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Chicago Open Air Day Two: Saturday 7/16/2016

Photo of Korn

Band Photo: Korn (?)

I knew going into Saturday that it'd be in the most incongruous day of the festival since Disturbed were supported on their own tour by a number of hard rock acts which made the overall festival feel a bit disjointed. The heaviest acts on the tour were playing on the second stage while the radio rock acts tackled the main stage. The best way to describe it would be ADHD comorbid with DID.

One of the best parts of Chicago Open Air is that it's actually a place where I could wear arctic camo shorts and not look get weird looks from people. Granted, there are probably some other places. For instance, if I was ever tempted to go hunting in the jungles of Alaska or the frozen tundra of Florida, I'd break them out again. But for the most part, I was never going to wear them anywhere else.

I missed City of the Weak which was a shame since I took the time to listen to some of their music on Youtube and actually liked it. They're more of a pop-punk band in the vein of Blink 182 but I wanted to see them nonetheless since they were actually decent when I did listen to them and I wanted to see if they were any good live. There's no Youtube video of their set. There's no Setlist.fm data either so it feels like most people also arrived too late to see them.

Silver Snakes

I did catch all of Silver Snakes who were the big surprise of the day. I didn't expect much out of them since I wasn't familiar with their music at all. They have a no-name record label and even lacked a Wikipedia page so I had absolutely no idea what to expect out of them but they did leave an impression on me. They're clearly some type of industrial metal. While that's a relatively vague description, they don't sound a whole lot like many other artists. I guess the closest comparison is Nine Inch Nails but they aren't really a clone and for the most part do their own thing. While it's hard to classify them, I will say that their level of atmosphere is on par with that of Mayhem. They're just a really solid band who are drowning in obscurity right now but need more attention. And by that I mean attention that I'd gladly give them if they could land a better record deal who can give them better publicity.

Saint Asonia

Saint Asonia were a decent post-grunge band but that's the problem. It's post-grunge. I'm pretty sure that the only post-grunge bands that I've ever liked were Godsmack and Bush. Saint Asonia is ultimately an excuse for Three-Days Grace's old frontman to have a new band and his new music is every bit as disposable as his old project was. Being listenable and knowing how to play your music live don't mean that you aren't playing music marketed at the lowest common denominator in the most uninspired genre in the history of music. They were on the bill because they were part of a tour with Disturbed but a lot of the hard rock and post-grunge acts at Chicago Open Air were honestly out of place compared to the Friday and Sunday lineups. It was still jarring since most of the hard rock acts felt out of place compared to the headliners and second stage acts. It's like when you and your friends walk into a bar for a pub crawl and find out that you just wandered into a BDSM dungeon. Hopefully next year, the promoters won't have to book a full tour just to grab the headliner and can get more bands who actually manage to please their target audience.

Beartooth

Beartooth are better live than they are in the studio but that's still a polished turd. Their music is still awful and they're still the absolute worst metalcore band to come out in recent years. I wasn't impressed or won over but for those wanting to see the other remnants of Attack! Attack! who didn't wind up in Of Mice and Men continue to make awful music, they'll leave satisfied. I just wasn't impressed at all by them. I say this as somebody who's been won over plenty of times by a band in a live environment but this wasn't one of those times. Beartooth are still abysmal and I doubt that they'll ever be counted among my favorites.

Compared to the Behemoth shirt I was wearing on Friday, I got next to no complements on my Fleshgod Apocalypse shirt. I'm not sure if it's because symphonic metal was a trend from the past decade or they're just a much more obscure band but I will say that once they start touring in November and open for Epica, I expect them to get a lot more publicity.

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Nothing More

Nothing More are yet another rock band at a metal fest although this time around, they weren't part of the Disturbed tour. They were booked arbitrarily for reasons which I can't understand, especially considering that they're on a no-name label. And their vocalist's voice kept cracking which was annoying. I never bothered to listen to them before and I won't bother to listen to them again.

Miss May I

Miss May I are a really solid metalcore band. For as many reasons as I wanted to come up with to dislike them, I really couldn't think of any other than, “they sound too much like Bleeding Through.” They might not be particularly original but considering that Bleeding Through are no longer a band, it's safe to call Miss May I a quality replacement. They might not have come across as original to me but I will check out some of their albums and I'd be open to seeing them live again if they're touring with another band I like. They play in a crowded and mature genre but they still did enough to make me actually like them and that does count for something with me. For a band that I never even heard before, I didn't expect them to make an impression on me but they did and I have been listening to them a few times since.

Helmet

I never thought I'd say this but Helmet were one of the heaviest bands I have ever heard in my life. They seriously benefit from a live environment and are a lot more brutal anyone would assume just from listening to their albums. For whatever reason, I kept passing up the chance to see them in favor of other bands for years and I honestly really regret it now. It's a completely different experience since Paige Hamilton does a lot more screaming when he performs his material live and the amp levels are absolutely bone crushing. They thankfully ignored their underwhelming post-reunion albums and stuck to the old classics like “Unsung” and “In the Meantime.” I get the feeling that they'd be even better in a small club so I'll make a note of the next time that they headline.

Carcass

Carcass were the only other band aside from In This Moment at the fest that I managed to see before. I caught them on their reunion tour with Samael and The Black Dahlia Murder back in 2009 and fully recognize how old that makes me. I'm glad that they got more exposure from opening for Disturbed since I feel like Disturbed's audience leans a bit more mainstream and they might not have heard of Carcass. It didn't hurt that Bill Steer played everything absolutely perfectly and didn't miss a single note during his entire set. My main regret is not being able to attend both Chicago Open Air and their headlining set at the Metro over the course of the same day since I wanted more of them. I especially wanted more from Heartwork and Surgical Steel which were both serviced with only one song each.

And am I the only person who noticed that as Jeff Walker has gained weight that he's become a dead ringer for Lemmy? It's almost like when Lemmy died, he transferred his essence into Jeff.

Pop Evil

Pop Evil were next and like many of the main stage bands on Saturday, they were a hard rock band. Their vocalist even admitted that they were too rock for a metal fest and felt out of place. As somebody who was already a teenager long ago and already had his gateway bands from around 1998-2006, I can't really get excited for a band like Pop Evil who came about long after I graduated high school. I'll admit that they're good at what they do but they didn't do anything new or original so I can't really say that I cared.

And for the record, people need to stop vaping in my face. Smoking is one thing but when somebody vapes at a concert, the person sitting or standing behind you gets a face full of your smoke. It's incredibly rude and if you need a smoke break, please vape by the washrooms because I'm tired of having a big fucking cloud in my face when I'm trying to watch the band. There were so many vapers at the fest and I really got tired of feeling like I was trapped in a level of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter where I couldn't see more than three feet in front of me due to the fog.

Deafheaven

Deafheaven are critically acclaimed but I can't really say that I really listened all that closely to their albums. That said, they really impressed me despite being the only black metal band on the bill. I was worried that people wouldn't watch – as black metal isn't for everyone – but they actually did. Hopefully next year we can get some more black metal bands or even some blackened death metal like Behemoth since mainstream listeners will listen to black metal if given the chance and it will make Deafheaven stick out less. As for their stage presence, they came across as being a lot like The Cure despite not sounding like them at all. That probably means that Pantera fans probably don't form their core audience since they're ultimately a bunch of sensitive guys in a macho genre. That's not so much a criticism as much as it is an observation since I do plan on giving them another listen in the near future and I would go see them again depending on who they're playing with.

I skipped Alter Bridge because I needed food and if there was any band whom I felt it was okay for me to skip, it was them. Creed without Scott Stapp is still three quarters of Creed who were the absolute worst band to come out of the 90s, even worse than some of the later boy bands. Not being as bad as Creed itself is a rather dubious award and I would rather not torture myself by listening to them when I was hungry and needed to use the washroom.

Gojira

Few things can compare to Gojira live. They are one of the heaviest, most brutal bands I have ever seen in my life. Despite my worries about how a crowd who just watched Alter Bridge would take them, they actually loved them. Keep in mind that Gojira's set overlapped with Breaking Benjamin's but the crowd stayed through all of Gojira's set and even demanded an encore that the promoters actually allowed. This is in no small part due to their charismatic stage presence, including and especially drummer Mario Duplantier. They already have one of the heaviest sounds that I've ever heard in my life on their CDs but when they play live it's a whole different experience, especially when they play “Backbone.”

It was also great to have watched a French band play just days after the Nice truck attack. I did hear people in the audience shouting, “Remember Nice!” and “Viva la France!” Considering how recent the tragedy was, it was good to hear people standing in solidarity with the French. I was reminded of the time when I attended the Chicago Lyric Opera to hear The Merry Widow the weekend after the Charlie Hebdo attacks and heard entire crowd sing "La Marseillaise."


Breaking Benjamin

Breaking Benjamin never did anything for me. As somebody who has two brothers and a sister who all love this band, I've given them plenty of chances but can't for the life of me figure out their appeal. I got their late for their set since I was busy being blown away by Gojira but from what I saw of the second half of it, they sounded almost exactly like they do on their underwhelming albums. For all the hype that Breaking Benjamin has received, I still don't understand why people like them so much since they've always been the most generic band within the alternative metal genre.

Korn

I always wanted to see Korn live because I heard great things about them from friends who saw them in the 90s and 2000s and also because their music helped me through some seriously difficult times as a kid. The first thing I noticed is that Jonathan Davis actually looks really good with her new beard and he should keep it just like he kept the HR Giger mic. The second thing I noticed is that Munky can't grow a beard, it's fucking peach fuzz and needs to be shaved. Korn debuted a new song titled “Rotting In Vain” and I loved it. It brought back the scat singing that's been missing since Follow the Leader which is great for old-school Korn fans like me. Jon Davis sometimes hit the wrong notes early in his set but by the time the new song hit, he managed to fix his vocal performance. Aside from “Coming Undone,” there wasn't anything else from the era when Head wasn't in the band but considering that their music was often rather lacking while he was gone (to put it gently) that was probably for the best. I still wanted to hear more from The Paradigm Shift since that album was an inspired return to form but it was also a wise choice to stick to old favorites at a festival show. They put on a great show complete with bagpipes and even Jon Davis bringing out his kids for “Freak On A Leash.” I was entertained for the entirety of it but their sound technician messed up and made the band sound like the musical equivalent of a flat Pepsi. The sound quality was clear but lacked the punch that Korn needs considering how low they tune their bass and guitars. That's not the band's fault at all but it was noticeable and took away from the intensity that their music requires to properly enjoy. I also noticed that Fieldy hasn't switched to fretless which comes as a surprise to me since he's always played slap bass.

I also had this one girl stalking me in the pit for some weird reason during KoRn's set and wasn't really sure how to let her go without coming across as a dick since she looked underage and therefore wasn't really my type. I moved from where I was standing the first time I saw her leave in the hope that I could lose her and then she came right to where I was standing at the time. She wasn't even saying hello, she was just following me silently. And that's not getting into the full can of beer that somebody stepped on and thus spilled all over my shorts.

Disturbed

Disturbed were absolutely worth seeing live. They stuck entirely to singles but that was hardly a bad thing. I literally knew all the words and screamed along to the entire thing. David Draiman has an incredible stage presence and just oozes charisma despite putting on even more of a gut over the past few years than I have. A teenage cancer patient also made it onto Disturbed's stage prior to “Indestructible” which was the most heartwarming thing that I've seen a band do this year since Behemoth spread a fan's ashes on stage. It says a lot about a band's character to know that they've made it to the point of headlining festival shows but still care about their fans as people. It was my first ever time seeing them despite being a fan since I first heard “Down With the Sickness” on the radio as a kid back in 2000 and I don't regret a second of my chance to finally hear them perform in a live setting.

I also ran into my friend Lisa who I haven't seen in half a decade. It's mostly since she lives in the southwest suburbs and I live in northern Lake County but also because she lacks the messenger app on her phone and replies to IMs two months after I send them. Her boyfriend is also a sound engineer and a pretty cool guy (for a Cubs fan).

But as for Saturday as a whole, I enjoyed most of what I saw. There was a bit too much rock for a metal festival particularly considering that nearly all of the Friday and Sunday bands were metal or hardcore acts. Hopefully next year there will be a bit less post-grunge stuff since that's a genre that's been played out since the 90s when there are plenty of accessible gateway metal bands who might not be big enough to be headliners but could easily make it on to the main stage like Machine Head, Epica and Nightwish.

Dasher10's avatar

Matt is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Illinois and a metalhead since 1999.

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1 Comment on "Chicago Open Air Day Two"

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1. larry writes:

who writes this crap? This writer is obviously the biggest hater of them all.

# Jul 30, 2016 @ 12:39 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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