As the sun began to encompass Toyota Park located in Bridge view, Illinois, and the smells of oven-baked pizza, hardwood smoked pulled pork/chicken wafted through the air, anticipation of the 1st Annual Chicago Open Air festival couldn’t have been more promising. At high noon the gates opened, flooding the venue with tens of thousands of fans storming to the second stage for the festival’s opener, Through Fire. These boys from Omaha, Nebraska tore into the fist-pumping crowd with their live rendition of “Stronger” unlike any band breaking new ground.
Following on their heels was the lovely vixens of Butcher Babies, Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd, along with the heavy riffs of Henry Flury, and ground-thumping bass of Jason Klein in both “I Smell a Massacre” and “Monster Ball” – which had the crowd jumping and horns held high. In all honesty, it was apparent that the highlight of the second stage, at least according to the skuttlebutt within the crowd, was John Hetlinger’s performance of “Bodies”, Drowning Pool’s last song, after being invited by CJ Pierce (guitarist) following an appearance on America’s Got Talent. Periphery, Hatebreed, and Devil Wears Prada also put on stellar sets, each one connecting with their individual fan bases, especially Hatebreed’s “Looking Down the Barrel of Today”, and “In Ashes They Shall Reap”. Closing the 2nd stage on day one was Meshuggah, a Swedish extreme metal band, fronted by an “over-the-top” talented Jens Kidman, Tomas Haake (drums), and Fredrik Thordendal (lead guitar). Winners of the 2012 Death Metal Hall of Fame, ended their set with two of fans favorites, “Cyanide Christ”, and “Dancers to a Discordant System”.
Taking the lead on the main stage at approximately 1:20 pm, Trivium band members Matt Heafy, Corey Beaulieu, Paolo Gregoletto and Paul Wandtke brought their metal to thousands of eager fans, slaying them with their hit single “Dead & Gone”, released March 10, 2016, from their 7th Studio album, ‘Silence in the Snow’, proved to be the raw energy needed, in the already-blistering heat/humidity. Hollywood Undead and Of Mice & Men also brought their A-game, as did Maria Brink, Chris Howorth, Travis Johnson and Randy Weitzel of In This Moment (founded in 2005), literally set new decibel readings in Toyota Park. Their five song set-list included “Sick Like Me” and “Blood”, and they fueled the crowd into a dynamic frenzy of moshers and head-bobbing. Appearing on stage then was one of Chicago’s own, Ministry. Founded in 1981 by last original member Al Jourenson, this four-member band thundered through its ear-splitting twelve song set-list, including “Hail to His Majesty” and “Punch in the Face” and closing with “Stigmata”. Opening for Rammstein was Chevelle, formed in 1995 in Grayslake, Illinois; these boys were fronted by Peter Loeffler and proved their place in the pecking order of headliner bands, with hits such as set opener “Ouijaboard”, “Hats off to the Bull”, and all-time favorite “Send the Pain Below”.
Now, for what you all have patiently waited for…Rammstein! Founded in 1994, the combination of Till Lindermann (vocals), Rich Kruspe and Paul Landers (guitars), Oliver “Ollie” Riedel (bass), and Christoh “Doom” Schneider and Christian “Flake” Lorenz (keyboards), set a new precedent in live performance. Throughout the band’s fourteen song set-list, plus three encores, there was no skimping on the fireworks display, flame throwers and, of course, Lindemann’s use of his flying fiery phoenix that generated walls of heat that slammed into the faces of eagerly-awaiting fans halfway up into the stands. The crowd simply exploded with intense excitement as the boys from Germany tore up the show with mind-melting hits including “Hallelujah”, “Feuer Frei”, and closed with “Engel”, the last of three encore songs. It speaks loudly of a band’s dedication to fly from their homeland, perform just one US show, and fly back home afterwards.
In summary, day one of Chicago Open Air festival outdid any one-day festival in my opinion…and there’s still two glorious headbanging days left! Chicago Open Air festival will undoubtedly go down in heavy metal history as one of the most sought-after and popular.