From The Pit To The Crowd: Chicago Open Air – Day 2!

Saturday, July 15th was Day 2 of Danny Wimmer Presents Chicago Open Air. It was a warm, bright, sunny day when I arrived at Toyota Park. I checked in at the media area to meet up with the other photographers. Everyone was in good spirits and ready to go for the day. I was excited as many of my favorite bands were playing that day and getting the chance to photograph them was unreal. Here’s how the day laid out:

For We Are Many – Blackcraft Stage

The opening spot was given to the winners of a Reverb Nation contest hosted by Danny Wimmer Presents. That band was For We Are Many. The win came as a shock and they also won a Live Nation Battle of the Bands contest for a spot on the July 21st Vans Warped Tour. The metalcore band consists of Johnpaul Vega (Drums), Hector Dominguez (guitar), Logan Trupiano (vocals), Emilio Flores (bass), and Nathan Tabor (rhythm guitar).

Black Map – Blackcraft Stage

The post hardcore group from San Francisco, CA was next up on stage. The trio consisting of Ben Flanagan (bass, vocals), Chris Robyn (drums), and Mark Engles (guitar) were former members of different groups before forming Black Map. The group released their sophomore album, ‘In Droves’, in March 2017 and is currently on tour with Chevelle. I had the pleasure of covering that show on July 19th. Some of their set list included “Octavia”, “Just My Luck”, “Ruin”, and “Run Rabbit Run”.

Cane Hill – Monster Energy Main Stage

The heavy metal band from New Orleans, LA was the first to grace the main stage on Saturday. The band ripped out some heavy chords and and vocals to entertain the crowd on stage. Elijah Witt (vocals), James Barnett (guitar), Ryan Henriquez (bass), and Devin Clark (drums) released their sophomore album ‘Smile’ in July 2016. Their set list included “Ugly Model Mannequin”, “Fountain of Youth”, “(The New) Jesus”, and “St. Veronica”.

Pig Destroyer – Blackcraft Stage

The band described as, grindcore, from Alexandria, VA, came onto the Blackcraft Stage to a solid crowd. The band formed back in 1997 played hard with some excellent screaming vocals getting a rise out of the crowd. Consisting of J.R. Hayes (vocals), Scott Hull (guitar), Blake Harrison (keyboards), Adam Jarvis (drums), and John Jarvis (bass), last released ‘Book Burner’ in 2012 and the EP ‘Mass & Volume’ in 2013 as part of a charity effort for Relapse Records employee Pat Egan, who had passed away. They did reveal a new song through Loudwire in April 2017 but no confirmed date on a new album.

Metal Church – Monster Energy Main Stage

This legendary band formed in 1980 in San Francisco, CA before relocating to Aberdeen, WA. Though briefly using the name Shrapnel, before renaming to Metal Church. The band released their self titled album in 1984 and was made an impression with 70,000 record sales before signing with Elektra. The band over the years went through multiple lineup changes (including six vocalists) and even a breakup in 1995. Despite the struggles, Metal Church prevailed, reuniting with vocalist Mike Howe in 2014 (20 years after his departure) and releasing their 11th album ‘XI’ in March 2016 which peaked at number 57 on the Billboard 200. It lead to them releasing a live album in April 2017 called ‘Classic Live’. Metal Church certainly made an impression at Chicago Open Air with a phenomenal performance with no signs of slowing down. The band’s current line up includes Mike Howe (vocals), Kurdt Vanderhoof (guitar), Steve Unger (bass), Rick Van Zandt (guitar), and Stet Howland (drums). Their set list included “Fake Healer”, “In Mourning”,  “Needle and Suture”, “Badlands”, and “Beyond The Black”. The band is hoping to release their 12th album in 2018. I had the pleasure of meeting Stet Howland and Steve Unger after their performance.


Personally, this was one of the bands I was looking forward to seeing that day. The metal band from London, UK was ready to tear up the Blackcraft Stage. The band formed in 1999 providing the world with fast paced music, high pitched vocals, and showmanship. The band attributes video game music to their own style of music. The band had their song “Through the Fire and Flames” from their second album ‘Sonic Firestorm’ appear on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Guitar Hero: Smash Hits, and Brutal Legend. The song is considered one of the hardest to perfectly complete on the Guitar Hero series. The band released their 7th studio album ‘Reaching Into Infinity’ in May 2017. The band consists of Marc Hudson (vocalist), Herman Li (guitar), Sam Totman (guitar), Frederic Leclercq (bass), Gee Anzalone (drums), and Vadim Pruzhanov (keyboards). Vadim is not on the tour choosing to spend time with his daughter and due to contractual agreements had to perform at all or none of the shows. The band’s setlist included “Reaching Into Infinity”, “Fury of the Storm”, “Ashes of the Dawn”, “Cry Thunder”, “Ring of Fire” (Johnny Cash cover), and “Through the Fire and Flames”. They performed very well on stage stunning the crowd with Marc’s unreal reaching vocals, Herman and Sam’s guitar playing, and their overall showmanship on stage. I was gracious to meet both Marc Hudson and Herman Li after their performance and the opportunity to cover them during their stop in Orlando on July 27th.

Avatar – Monster Energy Main Stage

The Swedish band from Gothenburg, who formed in 2001, has found themselves a solid fan following both in Europe and the United States. With their costuming, makeup, great vocals and music, has pulled in fans to see them perform. The main stage pit floor at Chicago Open Air had a large amount of fans (including some in make up) waiting for them to hit the stage. Avatar consists of Johannes Eckerstrom (vocals), Jonas Jarlsby (guitar), Tim Ohrstrom (guitar), Henrik Sandelin (bass), John Alfredsson (drums). The band released their 6th studio album ‘Feathers & Flesh’ in March 2016. In June 2017 they were awarded the Breakthrough Band Award at Metal Hammer Golden Gods. Their set list included “Hail The Apocalypse”, “New Land”, “The Eagle Has Landed”, and “Smells Like a Freakshow”.

Mushroomhead – Blackcraft Stage

When my fellow photographers told me about Mushroomhead they summed it up by saying expect great visuals, awesome music, and stay away from the drums at the edge of the stage. The metal band from Cleveland, OH formed back in 1993. The band had an impressive start including supporting GWAR for their second show and self financing their first 3 albums before being signed by Universal Records. Mushroomhead consists of Jeffrey “Nothing” Hatrix (lead vocals), Steve “Skinny” Felton (drums), Jason “J Mann” Popson (vocals), Rick “ST1TCH” Thomas (turntables, water drums, keyboards), Tommy “Church” Church (guitars), Ryan “Dr. F” Farrell (bass), and Robbie “Roberto Diablo” Godsey (water drums). The band released their 7th studio album (8th overall including the compilation album ‘XX’) ‘The Righteous & The Butterfly’ in May 2014 which went #1 on the Top Hard Rock Albums on Billboard. Their set list included “Qwerty”, “Sun Doesn’t Rise”, “Before I Die”, “For Your Pleasure”, and “When Doves Cry/Among The Crows”.

Steel Panther – Monster Energy Main Stage

Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. If any band presents that mantra on stage today, look no further than Steel Panther. Dressed up in makeup, spandex, hairsprayed and teased hair, making fun of each other, and bring women on stage to bare their breasts is all part of the show. The band from Los Angeles, CA used to do a weekly Monday night show in The Viper Room under the name of Metal Skool. The comedic show had them playing 80s cover tunes while poking fun at the bands they covered. They were even invited to perform at a Gene Simmons Roast where they played KISS songs and some of their own originals. They changed their name to Steel Panther and began releasing their own original material. Their excellent music and raunchy lyrics were an immediate hit leading them to release 5 studio albums. Their most recent was ‘Lower The Bar’ released in March 2017. Steel Panther was no holds barred at Chicago Open Air.. Michael Starr (vocals), Satchel (guitar), Lexxi Foxx (bass), and Stix Zadinia (drums) played it up to the crowd and ensured everyone was having a good time. Their set list included “”Eyes of a Panther”, “Fat Girl (Thar She Blows)”, “Death to All but Metal”, “17 Girls in a Row”, and “Gloryhole”. Definitely a performance to remember.

Body Count – Blackcraft Stage

Even celebrities made their way into Chicago Open Air. Back in 1990 in Los Angeles, CA, Ice-T and Ernie C formed a heavy metal band based on their love for that style of music. Their self titled album was released in 1992 that had the very controversial single called “Cop Killer” that gained such notoriety it garnered attention from former Vice Present Dan Quayle and former President George H.W. Bush. Battling through the controversy the band was very successful releasing 6 studio albums, including ‘Bloodlust’ released in March 2017, a spot at the Vans Warped Tour 15th anniversary party, and wrote a song specifically for the video game Gears of War 3. Body Count has gone through member changes over the years and currently includes Ice-T (vocals), Ernie C (guitar), Sean E Sean (sampler), Vincent Price (bass), Juan of the Dead (rhythm guitar), Ill Will (drums), and Little Ice (backing vocals). Their set list included “Raining Blood/Postmortem”, “Bowels of the Devil”, “Manslaughter”, “Body Count”, and “Cop Killer”.

Seether – Monster Energy Main Stage

The South African band formed back in 1999 under the name of Saron Gas. After being signed to Wind-Up Records they were asked to change their name as it sounded the same as a deadly nerve toxin created by the Nazis. And thus, Seether was born. The band found major success on the rock charts including #1 singles “Remedy” and “Fake It”, a single “Sold Me” on the movie soundtrack for The Punisher, and a duet with Amy Lee from Evanescence for the single “Broken”. Seether has released 8 stuido albums (including the 1 under Saron Gas) with the most recent being ‘Poison the Parish’ released in May 2017. The band is currently touring for this album and Chicago Open Air was one of the tour stops. Seether consists of Shaun Morgan (vocals, rhythm guitar), Dale Stewart (bass), and John Humphrey (drums). Clint Lowery (lead guitar) joined Seether for the length of the tour. Their set list included “Gasoline”, “Truth”, “Rise Above This”, “Fine Again”, “Country Song”, “Fake It”, and “Remedy”.

Clutch – Blackcraft Stage

The rock band from Frederick, MD brought their hard rock style to Chicago Open Air and fans couldn’t be more thrilled. They formed back in 1991 and have done something over 26 years that I find particularly amazing. They maintained the majority of their band members. With only two departures, one when the band first formed in 1991 and the second in 2008, the remaining band members have been there from the start. Clutch is Neil Fallon (vocals), Tim Sult (guitar), Dan Maines (bass), and Jean-Paul Gaster (drums). They have released 11 studio albums, with their most recent being ‘Psychic Warefare’ released in October 2015. Their set list included “We Need Some Money”, “Sucker for the Witch”, “The Mob Goes Wild”, “The House That Peterbilt”, “We Love a Good Fire”, and “Electric Worry”.

Godsmack – Monster Energy Main Stage

The band I was probably most looking forward to that day comes to us from Lawrence, Ma. Forming in 1995, Godsmack produced their own CD in 3 days time called ‘All Wound Up’. A local DJ named Rocko for WAAF put “Keep Away” from the album into their rotation and the band started getting noticed. After going back into the studio to record the single “Whatever”, the band was signed to Universal/Republic Records. They produced their self titled album and released it in 1998. The album went on to quadruple platinum by 2001. Besides “Keep Away” and “Whatever” the album also held one of their most popular singles “Voodoo”. In October 2000 the band released “Awake” which ended up certified as double platinum and released singles “Sick of Life”, “Awake”, and “Vampires”. Their continued success ran them into writing the single “I Stand Alone” for the movie The Scorpion King and three consecutive #1 albums with ‘Faceless’, ‘IV’, and ‘The Oracle’. In August 2014 the band released their most current album ‘1000hp’. With 6 studio albums, 1 acoustic EP (‘The Other Side’), 20 top 20 singles, with 15 of those ranking in the top 5, Godsmack is a powerhouse rock band showing no signs of slowing down and they ripped up the stage at Chicago Open Air that night. With a full pit floor and the bowl stands filled, the crowd constantly body surfing and cheering, made their appreciation for Godsmack known. Godsmack is Sully Erna (vocals), Robbie Merrill (bass), Tony Rombola (guitar), and Shannon Larkin (drums). They had an excellent set list that night of some of the best singles including “Whatever”, “Greed”, “1000hp”, “Awake”, “Straight Out Of Line”, “Voodoo”, “I Stand Alone”, “Batalla de Los Tambores” (their dueling drum set with Shannon and Sully), and their cover of The Beatles “Come Together”.

Korn – Monster Energy Main Stage

The headliners for Day 2 of Chicago Open Air were none other than the nu metal band from Bakersfield, CA. The band originally formed in 1993 and would release their first self titled album in 1994. It hit #1 on the Heatseekers Album charts and peaked at #72 on the Billboard 200 by February 1996. It would eventually go on to be certified double platinum. The band has released 12 studio albums with their most recent released in October 2016 titled ‘The Serenity of Suffering’. The single “Rotting in Vain” was debuted at their appearance at the first Chicago Open Air festival on July 16, 2016. Out of those 12 albums, 8 of them peaked in the top 5 on the Billboard charts. 7 of those were certified at platinum. To say this band was successful is an understatement as Korn has significantly made their mark in the metal world since their first release. And Chicago Open Air fans were more than thrilled to have them as the headliner Saturday evening. Korn members Jonathan Davis (vocals), James “Munkey” Shaffer (rhythm guitar), Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu (bass), Brian “Head” Welch (lead guitar), and Ray Luzier (drums) had a stellar performance and light show for the fans that night. Their set list included “Rotting in Vain”, “Falling Away From Me”, “Black is the Soul”, “Shoots and Ladders”, “Coming Undone”, “Make Me Bad”, and “Freak on a Leash”.

Crowd Shots

And of course what wouldn’t tap off a festival day with some shots of the crowd. Without them none of the festival shows would be as successful as they are today.