CHICAGO OPEN AIR 2016
Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL || July 15 – 17, 2016
Words by Ace Sims || Photos by Thomas Woroniak
On the weekend of July 15th all hell broke loose in Bridgeview, IL’s Toyota Park as the Chicago Open Air festival took over the area for a three-day festival of metal debauchery. 42 bands graced two stages in what was the first annual event. Bands and fans from all over the world took part in the greatest metal festival to ever hit the states. I mean hell, Rammstein chose this such occasion as their only US stop in 2016. This DWP (Danny Wimmer Presents) production not only had one of the greatest line ups ever it also had killer gourmet man food and craft beers to please the pallets as well as the ears. Venders such as Monster Energy, Zippo, F#ck Cancer, were on hand to help enhance the experience.
Day 1 – Friday, July 15
What can I say about day one, let’s see…? The Chicago Open Air Festival came out swinging leading off with Omaha, Nebraska’s own Through Fire. Sometimes being the opener of a 3-day festival can be a daunting task but these guys were up for the task. Also up for the task were the fans. There was one hell of a crowd for 11:30 in the morning, and they were ready for the weekend to get started. The Butcher Babies took the baton next and keep things going with raw in your face metal, and Heidi Shepherd’s jumps will make the high jumpers in this year’s Olympics look like a bunch of pussies. There were so many great bands that walked on and off those two stages; In This Moment, Meshuggah, Ministry, and so on. But my two favorite moments also took place on day one. First, by now you have all heard of Mr. John Hetlinger and have seen the video of him singing “Bodies” on America’s Got Talent. Well, for those of us lucky enough to be in attendance, we got the absolute joy of seeing Mr. Hetlinger assist in closing down Drowning Pool’s set by performing “Bodies” with the band. I believe I had a smile planted on my face for about an hour after that. The biggest highlight of day one was of course RAMMSTEIN. Again making their only US stop in 2016, the Chicago Open Air festival goers were baptized by fire on that Friday night. The men of Rammstein capped of the night by burning the place to the ground.
Day 2 – Saturday, July 16
Like a Phoenix rising from the Rammstein ashes, Day 2 kicked off with the rockers from Minnesota, City of The Weak. With the task of getting everyone woke the fuck back up from day one’s shenanigans, Stef with an F and the boys did just that with loads of energy and ear splitting rock. There were a couple times where I though Stef was going to hit her head on the box up front from just rocking the hell out. I had the chance to ask her about it and she said she never hit her head but has had a dread get caught and ripped out. More great bands like Silver Snakes and Miss May I kept the day moving as well as all the heads. The second stage on this day was being closed out what might be one of the hottest metal bands in the world right now, Gojira. I had people texting me all day “have you seen Gojira yet?”, what did you think. The men from France came to rock and just one day removed from yet other terrible tragedy that took place on their home soil. Joe Duplantier addressed the crowd in reference to the world we are living in. I will never be able to capture or recreate his message so I will sum it up – Cut the shit people, let’s just love each other.
With Gojira ending the activities for the day outside on the second stage it was time for Breaking Benjamin to take over the main stage as one of the last three acts of the night. One thing I love about Breaking Benjamin since they hit the scene again last year is that the talent is running rampant in that camp hearing Keith Wallen sing “Sooner or Later” was just awesome. I did ask Arron Bruch earlier in the day if we would here his cover of “Aenima,” but was told they had other plans that evening. Following Breaking Benjamin was Korn who has not missed a beat since the last time I had seen them. Johnathan Davis sounded as good as ever and killed it on the new song “Rotting in Vain.”
Ending day to was the hometown boys Disturbed. It’s not easy following in the footsteps of Rammstein and closing out Day 2, but Disturbed did just fine. There is something about hearing the song “10,000 Fists” and turning around and seeing 5 times that many actually in the air. It was a sight to see.
Day 3 – Sunday, July 17
Sadly, all great things must come to an end. However, but before it did, we got 12 more hours of metal. The day did not look good as rain poured down Sunday morning. Me and photographer Thomas sat in my car going “WTF, I hope this stops!” At about 10:00am it was a very light drizzle that finally tapered off and finally allowed the crew to get Gemini Syndrome ready to light the candle on Day 3. While we all waited the buzz around the lot was that, according to weather and radar, we had three to four hours of clear skies before the doom and gloom. I am not certain and don’t quote me on this but I think that Gemini Syndrome came out and destroyed, and the gods of metal grabbed mother nature’s skirt tail and said “you ain’t fucking this up!” We never saw another drop of rain until the end of the night. Sunday was the heaviest of all the days with bands like Upon a Burning Body, All That Remains, and Killswitch Engage rolling throughout the day. Sadly, Asking Alexandria was unable to make it due to a Visa issue.
The heaviness was not just for the daytime as Marilyn Manson and Five Finger Death Punch lead us down to the end of the path where Slipknot was waiting to kick our teeth in, and that they did. Corey Taylor paced the stage like a lion in a cage due to not being able to run and jump while recovering from neck surgery. What once was a group of misfits from Des Moines, is now one of the biggest bands in the world, closing out the greatest festival the US has ever seen.