July 31, 2017 Chicago Open Air Closes With Fury Bridgeview, IL 7-16-17
Cloudy skies threatened rain for the final day of Chicago Open Air 2017 on Sunday, July 16th. That in mind, after 48 hours of almost a strictly liquid diet, a new roar settled over Sunday’s attendees: hunger. Ahh yes, man cannot live by beer and Metal alone, and thankfully, Chicago had all their deep-fried, charcoal-grilled, dripping-barbeque, ducks in a row. Offering a variety of Gourmet Man Food from local restaurants and food trucks, lines began to snake as the pungent aroma of food warmed a chilly start to the day.
Known for their infamous “Metal burgers” and locally brewed craft beer, Kuma’s Corner satiated ravenous fans with several eatery favorites. The Black Sabbath (blackening spices, pepper jack cheese, red onion), Pig Destroyer (barbeque pulled pork), Wasp (bacon, cheddar, pretzel bun) and Darkthrone (pico-de-gallo, goat cheese, chipotle pepper) burgers were a wonder to choose from. Pretty soon after Pig Destroyer gave Kuma’s a shoutout during their Saturday afternoon set, fans tunnel-visioned their way to ingest the band’s burger. Because…Metal.
Established in 2005, the restaurant has five total locations in and around Chicago, offering burgers such as The Mastodon, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Pantera, and Slayer at select locations. In preparation for the festival, Kuma’s Corner concocted the “Open Air Burger” which included applewood smoked bacon, crispy red shoestring potatoes, raspberry jalapeno jam, pepper jack cheese and a jalapeno popper. Who’s hungry?
The array of delectable eats ranged from huge gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches (Cheesie’s Food Truck) to roasted pepper and goat cheese tamales (Dia De Los Tamales). Vegan/vegetarian options were also included (Creme of the Crop Food Truck), as well as local favorite Pizano’s pizza. Aporkalypse Now, Chicago Dog House, and Master of Patties were only a handful of the food choices offered. There would be no starving at Chicago Open Air. Replenished by grease, cheese, and meat, fans headed back to the Blackcraft stage to savor the final day of the festival.
The moment Lead Vocalist Haydee Irizarry opened her mouth, the entire audience of the Blackcraft stage did so as well. The Boston-based Metal band Aversed was quite the speeding bullet to unsuspecting fans. Irizarry’s immaculate clean vocals surged into grating growls; furious, fierce and infectious. Guitarists Alden Marchand and Sungwoo Jeong reared their melodic riffs to Bassist Martin Epstein’s husky tremors. Drummer Jeff Saltzman dug strong roots with meticulous fills and harmonious time signatures.
Having just released their first EP Renewal in 2016, Aversed is not waiting for fans to find them – instead they carve their own path for female-fronted Metal bands and more talent than the Blackcraft stage could handle.
Citing their first time in Chicago, over at the Monster Energy mainstage, Ded began their performance with a flash of white. The Phoenix, Arizona based band wore signature white contacts to add an eerie, empty-eyed effect as they hurled across the stage. Starting off with a string of technical difficulties, Lead Vocalist Joe Cotela took the microphone issues in stride and continued with a heavy dose of Hard Rock.
Releasing debut full-length Mis-An-Thrope recently on July 14, 2017, the band catapulted into the album’s first single “Anti-Everything” with candid lyrics and a most memorable hook. Initiating Chicago to hopefully one of many future performances, Ded’s live-show stamina and spontaneous stage antics had fans googling the band before their set was over.
Giving the Blackcraft stage a generous spoonful of old school Punk and fuzzy 70’s Rock, Whores (stylized Whores.) brought an entirely new sound to the primarily Metal festival. Lead Guitarist/Vocalist Christian Lembach seemed possessed by the gritty wails and tempered shrills of his instrument, singing with the same unbridled abandon.
Drummer Donnie Adkinson and Bassist Casey Maxwell had shadows of Doom Rock following their dissonant rage. Two-thousand and thirteen’s Clean track “I Am Not a Goal Oriented Person” had the Atlanta, Georgia trio highlighting a uniquely raw and slivering edge. Releasing their first full-length album in 2016, Gold triggered immediate acclaim and boosted Whores into a household name.
The abrasive forge of a 17 year trek led Demon Hunter straight to the Monster Energy mainstage. Remaining a band for over a decade earned the Nashville, Tennessee and Seattle, Washington natives incredulous respect from both fans and industry, instantly reducing the crowd to a feral splay of circle pits and Metal horns.
Demon Hunter charged into newer tracks “Cold Winter Sun” and “Trying Times” from 2017’s full length album Outlive with an onslaught of concentrated Metal. Lead Vocalist Ryan Clark still reaps the benefits of his furious growls by performing fan-favorite Extremist tunes “The Last One Alive” and “Cross to Bear.” Demon Hunter’s stage presence and genius instrument expertise will assuredly surpass another decade without batting an eye.
The only other band at the Blackcraft stage to have circle pits as large as DevilDriver had to be Slayer. That said, DevilDriver demanded a mass about of attention from the moment they walked out.
With the fuel of 2016’s Trust No One track “Daybreak” fueling both fans and band, the Santa Barbara, California natives muscled through a set of classic hits. Lead Vocalist Dez Fafara could yield piercing screams over deeply submerged growls without a single crack out of key. Digging all the way back into 2003’s Devildriver hit “I Could Care Less,” gGitarists Neal Tiemann, Mike Spreitzer and Bassist Diego Ibarra served up strangling riffs. Drummer Austin D’Amond spearheaded older tunes “Ruthless” and “Not All Who Wander Are Lost.” DevilDriver’s wild stage performance was a mirror image of the actions from fans below.
The signature pseudo-bloodied face of Lead Vocalist Chad Gray greeted fans at the Monster Energy mainstage for HELLYEAH. Listening to their albums simply does not amount to the Heavy Metal they bring to a stage. With a teaspoon of Pantera and a pinch of Mudvayne, Drummer Vinnie Paul and Lead Vocalist Chad Gray massacred 2016’s Undeniable hits “Human,” “X,” and Phil Collins cover “I Don’t Care Anymore.” Keeping with the multi-hits-per-album pattern, 2014’s Blood for Blood tracks “Moth” and “Say When” highlighted Guitarists Christian Brady, Tom Maxwell and Bassist Kyle Sanders.
Near the beginning of HELLYEAH’s set, Gray said, “Today is a celebration of m********** life. This is the Heavy Metal community of the Chicagoland area…this is the Metal family!” and asked everyone to turn to the person next to them and give them a high five. In one sweeping clap, the entire general admission floor high-fived a few people nearest to them and truly did celebrate the fun, family, and life of Metal that HELLYEAH embraces.
Whether the sun’s heat finally got to the crowd, or a few small, but obvious technical difficulties set off a string of unseen bigger ones, Kyng definitely deserved a do-over for their set at the Blackcraft stage. Lackluster fans nodded along to the downright masterful bass-driven Metal consuming Toyota Park.
“We’re gonna play one more song since we ran into a bunch of problems,” said Lead Vocalist Eddie Veliz, “for this guy, putting his face in his hands…he just wants to see Behemoth…hey, I do too, man!” Bassist Tony Castaneda did an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression to kill time while their tech issues continued and even let Arnold introduce their 2011 Trampled Sun hit “Falling Down” once resolved. Kyng kept a lighthearted attitude towards their performance’s setbacks and seemed to enjoy themselves despite the mopey crowd. Hopefully they return to Chicago Open Air with a later slot on the mainstage for the ultimate redemption they deserve.
Sailing in on a life-size Viking ship, Amon Amarth received the Unofficial Mostly Likely To Headline Chicago Open Air In 2018 award at the Monster Energy mainstage. Dressed all in black, the Swedish Metal band took their places on stage in steel stances, deafening the hysteric crowd. “Welcome to our own little Viking feast…are you ready to feast like Vikings? Goooooood, then this song’s for you,” growled Lead Vocalist Johan Hegg, plummeting into 2016’s Jomsviking hit “First Kill.” Plumes of fire shot up in synchronizing time to Drummer Jocke Wallgren’s beat.
After the song finished, all members exited the stage as a green glow emanated from eyes of the carved dragon at the helm of the ship. Two full-armored Viking men ran onto the stage with swords drawn, battling to the “death.” The re-enactment only propelled the rowdy crowd as the band returned to the stage and began playing. The Curse of the Technical Difficulties would strike for a full second of a blown fuse, causing all sound to be cut, but Amon Amarth took it all in stride. “This is our last American date for this album,” Hegg said, “Chicago Open Air, we’d like to raise our horns to you.” All band members raised authentic-looking Viking horns to the crowd and drank deeply. After the swig, the inevitable Jomsviking song, “Raise Your Horns,” ensued. Amon Amarth’s distinguished Viking Metal performance immersed fans into the culture and tradition that drives the band’s passion for creating such a remarkable sound.
The serious rush to the Blackcraft stage revealed quite the adoration for Poland natives Behemoth. With a massive crowd drawing before him, Lead Vocalist Nergal stoically walked onto the stage bearing a flaming torch in each hand. Staring them down in corpse-painted contempt, Nergal threw the torches onto the stage and gifted fans with 2014’s The Satanist breakout hit. “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” began Behemoth’s set with Bassist Orion and Guitarist Seth unleashing the grizzly ammunition for Nergal’s subterranean vocals. Drummer Inferno perched behind his grandiose kit, deviously doling out thunderous hits.
Keeping their setlist in suspense, the band played through additional Satanist tune “Messe Noire” as well as older tracks “Alas, Lord Is Upon Me” and “Chant For Ezkaton 2000 e.v.” Behemoth has quite the following in Chicago and knows how to keep fans coming back for more.
Lamb of God
Bruising the Monster Energy mainstage with the concrete Metal that has founded them through thick and thin, Lamb of God began their set to a welcoming roar. Most fans flooded into the standing-room-only general admission, despite the option for stadium seats. Lead Vocalist Randy Blythe countered the proximity desires of the crowd by descending into beloved classics from 2006’s Sacrament, “Redneck,” “Walk With Me In Hell,” and “Blacken The Cursed Sun.”
Founded in 1994, the Richmond, Virginia natives proclaimed that Chicago was their “favorite city of the midwest” before storming into the 2015 VII: Sturm Und Drang hit “512.” Guitarists Will Adler, Mark Morton and Bassist John Campbell slithered in weighty riffs and stout breakdowns. Drummer Chris Adler cushioned his wracking hits with flighty fills and a deeming pedal. “This song,” Blythe said, “is about a gated community I spent a little time in.” Referring to the VII track “Still Echoes,” Blythe let the undisguised heavy lyrical content absorb him in snarling vocal growls. Lamb of God’s longtime-overcoming as a band has only benefited their music, proving persistence outlasts turmoil and talent is immortal.
Positioned to execute on a long, raised platform, Stone Sour hit the Monster Energy mainstage with an unbridled plight of Hard Rock. Lead Vocalist Corey Taylor bounded across the stage in animated excitement for the 2017 Hydrograd hit “Taipei Person/Allah Tea.” Guitarists Christian Martucci and Josh Rand were a fissure of unyielding riffs, making way for Bassist Johny Chow’s deep trench. Drummer Roy Mayorga served up vengeful beats, exposing the heavier side Stone Sour adequately possesses at live shows.
Taylor was greeted with an emphatic audience chant of “F*** Nickelback!” during a silent moment between songs. Further stoking the legitimate fire between Stone Sour and Nickelback, Taylor chuckled at the crowd saying, “I’m going to play a ‘non-hit’ song.” Directly quoting Nickelback Lead Vocalist Chad Kroeger’s choice words for Stone Sour, Taylor dove into the immensely successful 2002 Stone Sour hit, “Bother.” With raw emotion and sincere virtue, Taylor serenaded the audience in an acoustic version of the track. Performing ‘non-hits’ such as “Through Glass,” “Fabuless,” “Made of Scars,” and “Song #3,” Stone Sour made a strong case for themselves—whether Chad Kroeger approves or not.
Possessed by the band whose name could be heard ringing through Toyota Park from 11 AM on Day 1 of Chicago Open Air, fans’ battle cries finally came to fruition at the Blackcraft stage. With the amber glow of a setting sun mirroring the orange flames signaling their arrival, Slayer began their set.
The massive crowd surrounding the stage detonated upon first notes of 2015’s self-titled track “Repentless.” Lead Vocalist/Bassist Tom Araya’s screech echoed in mammoth unison of every voice positioned across the grounds. Guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt needled across their instruments’ necks with intense Thrash momentum. Drummer Paul Bostaph channeled the great late Jeff Hanneman himself, with classic strokes lingering on speed and precision. Huge plumes of fire on either side of Bostaph’s kit ignited brilliant pyro shooting 20 ft. into the air.
Seamlessly transitioning into the 2001 God Hates Us All hit “Disciple,” Slayer made their job look easy, coasting through every perilously rapid song like the seasoned pros they are. “War Ensemble,” “Dead Skin Mask,” “South of Heaven,” “Raining Blood,” and the ultimate conclusion to their set, “Angel of Death,” cemented their position as the ever-reigning royalty of all Thrash Metal.
A bittersweet anticipation hummed inside Toyota Park at the Monster Energy mainstage. For here it was, the final day and final headliner of Chicago Open Air 2017. With beer still sloshing through horns around their necks, fans eagerly took their seats or stood in wait, for the one who only reveals himself at night. With a long black coat flowing at his back, Ozzy Osbourne briskly walked up to his mic, wide grin spreading across his face. The Prince of Darkness’ natural habitat was revealed in that moment: displayed in elated stomps and joyous hops, standing before Chicago with that big ol’ grin tattooed on his face, Ozzy could not wait to perform.
Shouting “everybody howl!” Osbourne charged into the 1983 self-titled track “Bark At The Moon.” The familiar wail of electric guitar beside Osbourne belonged to none other than Zakk Wylde. Creating a rare and rivaled solo for each song, Wylde received just as much praise as Osbourne. Turning to the “organ” at his left, Osbourne raised his arms coaxing the chords, then lowering his arms, seeped into the syrupy dark lyrics of “Mr. Crowley.” Wylde’s purple and black bullseye guitar scorched the night with an arresting display of slivered shreds. Spanning decades of albums and history and infamous moments, Osbourne performed songs such as “I Don’t Know,” “No More Tears,” “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” and “Shot In The Dark.”
Concluding the set with a savage rendition of “Crazy Train,” Osbourne surprised the crowd by performing encores “Mama, I’m Coming Home” and “Paranoid.” Ending Chicago Open Air Festival 2017 with an impeccable ceremony from the one who started it all, Ozzy Osbourne did not let the lines in his face betray the spring in his step or the Metal in his veins. One hell of a ride, here is to Chicago Open Air having an epic return come 2018!
Photos by: Aintellin Photography