This past weekend, Danny Wilmer Presents (DWP), the group behind World’s Loudest Month in May every year, stepped up their Festival game by creating the first ever Chicago Open Air Festival. From July 15-17, over 75,000 people converged on the small town of Bridgeview, Illinois for what was promised as a weekend we would not forget. With the city of Chicago in the distance, the Chicago Open Air Festival kicked off Friday. Slimming down from the usual 3 or 4 stage lineup we see at most of World’s Loudest Month shows, Open Air had two stages that ran opposite of each other. This setup supplied a nonstop supply of music from the moment the doors opened, until the last person hobbled, rolled or ran out of the stadium at the end of the night. The layout of the venue was well thought out, ushering all of the concert goers past merchandise stands, and food vendors on their way to the second stage.
Through Fire and the Butcher Babies were chosen to start the festivities and get the crowd pumped for what turned out to be one of those “had to be there to see it” type of nights. Firing up the main stage, the Florida quartet Trivium laid into a six song set that didn’t even scratch the surface of what could be considered a greatest hits album playlist, due to their vast discography. Onstage early on, Drowning Pool made good on a promise to America’s Got Talent contestant John Hetlinger, by bringing him onstage to perform their final song “Bodies.”
Alternating through the stages all day, fans could be seen scurrying up and down the stairs from inside Toyota Park to the parking lot to see bands, that one would usually find on SirusXM Octane’s or Liquid Metal’s playlists. Meshuggah closed the second stage down, leaving only Chevelle as direct support for headliner Rammstein on the main stage.
Rammstein, known for their elaborate stage production, laid it all out for Chicago. Being their only U.S. tour stop for 2016, they left nothing in their box of concert party tricks. Band members descended from above, on large risers, only to be outdone by lead singer Till Lindemann’s tap dance entrance, complete with a firework laden white top hat. Their 90-minute, 17 song set, kept the crowd on their toes with firework body suits, pyrotechnics, and other spectacles that had to be seen to believed.
City Of The Weak and Saint Asonia opened their stages respectively, with the latter even tossing a Three Days Grace cover in.
The second stage saw mainly heavy hitters from all around the globe, like Britain’s extreme metal band, Carcass, and heavy metal group Gojira, who were the chosen ones to close out the second stage for day two.
Main stage played mostly radio rock, with groups like Pop Evil, Alter Bridge, and Breaking Benjamin. Direct support for day two, was nu metal band Korn. With a lighting rig crazy enough to blind anyone who looked at it for too long, they rocked through 12 songs, which pulled from most of their albums, the crowd was also given a treat, when Jonathan Davis introduced a new song “Rotting In Vain” during the band’s set.
Hometown heroes Disturbed were chosen to close out Saturday’s events, and brought enough fire and pyrotechnics to warm almost anyone in the park. I even overheard someone in the pit on the floor commenting “that they should have brought marsh mellows for roasting.”
Due to heavy rain in the area the morning of day three, doors were pushed back, as extra time was needed to rebuild blown over tents, and check all equipment. This normally would have caused the whole day to go off track, but in another turn of events, Asking Alexandria was forced to pull out of the show altogether due to an issue with their visas.Gemini Syndrome serenaded the crowd as they entered the park, followed immediately by Upon A Burning Body. A highlight of this set was SirusXM’s own Jose Mangin joining the boys from Texas onstage to sing “Texas Blood Money.” Letlive put on one of the best shows on side stage all weekend thanks to lead singer Jason Butler’s absolute insanity. Tossing the mic around the stage like a yo-yo, jumping off stage and trying to tie up all the photographers in the photo pit, and climbing to the top of the stage risers are just a few of the crazy moments he created in their short time on stage. People in the crowd loved the intensity they brought.
In another crazy show, the second stage packed for Japan’s Baby Metal. People in the crowd who knew them sang along word for word, not even being phased by the lack of understanding in lyrics. Anyone else merely wanted to see what the hype was all about, and when speaking with groups afterwards it was easy to see how separated the crowd was. They literally either loved them, or didn’t. Killswitch Engage closed the second stage, and laid the pipe work for heavy hitting Five Finger Death Punch to open as direct support for Slipknot. Anyone who has ever seen 5FDP live knows that lead singer Ivan Moody loves to interact with the younger generation of fans in the crowd, and tonight proved to be no different. After a few failed attempts to toss a wrist band to a little girl on her father’s shoulders in the front row, Ivan pulled her up onstage mid song and let her help sing.
With rumors of a massive storm heading towards Toyota Park, Slipknot hit the stage early and played their full set, even when the rain started pouring down hard. The neck brace worn by lead singer Corey Taylor didn’t slow him down one bit. Where he lacked in the head banging category he made up for in movement, working the whole stage throughout the show.
Speaking with concert goers over the three days, who literally flew in from all over the world, the overall impression of the festival was good. FYE and their artist tents gave everyone an ample chance to meet their favorite bands, including a Rammstein signing that went on for hours.
Most people were talking about coming back next year and wondering what the dates would be, and if there would be a third stage.
Only time will tell what next year will bring from the think tank at Danny Wilmer Presents and the Chicago Open Air Festival.