One of the benefits about less bands at Chicago Open Air this year was being able to sleep in before leaving on the second day. Since there were less bands this year, the event didn’t kick off until 2:30, instead of noon like past years. At the same time, it was strange heading in there for day two knowing that we had already arrived to the last day of the fest when it would’ve normally not even been the halfway mark of the festival yet. With that said though, we couldn’t wait to get out and catch seven fantastic sets from Alien Weaponry, The Black Dahlia Murder, Fever 333, In This Moment, Gojira, The Cult, and the legendary Tool.
Once again, the day kicked off with a delay on door openings. Luckily, the storm fizzled out quickly and it didn’t force any bands to cancel. It would have been a real bummer to not be able to witness the heavy ass-kicking that Alien Weaponry delivered on Sunday morning. The young New Zealand thrashers delivered a brutal punch to the face that the crowd wasn’t prepared for. Similar to Sepultura, the trio showcased their heaviness and tribal-like rhythms to the Chicago crowd. Lewis de Jong blends his melodic vocals with his tribal roars perfectly. The band without a doubt showed that they deserve all the international recognition that they have been getting over the last year due to their big hit “Kai Tangata”. Even never listening to them, they could’ve played later in the day and I wouldn’t have questioned it after seeing that performance. If you haven’t already, get on the Alien Weaponry hype train.
I’ve been waiting several years to see The Black Dahlia Murder. I’m not sure how I never did considering the fact that they tour almost nonstop, year round. The band is still out promoting material from their eighth studio album ‘Nightbringers’ and it is still as fresh as when it first came out. It was great to see that a band that usually sticks to club shows playing on such a massive stage in an arena. Their presence still filled the stage completely as they made the transition seamlessly from club to stadium. The set was heavy on ‘Nightbringers’ material with songs like “Widowmaker” and “Kings of the Nightworld” while still catering to the old school fans with “What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse” and “Statutory Ape”. While I still enjoyed the band’s performance, sound issues plagued them. The sound was muddy no matter where I stood. I also heard the guitars cut out a few times. Nonetheless, the guys still gave a great performance and I’m looking forward to seeing them in a smaller venue with a longer set and better sound in the near future.
If you have been following rock music at all for the last year, you have heard of the live spectacle that Fever 333 gives. Jason Butler has been no stranger to putting on crazy shows. In fact, he scaled the second stage at Chicago Open Air in 2016 while performing on one of the final tours with his former band, Letlive. You never know what to expect going into a show with him, but you know that it’s going to be absolutely incredible. If you’re looking for a band that you’ve never listened to and can still have a great time watching, Fever 333 is without a doubt the band you’re looking for. From jumping into pits to scaling stages to the drummer doing back flips off his kit, the band ensures that something chaotic is happening during every song. They’re downright cool guys as well. Throughout the day, the band was walking around and taking pictures with fans and discussing anything that came to the fans’ minds. To close out their set Jason Butler climbed on top of the side of the stage during “Hunting Season” and gave a performance to remember. Whoever has to make sure his mic stays plugged in deserves a major raise. If you haven’t already, see this band live.
For some reason, In This Moment went on stage about twenty minutes late. As a result, they only had time for five songs. Despite this, the band put together an entertaining, theatrical set filled with a big stage production featuring constant costume changes and smoke changes. The band took the stage with a great buildup before launching into crowd favorite “Blood”. Although each member is stationary, the band does a great job of interacting with the crowd throughout the set. Since the release of ‘Blood’ a few years back, the band has leaned towards the big production focusing mostly on vocalist Maria Brink and it has worked in their favor greatly. The set also featured “River of Fire” from their new album ‘Ritual’. It gives off a southern, creepy vibe and is perfect for getting played at festivals as the halfway point of the day starts to set in. To close their show, Maria Brink takes her place on the massive podium spelling out “Whore” vertically and gives a passionate performance. In a brief set, In This Moment showed why Brink is considered one of the best frontwomen in rock and metal today.
Since the release of ‘Magma’, Gojira has exploded onto the American rock music scene and is slowly establishing themselves as a household name in the rock/metal genres. Their explosive live shows never fail to impress fans. Every time I go to a festival that they perform at, they are always the talk of the show following their performance. At Chicago Open Air this year, it was no different. After taking somewhat of a break, the band returned to the stage for a few warm up shows to prep for their upcoming tour with All Them Witches and Deafheaven as well as their European tour. You couldn’t even tell it was only their second show since headlining Bloodstock in August. They’re truly one of the tightest bands you’ll witness live and give their all in everything they do. The previous day at Sonic Temple, guitarist Christian Andreu was roasted in the face by some of their pyro early on in the set. In the most metal fashion, he finished out the set and also played the entire set in Chicago the following day. I was expecting some new material this time around but Gojira stuck to what the fans knew for this show. The crowd whipped into a frenzy from the second they took the stage with the face-melting “Oroborus”. Similar to Meshuggah, Gojira is great at making these extremely technical songs look easy to play on stage. During “Backbone”, “Stranded”, and “Silvera”, the pyro heated up the crowd and finally gave the audience a taste of what overseas crowds have been getting for several years for their stage production. Whales truly flew during “Flying Whales” as they sent out an inflatable whale to each side of the crowd. I even saw people attempting to crowdsurf on them. People that had never seen them before were losing their minds. At the close of their set, bassist Jean-Michel Labadie greeted the crowd throughout the entirety of “Vacuity”. Gojira delivered an absolutely mental set that shocked just about everyone that hadn’t heard of them before. As time goes on, their popularity continues to grow. All of us at Metal Nexus are excited for the future Gojira album and can’t wait to see them live again.
Many of us were stoked to finally have the opportunity to see The Prodigy live. They rarely tour here. This would’ve been the first time for many. With the passing of vocalist Keith Flint, this dream would end up being unfulfilled for many fans. The guys at Danny Wimmer Presents handled this with great care and found a replacement as quickly as they could. The Cult was willing to step up to the plate to fill a spot that seemed impossible to fill by many. After a high energy show from Gojira, The Cult tamed the crowd quite a bit with big 80s rock hits like “Fire Woman”, “She Sells Sanctuary”, and “Love Removal Machine”. Being able to see guitar legend Billy Duffy shred on these songs is always a treat in itselfThe set was heavy on material from ‘Sonic Temple’ as the tour was specifically meant to cater to that material. Towards the end of the set, vocalist Ian Astbury dedicated “Rise” to Keith Flint. Unfortunately, we were unable to photograph The Cult.
When people ask about someone’s dream rock/metal festival lineup, two bands come up commonly. Chicago Open Air was able to recruit both of them in System of a Down and Tool. A lot of people don’t get the appeal for Tool because these fans are expecting them to be like every other band, asking for mosh pits and surfers and getting the crowd involved. Tool isn’t like that and they haven’t been for a long time. They want all the attention to be on the performance rather than focusing on how crazy a crowd can get. And I love it. It should be all about the band, that’s what we paid to see. Any fan that understands that knows how great a Tool show is to experience live. It was rather cold by the time they took the stage, but it was more than worth it to witness one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. The riot gear that Maynard had been wearing is gone, and has switched it out for a mohawk and striped pants. The band appears to be in high spirits as they finally are back to playing new material live. The visuals for every song were absolutely stunning. The lasers on songs like “Stinkfist” and “Descending” (new song) were incredible. Being outdoors, it seemed like those lasers could’ve went outside of the stadium for miles. Seeing Tool is one of very few instances that I would recommend getting a seat farther away from the stage. In order to get the full experience of the lights, the lasers, and the screen visuals, you have to be farther back. While you’re farther from the band because of that, it’s 100% worth it. The band sounded even better this time around than when I saw them for the first time last year at Rock on the Range. The heartbeat intro from “Third Eye” launching into “Aenema” as an opener was other worldly. Each member was firing on all cylinders that night, sounding the best they have in years. The band performed two new songs, “Invincible” and “Descending”. “Invincible” clocked in at around 13 minutes and held true to the song title. It was reminiscent to material from ‘Lateralus’ and ‘Aenima’. “Descending” was right around the same length. These two songs alone took up a quarter or more of the set. It was more than worth it. The band also played favorites like “The Pot”, “Schism”, “Forty Six & 2” along with rarities from ‘Opiate’ like “Part of Me”. The new material sounds phenomenal and we can’t wait for the full album release in August. Tool is clearly at the best they’ve been in a long time. This performance definitely made my top five list of best shows I’ve seen. They picked a perfect show to close their North American tour before heading overseas for the summer.We were unable to photograph Tool, but there are several fantastic, quality videos of the show that can be found on YouTube.
Overall, there was something for every rock and metal fan over the weekend at Chicago Open Air. The bands played their asses off and left us all wanting more as the weekend came to a close. We all had a great time watching the bands put in work but the rest of the event left something to be desired. The divided floor section was strange along with the lack of interactive fan activities, no second stage, and little food options compared to previous years. We are hoping that next year the event will be able to return to its former glory. At the same time, we are still grateful that such an event is still able to occur in Chicago. We can’t wait to see what next year has to offer. Make sure to follow Metal Nexus and Chicago Open Air on Facebook for updates on the event.