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From The Crowd To The Pit: Chicago Open Air – Day 1

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July 14th through July 16th, Bridgeview, IL at Toyota Park, home to the Chicago Fire Soccer Club, became the home to one of the biggest Danny Wimmer Presents festivals called Chicago Open Air. This year 70,000 fans, media, and 40 rock and metal bands descended on the arena and DreadMusicReview was on hand to cover it all. First, let me provide a quick overview on the festival itself.

Chicago Open Air was separated into two stages. The Monster Energy Main Stage sat within the bowl used for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. The Blackcraft Stage was in an open field to the right of the bowl. The bowl itself had a section of seats to the right (if you were looking at the stage) that were only for VIP. Everywhere else was for VIP or General Admission (GA). To the upper right of the bowl was the VIP hangout (media was allowed within any VIP area) that included multiple food and drink vendors. And not too far from the main stage area was the media tent where all the press who were invited camped out.

Over in the field by the Blackcraft stage included a number of other food and drink vendors. The main merchandise tables were over on the far right of the field. The Monster Energy hangout, FYE, FVCK CANCER, and other partners were all the to the far left of the field. Needless to say, you were doing a lot of walking if you planned on watching all the bands.

And then we have the most important part, the bands. 40 amazing bands ranging from KISS to Ozzy Osbourne to Korn were all going to perform before the thousands of fans. So, without further delay, here are the bands who performed on Friday, July 14th.

Failure Athem – Blackcraft Stage

The band from Greensboro, NC kicked off the festival. Formed in 2013 the band started off as a collaboration of friends that ended up becoming a solid project. They recorded the album ‘First World Problems’ and it was released in January 2016 charting on multiple Billboard charts. They kicked off the festival strong playing songs from the album including “The Ghost Inside”, “First World Problems”, and “Paralyzed”, the first single from the album.

Code Orange – Blackcraft  Stage

The hardcore metal band from Pittsburgh, PA was up next and ensured the Chicago Open Air fans remembered their performance. The band formed in 2008 and has since released three studio albums and two EPs. The most recent studio album, ‘Forever’ was release in January 2017. The band consisting of Eric Balderose (guitar, synthesizer), Reba Myers (guitar, vocals), Jami Morgan (drums, vocals), Joe Goldman (bass), and Dominic Landolina (guitar) toured this year with The Devil Wears Prada, Anthrax, and Killswitch Engage. They showed off their hardcore style with songs including “Forever”, “Kill The Creator”, and “Bleeding The Blur”.

Hell Or Highwater – Monster Energy Main Stage

The first band to grace the main stage was Hell Or Highwater is the side project of Brandon Saller, the drummer from Atreyu. The hard rock band released their first album “Vista” in May 2017 and has been on tour with Nothing More, Black Maps, and As Lions. The band consisting of Brandon Saller (vocals), Kyle Rosa (drums), Joey Bradford (guitar), Jon Hoover (guitar), and Nick Maldonado (bass/synthesizer) put on a good show on the main stage, which included Brandon jumping off the stage and high fiving all the fans in the front row. Some of their songs that day included “Colors”, “Don’t Hate Me”, and “Lighter Than Air”.

Whitechapel – Blackcraft Stage

Defined as a deathcore metal band from Knoxville, TN, Whitechapel came to rock the fans out of their minds. Forming back in 2006 the band has had a solid career releasing 6 albums with the ‘Mark of the Blade’ being the last one in June 2016. Five of their six albums have been published under Metal Blade Records. The band consisting of Phil Bozeman (vocals), Ben Savage (lead guitar), Alex Wade (rhythm guitar), Gabe Crisp (bass), Zach Householder (lead/rhythm guitar), and Ben Harclerode (drums) were definitely the hardest of the day at this point with Phil’s screaming vocals truly impressing the crowd. Some of their song set included “The Saw Is The Law”, “Our Endless War”, and “Mark of the Blade”.

Crobot – Monster Energy Main Stage

This band was probably the biggest surprise for me at Chicago Open Air. They were definitely not what I was expecting. Brandon Yeagley looked like he stepped right out of 1969 Woodstock festival. And his stage presence and vocals seem to fit the way he was dressed. The band was hard grooving rock and proved they deserved to play on the main stage that day. The band formed in 2011 and consists of Brandon (vocals), Bishop (guitar), Jake Figueroa (bass), and Paul Figueroa (drums) (and yes Jake and Paul are brothers), rocked and danced all over the main stage capturing the attention of those in attendance. Their set list included “Skull of Geronimo”, “Welcome To Fat City”, and a stellar cover version of Audioslave’s “Cochise”. Their latest album ‘Welcome To Fat City’ was released in 2016.

Suicide Silence – Blackcraft Stage

Back on the Blackcraft Stage we were back to deathcore metal this time from Suicide Silence. The band from Riverside, CA formed back in 2002. They released five studio albums with the most recent self titled album ‘Suicide Silence’ releasing in January 2017. And though they changed vocalists back in 2013, the band showed no signs of slowing down ripping their metal style all over the stage. The current band members include Hernan “Eddie” Hermida (vocals), Chris Garza (rhythm guitar), Mark Heylmun (lead guitar), Alex Lopez (drums), and Dan Kenny (bass). Some of the songs from their set included “You Only Live Once”, “Doris”, and “Hold Me Up, Hold Me Down”. I was lucky enough to run into Mark after their set to talk for a few minutes and get a quick picture with him. He was truly appreciative of the crowd that came out to see their performance and indicated they were continuing to tour immediately following the festival.

Falling In Reverse – Monster Energy Main Stage

The rock band from Las Vegas, NV had a huge crowd waiting for them. The band who formed in 2008 has been running at full steam with four studio albums and their most recent ‘Coming Home’ released in January 2017. Falling In Reverse consisting of Ronnie Radke (vocals, rhythm guitar), Derek Jones (rhythm guitar), Zakk Sandler (bass), Christian Thompson (lead guitar), and touring drummer Chris Kamrada, played hard and heavy with Ronnie entrancing the crowd with his vocals and stage presence. Their set included “I’m Not A Vampire”, “Superhero”, and “Just Like You”.

Vimic – Blackcraft Stage

Vimic, formed by Joey Jordinson, former drummer of Slipknot, is on tour to spread the word on the upcoming release of their first album ‘Open Your Omens’. The heavy metal band rocked out on the Blackcraft stage with members Kalen Chase Musmecci (vocals), Jed Simon (guitar), Kyle Konkiel (bass), and Matt Tarach (keyboards), and Steve Marshall (guitar). The album is scheduled for release later this year and the band played songs off it including “Simple Skeletons”, “My Fate”, and “She Sees Everything”.

Anthrax – Monster Energy Main Stage

Definitely no strangers to any main stage, the New York City iconic legends of Anthrax made their presence known at Chicago Open Air. The main stage floor was packed as were the seats on both sides of the bowl to see them perform. Anthrax is running 36 years strong and though the lineup has changed through 11 studio albums, their hardcore performances have not. Freshly coming off the KillThrax tour with Code Orange, The Devil Wears Prada, and Killswitch Engage, Joey Belladonna (vocals), Scott Ian (rhythm guitar), Charlie Benante (drums), Frank Bello (bass), and Jonathan Donais delivered a hard hitting performance that left the crowd cheering for more. Their most recent album is ‘For All Kings’ and the band hinted at working on a twelfth album. Some of their set list for Chicago Open Air included “The Number of the Beast”, “Among The Living”, “Caught in a Mosh”, “Madhouse”, “Parasite”, and “Indians”.

The Dillinger Escape Plan – Blackcraft Stage

Attendees were treated to a very special performance by The Dillinger Escape Plan. The band has been around since 1997 and released their last album ‘Dissociation’ in October 2016. Sadly, this year the band announced they were calling it quits and are currently on their farewell tour. Greg Puciato (vocalist), Ben Weinman (lead guitar, keyboards), Liam Wilson (bass), Billy Rymer (drums), and Kevin Antreassian (rhythm guitar) made sure this would be a performance to remember. And indeed it was. The metal band left it all out on the stage and the fans (and photographers) truly appreciated their efforts. Some of the songs they performed included “Prancer”, “Panasonic Youth”, “Surrogate”, and “Happiness Is a Smile”. They will be sorely missed by their fans.

Megadeth – Monster Energy Main Stage

Another band that is no stranger to the main stage, fans were in droves in the bowl and the floor waiting for Megadeth to rock. Though the band some difficult times and a breakup, they have come back stronger than ever playing hard for the fans. They released their last album ‘Dystopia’ in January 2016 and was awarded the Best Metal Performance Grammy in 2017 for the title track. The Los Angeles, CA band of Dave Mustaine (vocals, guitars), David Ellefson (bass), Kiko Loureiro (guitars), and Dirk Verbeuren (drums) blew the crowd away at Chicago Open Air and are setting up for a tour with The Scorpions later this year. Some of their song list included “Prince of Darkness”, “Hangar 18”, “She-Wolf”, “Mechanix”, “Symphony of Destruction”, and “Peace Sells”.

Meshuggah – Blackcraft Stage

This was one of the bands most fans seemed excited to see. By word of mouth I know that Meshuggah has been filling up shows quite easily and fans love their music. The Swedish metal band last released ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ in October 2016. The band includes Jens Kidman (vocals), Per Nillson from Scar Symmetry (filling in for Fredik Thordendal who is taking a leave from touring starting in June 2017), Tomas Haake (drums), Marten Hagstrom (rhythm guitar), and Dick Lovgren (bass). Some of their songs played that day were “Clockwork”, “Do Not Look Down”, and “Violent Sleep Of Reason”.

Rob Zombie – Monster Energy Main Stage

By the time Rob Zombie was ready to come on stage the bowl and floor were completely filled. The energy and anticipation rippled through the crowd waiting for the solo artist and founding member of White Zombie. He has been successful both as a musician, actor, and movie director. Coming off his last album ‘The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser’ released in April 2016, Rob Zombie (vocals), John 5 (guitars), Piggy D. (bass), and Ginger Fish (drums) took to the stage in style and rocked out the crowd with “The Last of the Demons Defeated”, “Superbeast”, “Living Dead Girl”, “More Human Than Human”, “House of 1000 Corpses”, and “Thunderkiss ’65”.

KISS – Monster Energy Main Stage

Finally, the headliner from Friday was none other than the legendary band KISS. Formed back in 1973 the band showed no signs of slowing down throughout their career. And even switching from leaving the makeup behind to bringing it back, The KISS Army has stayed strong and supported them throughout the years. Their last released album was ‘Monster’ back in 2012, the band still tours and brings thousands of fans to see them. At Chicago Open Air it was no different. Originally formed in New York City, the rock band currently consists of founding members Paul Stanley (The Starchild – vocals, rhythm guitar) and Gene Simmons (The Demon – bass). Rounding out the band is Eric Singer (The Catman – drums) and Tommy Thayer (The Spaceman – lead guitar). Their stage performances and stage presence is like no other and is a must see for any rock fan. That night they played “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night”, “Deuce”, “Shout It Out Loud”, “Love Gun”, “Firehouse”, and “God of Thunder”.