July 27, 2017 Chicago Open Air Day 2 Punishes Bridgeview, IL 7-15-17
With trudging feet, sunglasses, yesterday’s t-shirt, and little hair-of-the-dog in their horns, the Chicago Open Air Day 2 crowd on Saturday, July 15th, inched their way towards the Blackcraft stage for the first band of the day. The festival’s priorities were certainly in the right place (music, beer, food) and infused a Metal theme into every aspect in order to give fans a 360 degree experience to remember. Before crawling up to the stage, a little liquid nourishment was essential in beginning another day.
A large white tent guarded by two battle-ready medieval statues was home to the Decibel Bier Garden sponsored by Decibel Magazine. The all-black interior held multiple stand-up tables, pinball and older arcade machines, as well as a long black bar at the very back of the tent ready to serve ice cold beer. Specializing in locally and nationally produced craft beer, the tent offered a cool place to relax and actually enjoy that 8.9% IPA.
The natural-wood elements of the Caduceus Cellar Wine Garden was a centerpiece of solace near the middle of the festival grounds. A place where fans could literally envision Maynard James Keenan himself swirling his stemless glass of thick crimson in a single ray of sun. And rightly so. The TOOL frontman owns Merkin Vineyards in Jerome, Arizona, where, when he is not busy fronting TOOL, A Perfect Circle, or Puscifer, he produces the wine for Caduceus Cellars. There is nothing the man cannot do.
In a small straw hut off the side of the Blackcraft stage, Heavy Tiki Bar quenched the exotic tastes of metalheads with specialty cocktails and mixed drinks. Sipping the boozy concoctions out of a large skull or tiki-man made the small spear of fruit less glitzy-rooftop-bar and more just-taking-a-quick-break-from-the-beer. Plenty of tents, trailers, and other stands offered just about any adult beverage fans could possibly come up with. With horns and hands filled with aqueous nutrition, Jose Mangin’s morning-gravelly voice drifted across Toyota Park. With a little less spring in his step and shout in his voice, the SiriusXM Octane and Liquid Metal host did not let a little too much beer dampen his enthusiasm. Announcing the first band of the day (and that he had taken plenty of Advil) Mangin kicked off Day 2 of Chicago Open Air.
For We Are Many
While the average age of the crowd could have parented the whole band entering the Blackcraft stage, talent’s age truly has no minimum. The Michigan Metalcore band For We Are Many are spending their summer vacation winning spots on the Vans Warped Tour, Chicago Open Air, and supporting big-name tours. Dressed in all black slacks and button-up shirts, the white suspendered crew made more than just the stage audience’s heads turn. “From Ashes to Life” revealed Drummer/Co-Vocalist Johnpaul Vega’s blistering hits and clean-vocal complement to Scream-Vocalist Logan Trupiano’s tearing growls.
Guitarists Nathan Tabor and Hector Dominguez hurled into extreme breakdowns while Bassist Emilio Flores kept the heavy-laden tune in precise symmetry. With only singles under their suspenders, For We Are Many saved one of the best for last with “United We Purge.” The new generation of Metalcore is a force to be reckoned with.
The unique Hard Rock and Metal fusion of San Francisco trio, Black Map, hit the Blackcraft stage with a vast and looming sound. Currently on tour with Chevelle, the band continue to make waves across the country with their unique brand of Rock.
Piquing the crowd’s attention, Lead Vocalist/Bassist Ben Flanagan sliced through the 2014 …And We Explode track “Code” with towering vocals and bulky bass lines. Drummer Chris Robyn etched classic beats with intricate fills and Guitarist Mark Engles let his instrument scoff at normal chord progression. Engles’ catchy hooks flowed into the 2017 In Droves hit “No Color” and Flanagan’s crystalline vocals held long notes with ease, possessing a grit of maturity and vocal craft. The versatility in genre and style is truly what sets Black Map apart.
Initiating the Monster Energy mainstage with a thunderous backtrack of nature’s elemental assault, Louisiana natives Cane Hill charged into their performance. Traipsing around the stage in proprietary ownership, the Metal quad was no stranger to entertainment.
Drawing the crowd’s attention, 2016’s Smile track “Ugly Idol Mannequin” released feral screeches into translucent clean vocals from Lead Vocalist Elijah Witt. Guitarist James Barnett delivered an earworm of a riff, bouncing off the deep trenches of Bassist Ryan Henriquez. Drummer Devin Clark rounds out the uber-catchy tune with mammoth hits echoing deep into the stadium. Launching into a few “new songs from an album with no due date,” included the “heaviest song they have ever written,” titled “Too Far Gone.” Cane Hill experienced brief technical difficulties when all power was cut to the stage. For only a second or two, complete silence hailed a disappointed “awww” from the thoroughly enjoying audience below. Luckily, the sound gremlins were wrangled and Cane Hill concluded their set with a beastly “Fountain of Youth.”
Five normal-looking guys walked onto the Blackcraft stage with no intention of blowing as many minds as they did during their set. Pig Destroyer’s detonation of Death Metal opened an immediate and massive pit to the right of the stage and continued coercing the crowd like the seasoned pros they are.
The Virginia natives connected with the audience unlike any band at Chicago Open Air so far with shoutouts to the “spiderman drummer” at the barricade and Kuma’s Corner for being “the only place you can eat a Pig Destroyer [burger] while watching Pig Destroyer.” Lead Vocalist JR Hayes even convinced a huge line of burly right-side-of-stage pitters to charge over to the left side to even out the unsymmetrical pitting situation. “Hey, that looks a lot better, thanks guys.” The normalcy of appearance and witty candor between the band and crowd displayed nothing in comparison to Pig Destroyer’s outright lethal performance. Since 1997, Pig Destroyer has laid claim to the Death Metal throne with intense live performances and an impressive discography without any means of slowing down.
The best introduction to the Monster Energy mainstage was not done by the weekend’s host, Jose Mangin. Instead, Metal Church entered the stage to the sound of hundreds of fans chanting their name: a tireless sound of crowing fans demanding their fix of “Me-tal Church!”
Technical difficulties once again plagued the mainstage as Lead Vocalist Mike Howe’s microphone began cutting in and out during the very first song. As if nothing phased him, Howe casually moved to a band member’s microphone and soared through varying vocal heights and strong crowd interaction until the issue was resolved. Guitarists Kurdt Vanderhoof and Rick Van Zandt slathered hot rhythms and rigorous solos into 1991’s The Human Factor track “In Mourning.” Bassist Steve Unger and Drummer Stet Howland gave the Guitarists a deeply rooted Heavy Metal foundation for the 1989 Blessing In Disguise hit “Fake Healer.” Amid evolving sound, changing members, and leaving the golden years of music behind, Metal Church sticks around with teeth-bared and fevers high, ready to defend Metal to their last breath.
Rushing to the Blackcraft stage at only a fraction-of-a-fraction of the speed they play at, Dragonforce fans were not about to miss a note of the accelerated performance about to take place. The London, England speed masters are known for basically one thing, in case it has not been clear enough, a single blink could mean missing an entire song.
This in mind, the fleeting fingers of Guitarists Herman Li, Sam Totman and Bassist Frederic Leclercq were a swift and nimble blur during older tracks “Fury of the Storm” and “Cry Thunder.” Drummer Gee Anzalone seemed to never tire of the speed-of-light double bass pedal, while Synth/Keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov gave electronic depth to the fiery instruments. Lead Vocalist Marc Hudson tackled superb and extreme notes for 2017’s Reaching Into Infinity track “Ashes of the Dawn.” Ending with a meaty cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” from 2014’s special edition version of Maximum Overload, Dragonforce had the entire Toyota Park serenading Chicago.
The nightmares of adolescents materialized before the Monster Energy mainstage crowd as the deranged Swedish big-top unleashed Avatar. A single cylindrical yellow and red striped curtain obscured whatever was standing atop a round circus platform, and with a dramatic drop, Lead Vocalist Johannes Eckerstrom creepily eyed the audience. Donning IT-esque white clown makeup and the proper circus attire of coattails and gold buttons, Avatar swept the crowd in theatrical Metal bliss.
Then, 2014’s Hail the Apocalypse self-titled track “Hail the Apocalypse” featured hair-trigger riffs from Guitarists Kungen and Tim Ohrstrom, while Bassist Henrik Sandelin deepened a chilling hook. “Are you ready for your citizen test?” Eckerstrom teased, “…maybe nobody told you, you were standing at the border of Avatar country!” Drummer John Alfredsson immediately beat into the 2016 Feathers & Flesh hit “New Land” while Eckerstrom growled his way across the stage dramatizing his every move. Spanning through hits such as “The Eagle Has Landed,” “Paint Me Red,” “Smells Like a Freakshow,” and “Let It Burn,” Avatar’s stimulating performance left many fans wishing for a much longer set or semi-headlining slot. (Hint-hint, Chicago Open Air).
Grimy masked intruders invaded the Blackcraft stage with what could only be described as a typical Mushroomhead performance: in-your-face-energy and intense theatrics. The sweet sound of “Mushroom-head!” chants set the bar for the impending doom as the band took their positions.
Two sets of standing drums on each side of the stage were pounded into oblivion – complete with neon paint sputtering from their hits. Racing down into the crowd, a horned band member “crawled” above the steel arms of fans braving their precious cargo and shortly after, Vocalist Jackie LaPonza took her turn at the barricade, surfing across the front of the stage. Spearheading 1999’s M3 hit “Solitaire/Unraveling” and the 2003 XIII track “Sun Doesn’t Rise” gripped fans with nostalgia and admiration for continued band success.
Stranding fans among an exotic animal backtrack somewhere in the jungle of the Monster Energy mainstage, Steel Panther was about to wake the wildest animals of them all: Metal women. The satirical ’80s Heavy Metal band dives headfirst into big hair, tight pants, and don’t-bring-your-mother raunchy tunes for Chicago Open Air’s Unofficial Most Memorable Band of the fest.
Testing the waters with the less-crude “Eyes of a Panther” and “Party Like Tomorrow is the End of the World,” the band segued each song with humorously naughty and not-able-to-be-quoted banter. A full fan sing-a-long ensued when Lead Vocalist Michael Starr began the 2009 Feel The Steel smash hit “Community Property,” but it was 2011’s Balls Out track “17 Girls in a Row” that lead to unforgettable status. Calling every female in Toyota Park to the mainstage, the band began the song to waves of women body-surfing or just plain launching themselves onto the stage.
Drummer Stix Zadinia, Bassist Lexxi Foxx, and Guitarist Satchel were soon swallowed up by the amount of scantily clad Metal girls dancing beside them on stage. Security guards continued pulling droves of women onto the stage until fire code probably allowed and the rest of the crowd seemed to enjoy the view much better from below. Steel Panther knows how to make a lovely, dirty, memorable scene and did so without fail for Chicago.
As early evening set in, the Blackcraft stage became home to one broken leg, a Slayer cover and the greatest Metal-meets-Hip-Hop collab of the early 90’s: Body Count. Introduced by both Jose Mangin and Headbanger’s Ball host Riki Rachtman, Body Count began their set with the 2017 Bloodlust mashup “Raining Blood/Postmortem.” Original members Ice-T, Sean E Sean, and Ernie C moved about the stage and executed their instruments precisely as if 1986’s Reign in Blood truly was released just yesterday.
The guttural roar of fans fueled various Bloodlust tracks such as “This Is Why We Ride,” “The Ski Mask Way,” and latest controversial hit “No Lives Matter.” At some point during the set, Bassist Vincent Price took a tumble and left the stage for a solid few minutes. Returning on a maroon upright gurnee with his bass propped at the ready (and possessing a broken bone somewhere in his leg), Price returned to finish the set with Ice-T shouting, “make some noise for the show must go on!”
Asking where his youngest Body Count fans were and why they were not attending a Justin Bieber concert, Ice-T solemnly yelled, “all rise for the Chicago National Anthem: COP KILLER.” Arguably the most notorious song of Body Count’s career, the 1992 single from Body Count ended the band’s set with a present-day bond to the topics Body Count continues to reveal in blunt honesty.
Searing the Monster Energy mainstage with a slew of no-nonsense Hard Rock hits, South African natives Seether may have stolen the show. The greatest-hits setlist began with Dale Stewart’s dark bass coarsely seeping into Lead Vocalist/Guitarist Shaun Morgan’s heady riff for 2002’s Disclaimer hit “Gasoline.” Seamlessly continuing into the lyrically somber 2005 Karma and Effect track “Truth,” Morgan’s sand-at-the-bottom-of-the-pool vocals ground into raw revelation. Drummer John Humphrey blended callous beats and pivoted fills for maximum organic strength, undeniably proving that a trio of men could literally fill a stadium with both fans and sound.
Experiencing their own technical difficulties ever-plaguing the mainstage that day, Morgan battled losing power to various guitars throughout the performance. During one particular silent moment, he decided to tell the story of the large black medical boot encasing his foot: “In Japan,” he stated, “[I] roundhouse kicked a member of the Van Damme Family.” With a surge of laughter from the crowd (and ultimately, power to his instrument) Morgan and crew ended their set with mega-hits “Fine Again,” “Country Song,” “Fake It,” and “Remedy.”
Activating the Blackcraft stage with signature Blues Rock tunes, Clutch began their performance with a riveting jam-band intro. The Maryland natives have been around since the ’90s and have barreled through uproarious album acclaim and harsh whispers of losing their edge. Banning everything but a good time, Chicago welcomed the established quad with pits of fists, swaying hips, and howls of eager thanks. Lead Vocalist/Guitarist Neil Fallon crooned a highly ironic, extra-jam version of the 2014 Summer Sound Attack hit “The Mob Goes Wild.”
Guitarist Tim Sult, Bassist Dan Maines and Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster had an almost familial tie as their sound unified in detailed grooves. Fallon entertained fans with slapstick comments between songs such as, “the only way through this hangover is full steam ahead” and “here’s a new song about an obscure topic…very avant garde…[it’s about] drinking beer and listening to Black Sabbath.”
Of course, the star of Clutch’s set came from 2007’s From Beale Street To Oblivion smash hit “Electric Worry.” Fallon’s “bang, bang, bang, bang,” instinctively echoed “vamanos, vamanos,” from the crowd, bringing a vigorous end to their hearty set.
Triggering a deafening audible assault on the Monster Energy mainstage, Hard Rock heroes Godsmack began their headline-worthy set to 1998’s self-titled hit “Whatever.” Lead Vocalist Sully Erna’s uniquely severing voice mirrored his passion for performing with stage presence and crowd interaction. Guitarist Tony Rombola and Bassist Robbie Merrill were quite the opposite of the song title they performed, bestowing bruising talent during 2000’s Awake track “Greed.” Erna introduced “1000hp” with a riling “turn that s*** up!” and huge flames shooting up from either side of the stage. Drummer Shannon Larkin matched the pyro intensity with his own heated blast of tortured hits.
Commanding the flames once more, Erna raised his arms high and slammed into notorious Godsmack tunes “The Enemy” and “Cryin’ Like a B****.” Catching his breath for a moment, Erna became serious, stating “from the bottom of my heart and only for sentimental reasons…[besides] Boston (Godsmack’s hometown)…Chicago, YOU are my favorite.” Erupting in equal amounts of love and respect, the crowd loudly cheered as Erna regained his composure with “and Chicago has the most beautiful ladies! All I see are guys with ugly-ass goatees and bald heads! Put those ladies up, I wanna see all the beautiful women of Chicago, let them breath!” As hundreds of women were boosted onto the shoulders of men, “Something Different” raged into effect.
Ending the evening with a climactic drum “battle” from Erna and Larkin on separate full-sized kits, Godsmack pulled another fast one on fans with a medley of Classic Rock snippets such as AC/DC’s “Back In Black,” Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way,” Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” and a full-song homage to the Beatles’ “Come Together.” Always entertaining live, Godsmack definitely earned a 2018 headlining spot that night.
The morning’s Advil run was all but forgotten as host Jose Mangin readily introduced Chicago Open Air’s Saturday night headliner to the Monster Energy mainstage. Under a veil of blue lights and screens counting down from ten, Korn returned to the stage for the fest’s triumphant second year appearance.
Donning a long kilt and trademark dreadlocks, Lead Vocalist Jonathan Davis plunged into 2016’s The Serenity of Suffering track “Rotting in Vain.” Guitarists Brian “Head” Welch and James “Munky” Shaffer dissected the thunderous Nu-Metal song into personal shreds of a mastered technique while Drummer Ray Luzier spiked each hit with manic speed. Bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu threw vehement slaps against his instrument, sending deeply rigid spasms into the audience, taking it all the way back to ’90s hits “Falling Away From Me,” “Got The Life,” and “4U.” The rabid crowd on the floor looked more like an angry body of water rolling in waves of raised arms and flailing legs from people being tossed overhead. Security guards began spraying bottle after bottle of water on the sardine-packed audience while medical staff hauled off injured or heat stricken fans.
Despite the rough conditions of general admission, Korn was more than worth it because fans were not leaving their spots unless their life depended on it. Davis brought out a large bagpipe and extended a single long note while stomping around the stage, waving for the audience to get louder and louder. The bagpipe was a dead giveaway for the intro of next song “Shoots and Ladders.” “Oh my god, Chicago!” Davis shouted at the crowd, “look at all these crazy, sexy, insane mother*******! We owe you everything…and we thank you…get your middle fingers up! Say f*** that!” And another tangled mass ensued as 2003’s Take a Look in the Mirror hit “Ya’ll Want a Single” erupted.
The hits never seemed to stop as “Coming Undone,” “Black is the Soul” and “Twist” paved the way for the ultimate conclusion of Korn’s set, “Freak on a Leash.” Wrapping up Day 2 of Chicago Open Air, Toyota Park surely convinced Korn to return for a third year in 2018.
When it was all said and done, Chicago Open Air’s second day was a successful mix of some of the best bands in Rock over the past 20 years. Each band held their own, demanding large crowds, and ruckus reactions, but the best part yet, there was still one more day left just hours away.
Photos by: Aintellin Photography