Chicago Open Air was by far the most exciting lineup of bands I had seen in a long time. Danny Wimmer Presents always has a great list of bands at all their festivals like Rock On The Range, Carolina Rebellion, Rocklahoma, Louder Than Life and more. However, this lineup put all the others to shame. All it really took to get me excited was Rammstein. At first that was the only band announced, and it would be their only U.S. date in 2016. They had long been at the top of my must see bucket list. Once the remainder of bands was added I was more than excited.
Through Fire kicked off not only Day 1 of Chicago Open Air but also opened the COA Pre-Party at Concord Music Hall as well. The band is high energy and is a perfect fit to open any festival or show because of the way they get the crowd pumped up and ready for more. Directly following them was the festival veterans Butcher Babies whose show gets better every time you see them. Both Heidi and Carla perform a high octane set that looks and sounds flawless. Fans swarmed to the stage and got their day started with a big dose of Butcher Babies.
Trivium was the first band to grace the main stage. Something no one can ever take away from them as Chicago Open Air’s first year is now written in history. Lead singer Matt Heafy pleaded with the fans to move. Saying “we need your heads banging, your asses shaking and your bodies moving” and then they started into “World Goes Cold”. He then tried to bring out the competitive spirit in the crowd by mentioning Rock On The Range was the best festival crowd of the year and urged this crowd to beat them with circle pits. Did they listen? Hell yes they did. It was still early in the day and people may have been holding back but there were indeed some circle pits going on.
Next up was something I’d been waiting on as Drowning Pool took the stage. The band has seen many faces behind the mic but current singer Jasen Moreno is the best fit since the late great Dave Williams. However, he wouldn’t be the only singer they would have on this special day. The news broke a week or so prior that America’s Got Talent performer John Hetlinger who covered “Bodies” on the show would perform with the band. The video of the 82 year old singing/screaming “Bodies” was an instant viral hit. The former Navy Veteran and Engineer took the stage for the very last song of the band’s set. The crowd went crazy as he stepped up to the mic. History was made as Chicago One Air fans were the first to ever see the collaboration in person.
One of the most compelling stories of the day was how fans showed up to watch Periphery perform in the rain. Chicago Open Air fans also had the opportunity to pick up the band’s new album ‘Select Difficulty” a week early at the FYE tent. Their set unfortunately was cut short due to the weather but the band didn’t hold back at all. They ignored the weather and played as if the sun was shining down upon them. Most fans were cursing the rain for cutting the band’s set short.
The festival day got a littler heavier as Hatebreed took the stage. As always their set is filled with their 100% in your face aggression. Jamey Jasta has molded himself into an iconic front man behind the mic for Hatebreed and his other project Jasta. Although it’s been a while since we’ve seen him do his signature head walk, he still finds ways to reach the heart and soul of every person within eye or earshot. Almost everyone in the crowd sang along to what has become an anthem in the song “Perseverance”. As usually their set went off without a hitch and fans were left sailing away with a heavy metal buzz.
Now it was time for In This Moment to take the stage. The band’s stage presence has progressed into some full blown theatrics including additional ladies to help Maria Brink. Each song almost has a theme of sorts for the way the front lady presents herself. During the song “Black Widow” she takes on a whole new persona. Their set is similar to times of old when singers would do a wardrobe change. Their hard hitting songs went over well with fans. Most were fans of the band already, but if they weren’t you can bet your ass they left the festival as a fan.
One of the moments I waited for all day was Meshuggah. We actually attended their press conference earlier in the day and were among the first to learn about their upcoming U.S. tour with High On Fire. The band took the stage and their sound was as magical and perfect as it is on their albums. Singer Jens Kidman head banged non-stop and the heavy thunder of the bass was welcomed by all. When the band played “Rational Gaze” it seemed like the world stopped. It is by far one of the most appealing songs every written. The band of course continued the constant headbanging to the song “Bleed” from the album ‘obZen’. The band is fierce and conjures something within the spirit of every listener. Not many bands can hold a match to Meshuggah.
Of Mice & Men had a huge crowd of fans eagerly awaiting them to hit the stage. Drummer Valentino Arteaga first appeared and the crowd erupted in screams and applause. They had a high energy set as the crowd sang along to the majority of all the songs. Everything got quiet as the band began to play “Bones Exposed” but when lead vocalist Austin Carlile called out to the crowd things kicked up a notch or 7. Bassist/Singer Aaron Pauley sang the clean parts of the songs as crowd surfers were carried across the crowd by the dozens. They left the audience on a high note and left some big shoes to fill for the next act.
One of the most iconic bands and front men in metal was about to take the stage next. Ministry has constantly been one of the most creative and anti-mainstream bands since they were first formed in 1981 by Al Jourgensen. While Al or “Uncle Al” as we like to refer to him is the only original member of the band he has continued to pump out amazing music with not only Ministry but also his new project Surgical Meth Machine. The industrialized metal went over well with the crowd. People that weren’t familiar with the band prior to entering Toyota Park left with a full dose of Ministry in their ears. Heads began to bang as the band cranked out the hit song “N.W.O” aka “New World Order”. The song was a protest of the Persian Gulf War and personally attacked then-President George H.W. Bush. This wasn’t the only song fans took a liking to. During “Thieves” there was hundreds of horns in the air. Ministry always brings power and authority to the stage and this day was no different.
Chevelle was fortunate enough to pretty much be on their home turf. The band formed in the Chicago suburbs and released their debut ‘Point #1’ in 1999, which I may add is still my favorite Chevelle album. By the time they took the stage the moon was in the sky and ironically they opened with “Ouija Board”. The three piece band has a huge sound that resonates with fans from a wide range of genres. Fans were exhausted as the day dwindled down but they still had plenty of energy left. The fast paced sing along “I Get It” motivated the crowd to move. Chevelle always sound amazing live, every note every lyric they play comes across just like the album. It may have been their hometown but fans attended from all over the country and they gave a top tier performance.
Now comes the time I have been waiting for. Not just today but for what seems like a lifetime. Rammstein has always been a band at the very top of my bucket list to see. This also was special as it would be their only U.S. date for 2016. Everyone has always hyped up their live set and how amazing it was and let me tell you now… it lived up to all the expectations and still blew me away. The band played to extreme perfection and the pyro was something out of this world. The countdown began…beep….beep…beep and then there was fireworks and the curtain dropped. Flake was the first to appear, and then Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers were lowered down to the stage from above. Not to be outdone frontman Til Lindemann tap danced his way onto stage in a white suite and top hat. “Ramm 4” was the first song we heard. Things really got heated during the back to back songs of “Keine Lust” and “Feuer frei!” The song “Keine Lust” has always been a fan favorite because it was the comeback hit for the band. They had been off the radar for a few years before releasing ‘Reise, Reise’ in 2004 and the song was the “BIG” (watch the music video) reunion song for the band. “Fuer frei!” is a great song by itself but…. When you add the members of the band spewing pyro from their face it makes you respect it so much more. There are always those bands that sound amazing live or have an amazing theatrical set, more often than not you never get both. With Rammstein you get both to the fullest. Of course the night couldn’t go by without the band playing “Du Hast”. It’s the only song that most every metalhead in the world knows the lyrics to regardless what language you speak or even if you know what it means. The crowd sang just as loud as Til and belted out the chorus aloud with him. Til may not be an angel but during this night he had flaming wings and rose high above the stage. Again the pyro and theatrics shocked the crowd, Rammstein has become so much more than music, and if you’ve seen them live I’m sure you will agree. Sweat poured from the brow of everyone in the crowd as the flames from the stage would slowly go out. The band took their final bow and bid the crowd farewell.
Make sure to stay tuned as the reviews for the remainder of the weekend will be up soon, and be on the lookout for all the photos on our Facebook as well!