth, the band has released five studio albums, beginning with 2007’s Beautiful Tragedy and culminating with 2014’s Black Widow. Steadily gaining momentum with each release, the band headlined a tour in support of their last two records and continues to evolve as a theatrical, musical force.

As newly recruited Drummer Kent Diimmel took his place, he was soon joined by Bassist Travis Johnson, and Guitarist Randy Weitzel. Then, through a blood-red tent, as smoke filled the air, the stunning Brink appeared. Black hat and cloak, long blonde curls flowing all around, inspired everyone to erupt as she began singing “Sick Like Me.” Creating a frenzy, everyone was clamoring during the intro of “Black Widow” as Brink appeared in thigh high black boots and red gloves with a pair of sexy nurses on each side of her. Meanwhile, Howorth and Weitzel chugged out heavy riffs with faces painted as skulls as “Sex Metal Barbie” came next with Brink this time dressed in pink.

The elaborate stage show had a nightmarish, apocalyptic setting, and it seemed to come to a head of excitement when the band began “Whore.” Wearing her now famous “whore hat,” Brink urged the crowd to scream, asking for first the men, then the queens. Asking all the ladies to get up on the shoulder of their men so she could see them and celebrate them, they willing obeyed and hoisted the ladies up for the entire song. As their set drew near its close, In This Moment performed the ever-popular single from 2012, “Blood.” Not ready to say goodbye, everyone sang loudly along, banging their heads and pumping their fists. Sadly, In This Moment’s time was up, but in that time they put on a visually stunning and powerful show.


Walking over to the second stage, it was time for Connecticut’s Hardcore legends Hatebreed. Founded by Frontman Jamey Jasta, Bassist Chris Bettie, and Guitarist Wayne Lozniak, Hatebreed returned with their seventh studio album earlier in 2016. Entitled The Concrete Confessional, the album peaked at number 25 on the Billboard top 200, proving Hatebreed is still making great music. Furthermore, the evidence was justified by the enormous crowd waiting to see them.

Along with Jasta, Bettie, and Lozniak, Drummer Matt Byrne and Guitarist Frank Novinec joined them onstage as they exploded with aggression into “To the Threshold.” Matching the audience’s response, Jasta moved  into “Destroy Everything” as he asked them to sing along as loud as they possibly could. This continued through “Honor Never Dies” where everyone sang, bounced, and slammed along. Offering up a list of new tracks such as “Looking Down the Barrel of Today,” “A.D,” “Something’s Off,” and “Seven Enemies,” the reception was positive before the band reached back to their earlier days with “Live for This,” as well as the pounding “I Will Be Heard.” Closing with “Everyone Bleeds Now,” and “In Ashes They Shall Reap,” Hatebreed pulverized the audience, inspiring some of the biggest pits of the day.

Of Mice & Men

Having the concert goers zigzagging from stage to stage, it was time to go back to the main stage for Orange County’s Of Mice & Men. Formed back in 2009 by former Attack Attack! singer Austin Carlile, Of Mice & Men have toured extensively, building a name as one of Alternative Metal’s most beloved acts. Currently on tour with Slipknot and Marilyn Manson all summer, this festival stop was a welcomed one from the city of Chicago.

As Carlile approached the stage to sing the intro “Public Service Announcement” a capella, Guitarists Alan Ashby and Phil Manansala, as well as Bassist Aaron Pauley and Drummer Valentino Arteaga, came in with a thunderous rhythm that had the crowd moving. A showman, Manansala spun in circles as the band ripped through “Broken Generation” and “Glass Hearts.”  After, the band slowed the furious pace a bit, they elicited no less participation from the crowd as everyone sang along with the anthemic “Never Giving Up,” before Arteaga returned to ignite “Bones Exposed” and “You Make Me Sick.” Thereafter, Carlile asked, “Do you wanna hear a new song ? Screaming for it, the new track offered was “Pain” and everyone devoured it before the set concluded with “The Depths.” The band is now set to release their new album, Cold World, as of September 9th, and no doubt following this tour, they will have an even larger following.

The Devil Wears Prada

Back on the second stage, The Devil Wears Prada were just about to get started. Begun back in Dayton, Ohio back in 2005, the band has been quite busy, including a spot on 2015’s Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival. Growing exponentially since their early days, listeners now eagerly await the band’s forthcoming album, Transit Blues, set to be released on October 7th.

Employing the services of Giuseppe Capolupo on drums, after the departure of Daniel Williams earlier this year, he joined Guitarists Jeremy DePoyster and Kyle Sipress, Vocalist Mike Hranica, Bassist Andy Trick, and Keyboardist Jonathan Gering as they kicked it off with “Mammoth.” Immediately creating chaos, on and off stage, the band and crowd matched one another’s intensity as the set moved forward with “Escape,” “Outnumbered,” and “Supernova.” As an added treat, they performed the first single from their upcoming album. A track named “Daughter,” attentive fans’ reaction was positive, curiously wondering what the rest of the album will offer. Pleased to see the reaction to new music, The Devil Wears Prada closed out with “Danger: Wildman” and “Assistant to the Regional Manager,” putting on an all-around tremendous show.


Back to the main stage, festival goers found Industrial trailblazers, and hometown boys, Ministry. Defining the Industrial Metal genre for over three decades, Ministry is responsible for thirteen studio albums, including their most recent, 2013’s From Beer to Eternity. Lead by founding and only original member, Al Jourgensen, he was joined by Guitarists Sin Quirin and Cesar Soto, Bassist Jason Christopher, Keyboardist John Bechdel, along with Drummer Roy Mayorga, ready to tear up The Windy City.

As hometown favorites, the crowd was buzzing as Jourgensen grabbed the microphone with his long dreadlocks whipping around. Kicking off with “Hail to His Majesty,” “Punch in the Face,” and “PermaWar,” the pit was intense as fans slammed into each other. Jourgensen’s voice was powerful as he walked across the stage, taking in the size of the crowd. Proudly observing the size of the pit, the band ripped through “Rio Grande Blood,” “LiesLiesLies,” and “Waiting.” With a moment to spare, they moved into  “N.W.O.” and “Just One Fix,” provoking even more hyperactive reactions. Winding down, Ministry churned out “The Missing,” “Deity,” “Thieves,” and “Stigmata,” delivering a razor sharp, heavy set like only they can.


Earlier in the day, at the press tent, Sweden’s Meshuggah announced plans for a new album slated for a fall release along with a North American tour. Exciting news for all, the experimental, highly technical Death Metal band was greeted by a enormous crowd over at the second stage. Specializing in down-tuned guitars, syncopated rhythms, and deep, heavy grooves, Thrash Metal, Death Metal and even elements of Jazz can be found laced throughout Meshuggah’s music. All that said, even those unfamiliar with Meshuggah gathered at the second stage, even just out of curiosity.

As the sun began its descent, a light rain fell over the main stage. Adding to the good vibrations of the festival, a slight delay allowed fans to experience a brilliant double rainbow that had appeared within view of the second stage. When the pointing and picture taking was done, Meshuggah was ready as Tomas Hakke appeared behind the drums. Following, Guitarists Thordendal and Mårten Hagström, along with Bassist Dick Lövgren, leisurely walked onto the stage. It was then that Vocalist Jens Kidman took his place at center stage as Hakke began “Swarm” with a complex drum rhythm that got the crowd moving. Rapidly moving at a furious pace, “obZen,” “The Hurt that Finds You First,” “Lethargica,” and “Do Not Look Down” followed.

Taking a moment to address the audience, Kidman spoke from the heart saying, “What happened in France last night, and the shit that you got in Florida… it’s happening everywhere… It’s fucked up.” Almost as an emotional release of frustration, the crowd let out a loud cheer, to which Kidman added, “The world would be a much better place if we all just fucking started Metal bands and made love, right ?” He added, “No one would be angry. That’s my opinion.” In agreement with Kidman’s thought, the set continued on with “Bleed” as a pit broke out. Then, raising their fists, cheers rose from the masses as the band powered through “Demiurge,” “New Millennium Cyanide Christ,”  before ending with “Dancers to a Discordant System.” After witnessing this set, it is safe to say that Meshuggah continues to break ground and not only push their own personal limits, but those of their genre as well.


Bringing on more hometown flavor, the main stage would be co-headlined by Hard Rock titans Chevelle. Hailing from nearby Grayslake, Illinois, Chevelle was formed in 1995 by brothers Pete Loeffler on guitars and vocals, and Sam Loeffler on drums. A Hard Rock band with tremendous mainstream appeal, Chevelle has released a list of successful studio albums, spawning radio hits the likes of “The Red,” “Send the Pain Below,” and “Face to the Floor,” just to name a few. Now supporting their eighth overall studio album, The North Corridor, released on July 8th, it was time to show exactly why they belonged at Chicago Open Air.

With a large crowd awaiting them, Pete said hello to Chicago and blasted into “Ouija Board,” a heavy track from 2014’s La Gárgola. Powerful for a three-piece band, they blasted into “Door to Door Cannibals” and “The Clincher,” which showed the heavier side of their sound, while “Forfeit” and “Take Out the Gunman” possessed a catchier melody. Offering more diversity, “An Island” and “Joyride (An Omen)” penetrated with heavy grooves that had people dancing and throwing horns up before Bassist Dean Bernardini drove the emotional “I Get It” and politically driven “Hats Off to the Bull” as he and Sam locked in on the groove.

After “Face to the Floor,” Pete asked, “Do you guys remember a song called ‘The Red,’ from way, way back ?” The crowd responded loudly and he then said, “Help me sing it, won’t you ?” With that, he began the song acoustically and the stage was awash in red light as he affectionately led the crowd through the song. This was before “Send the Pain Below,” which equally excited a reaction before the set concluded with “Family System.” Attaining huge applause throughout their set cemented their place among the heavy music acts of the day and show why Chevelle are one of the best their genre has to offer.


With the hourglass grains of sand dropping, day one of Chicago Open Air was coming to an end. What better way to do so then with Germany’s Industrial Metal giants Rammstein. Headlining the main stage, Rammstein saw people traveling from far and wide for a chance to see them live. It stands to reason because Rammstein is known for their elaborate stage shows dressed with lights, pyrotechnics, and tons of other surprises.

Chants of Rammstein filled the air as darkness fully enveloped the main stage. Then, the chants quickly morphed into cheers as a countdown began on stage. With that, fireworks exploded skyward as the massive curtain dropped and red smoke filled the night air. Catching the audience off guard, Christoph Schneider began pounding the drums to “Ramm 4,” a new song not found on any Rammstein record. Immediately after, Guitarists Richard Z. Kruspe and Christian Lorenz descended from the rafters on platforms. As they reached the stage, more fireworks exploded above before Till Lindemann appeared onstage in all white. Initially erupting, the audience soon settled down to listen intently to the new song, only to erupt once again at the end.

Bathed in red lights and smoke, the crowd watched as Lindemann had his white coat removed. Singing in German, he commanded all’s attention with his powerful presence as the band pounded out “Feuer frei!” As Lindemann sang, he, Krupse, and Landers breathed fire! Explosions closed the song to huge cheers before Rammstein offered more favorites including “Seemann,” “Ich tu dir weh,” as well as “Mein herz brennt.” A well-rounded set, they later played their biggest hit, “Du hast,” where the entire audience sang the German chorus over and over. And finally, the set concluded with a cover of Depeche Mode’s dark “Stripped.”

Not ready to say goodbye to Rammstein so soon, the crowd cheered loudly until the collective returned for an encore. This encouraged an encore launched with “Sonne” as flames engulfed the stage, sending smoke and heat everywhere. Red, white ,and blue lights flashed frantically, and Lindemann sang in English for “Amerika” and the finale, “Engel,” where he floated above the stage with flames shooting from giant steel wings. As promised, Rammstein put on a stunning visual show filled with explosions, flames, amazing lights, and above all, tremendous musicianship.

Only one day in, the first ever Chicago Open Air Festival delivered an incredible lineup of bands. A wide variety of people attended day one, including many families who brought their young children to experience the history of heavy music. That being said, it was already proving to be an extremely well-planned and organized event. A great first day for the brand new festival was in the books, but now it was time for everyone to go home and rest up for day two.

Photos by: Aintellin Photography

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Mark Zapata
[email protected]

Mark Zapata is a drummer, author and educator. He has spent the last decade and a half in the east coast metal scene playing drums for Killjoy, Tsul 'Kalu and many others. Mark has shared the stage with such metal icons as Suffocation, Fear Factory, Anvil, Otep and many, many others. Mark brings his unique perspective and onstage experience to Cryptic Rock. He's been on those stages and he's been in those studios. He has and continues to live the life. Mark is currently teaching all styles of drumming to all ages at

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