Chicago Open Air Day Three: Sunday 7/17/2016
Band Photo: Slipknot (?)
Day 3: Sunday 7/17/2016
The best part of being Cuban/Irish is that I'm tan year round but still shrivel up like bacon when exposed to too much sunlight. I had the nastiest sunburn ever which even days later had my forehead covered in acne and the skin on my nose flaking off. And after looking at myself in the mirror, the first two words that came to mind were, “worth it.” As somebody too perpetually broke to wear sunscreen and already shelling out ungodly amounts of money just to stay fed and hydrated, a sunburn was a rather small price to pay to continue to have a really great time.
Since my arctic camo shorts were completely drenched in beer, I decided that now was the time to break out an even more egregious pair of camo shorts. Neon green and black are a pattern that can't blend into any environment which is why I bought them in the first place. Just the most outrageous thing I could possibly own... and now I had an excuse!
I missed the first three acts since I got there late. I kept waking up later each morning due to the sheer quantity of alcohol I was drinking as my car needed engine repairs and that meant that I wasn't driving. That fact that the gates opened earlier with each passing day didn't help either since Gemini Syndrome started playing a full half hour earlier than Through Fire did on Friday. So I ultimately have no opinions on Gemini Syndrome, Upon a Burning Body or We Came As Romans and I'm not going to fabricate a story just for the sake of comprehensiveness. There are some videos on Youtube and I watched them but I still lack anything resembling an opinion since bootlegs can never compare to the real thing.
Jim Breuer And The Loud And Rowdy
Jim Breuer and the Loud and Rowdy weren't particularly great. Their music was often generic and Jim Breuer's singing voice isn't very good. Despite being a stand up comic, Breuer's stage banter didn't make me laugh. In my eyes, that wasn't just flawed, that was criminal. Jim Breuer is a funny man but his music simply sucks. I'd be open to seeing him again so long as he just sticks to doing a pure comedy set and avoids music since his attempts at it are too unrefined to appreciate in any capacity.
I never liked West Coast hardcore and Letlive. weren't an exception. I did like how their vocalist climbed the stage but a good stage show can only do so much for me when it's in a genre that I'm not a fan of. I'm sure that there's an audience for them and they're good at what they do but I've never been a huge fan of the California post-hardcore scene and I don't ever see myself being won over. If you like that type of music, you'd absolutely get more out of it than I did since they are actually good at what they do. I just can count the number of post-hardcore bands from the West Coast that I actually like on all of one hand and still have fingers left over since it's a scene which has done absolutely nothing for me ever since Eighteen Visions ruined hardcore for everyone back in the early 2000s.
All That Remains
All That Remains was next. They took Asking Alexandria's slot after they canceled during the day of the show. I've had some very mixed feeling on ATR as of late. Partially due to the last two albums not being up to par with the majority of the band's work and partially due to frontman Phil Labonte's proclivity to manufacture controversy. Despite Phil Labonte's reliance on autotune in the studio, he actually sounds great live when the vocals were my big worry. New bassist Aaron Patrick's volume levels were a bit too high but I give him props on his At The Gates shirt, particularly considering that I was also wearing one. Their set was a bit too reliant on ballads and really could have used “The Air That I Breathe” and “Chiron” back but for a good half-hour, I saw glimpses of what ATR used to be and can one day be again because they still have it within them. If Phil Labonte could stop trolling Twitter and go back to making great albums again, I'd absolutely want to attend another ATR show. Phil doesn't need the controversy. When he applies himself, the music speaks for itself and it's terrific.
Corrosion of Conformity
I never really got into Corrosion of Conformity. Mostly since I'm not the biggest fan of doom/sludge stuff. I mostly know who they are because Pepper Keenan is in Down but they did win me over live since they do what they do very, very well. And it was the only way that I'd get to see any of the members of Down live for the foreseeable future since thanks to Phil Anselmo's latest bit of stage banter, I can't see too many promoters or bands wanting to work with Down for a good, long while. I didn't recognize many of their songs but they do a lot of improvised jams which not enough bands do today. They get some serious props from me for deviating from their albums and actually doing jam sessions in metal because that takes some serious skill to pull off and that's not something that can be rehearsed.
Bullet For My Valentine
Bullet For My Valentine were next and if a small child asked me to name the best example of what metal is they'd be the band that I'd expose the kid to. Keep in mind that isn't because I consider BFMV to be the best that the genre has to offer but because I consider them to be the most generic metal band in existence. They're a good gateway band but as long as they lack a gimmick they'll never truly impress me. They're good live, which is a good thing for those who already like them but they weren't good enough to convert me into being a believer. I don't particularly hate them but that doesn't mean that I like them. BFMV is a band that's really just kind of taking up space for me.
BabyMetal are nothing but a teen pop group with metal guitars backing them. They are the most manufactured corporate music since 98 Degrees and I will never understand the appeal of what's ultimately a metal version of the Spice Girls. Their guitarists may wear corpse paint but that fails to add credibility and just makes Dead and Euronymous spin in their graves. The very fact that Americans love this band more than X-Japan, Sigh or Dir En Grey is a terrifying travesty. As the biggest name in Japanese metal, they're an insult to the memories of Taiji Sawada and hide and ultimately appeal to people who've never even heard of either of them. Their target audience are mostly people too embarrassed to admit to liking Lady Gaga and Kesha out of fear that it'll hurt their metal cred but as somebody who can admit to liking cheesy pop music, there is seriously no appeal to me. If the promoters wanted more Asian acts or more female-fronted acts for the sake of diversity, then there were other, better choices to fill their slot.
But if you like them, they are good at what they do but I don't buy into what they're doing. Choreographed dancing isn't very metal to me and never will be but they still know what they're doing. If you like that kind of stuff, then go see them and have fun.
Then again, there's a silver lining. Namely that they are to 2016 what Limp Bizkit was to 1999. At the time, I mostly listened to alternative rock and hip-hop because that's what all my friends liked at the time. Then I got into Limp Bizkit because they took those alt-rock and rap influences and mixed them with screaming and heavy guitars. Up to that point, I considered Nirvana to be just noise. So what happened is that Limp Bizkit got me to check out other bands like Korn, Coal Chamber, Slipknot, Drowning Pool, Disturbed and Deftones before moving on to Lamb of God, Fear Factory and Unearth and then becoming the most obnoxious Tool fanboy ever before I started moving on to bands like Dream Theater, Mastodon, Primordial, Cannibal Corpse, Epica, Faith No More, Dark Tranquillty, Anal Cunt and Arch Enemy and then finally on to Behemoth, Gojira, Meshuggah, Portal, Anaal Nathrakh, Deathspell Omega and Origin. I needed that gateway.
In 2016, metal's become stagnant and most of the bands making waves today like Periphery, Deafheaven and even Hacktivist play in more extreme subgenres. Conversely, the most talked about album in the music press today is Beyonce's Lemonade. Now let's assume that a fifteen-year-old girl who is currently obsessed with Beyonce listens to BabyMetal. There's actually a very good chance that she'll like it, whereas she presumably won't be able to tolerate more than five seconds of The Dillinger Escape Plan. Now let's assume that Babymetal get her to listen to some of the more melodic metal bands like Nightwish, Gamma Ray, Dragonforce and Lacuna Coil or other J-metal like Maximum the Hormone and Versailles. There's a very good chance that within five years, this teenage Beyonce fan will eventually get around to giving bands like Converge and Pig Destroyer a chance all because of BabyMetal. Metal doesn't have a mainstream trend right now and there's no Guitar Hero or Ozzfest anymore to convince people to take the plunge into the more extreme side. BabyMetal may not be the messiah we want, but the savior that we need right now. If you don't believe me, I recently got a BabyMetal fan into After Forever just this past week and I bet that if I had it in my car at the time, she would agree that X-Japan's Art of Life is one of the greatest pieces of music written in the 90s regardless of genre. For as much as I'm prepared to hate pop-metal as much as I hated 90% of deathcore, I actually hope that the genre grows because it's bringing in new blood.
Marilyn Manson went on next. Manson himself admitted to being fucked up and it showed since he kept slurring words and even swilling down a bottle of beer onstage. I wasn't sober that day either but the difference was that I wasn't performing in a stadium full of people. A friend of mine even told me that Manson was drunk as hell the last time she saw him but that that this time around he was even less sober. He left himself no time to sober up before hitting the stage and looked about 20 pounds overweight. That's not even getting into the giant booger that at one point began leaking out of his nose, presumably from snorting cocaine on his tour bus. All That Remains are also known for making controversial statements but they at least manage to back up the media shitstorm by putting on great live shows. Marilyn Manson ultimately proves himself to be a completely toothless paper tiger who can't justify the controversy.
I'm actually glad that he didn't play “Rock is Dead,” “The Love Song,” “1996,” “This Is The New Shit” or “Irresponsible Hate Anthem” just so I didn't have to sit through my favorite Manson songs being mangled on stage. Manson needs to get sober if he hopes to keep expecting people to show up because he delivered the worst performance that I have ever seen out of a band signed to a record label. It's really a shame since Manson's shirt was the one that presumably sold the best of out of everything at the merch table as I saw more people wearing his new one than any of the other bands at the fest. I'm not going to bother with Manson live again unless I start hearing some sort of amazing word of mouth on his next tour. I am suffering and I know that he has betrayed me.
The one good thing that I'll say about Manson's set is that it was my first time crowd surfing. I'd never been to a venue that allowed for crowd surfing without smacking you in the nuts with a permanent banhammer before. For those who have never done it, to crowd surf is to know that the only thing keeping you from falling and hitting yourself hard on the pavement is twenty strange, sweaty men all having to grab your ass before you move all the way to the back of the pit. And as a random sweaty dude in the audience wasn't fabulous enough to grab my ass, I fell right on it as I sunk like a cinder block in the drowning hulk of the Titanic and lost my glasses in the pit.
I did find them but they don't fit anywhere near as comfortably as they did before. After a few minutes of prying hard on them and also finding the missing lens, I got them to look reasonably presentable once again. They still aren't perfect but unless I point it out, it's not noticeable at all. I don't regret crowd surfing at all. I just regret not losing weight before doing it.
Killswitch Engage completely washed the poor taste out of my mouth from Marilyn Manson's set. Not only because Jesse was able to cover Howard's material perfectly but also because they're just plain good at what they do. The whole crowd knew all the words to all their songs but their sound engineer was thankfully experienced enough to know how to compensate for that without blowing out my eardrums. This is a band who managed to not only meet but exceed my standards. The only thing that sucked about their show was that it was only forty minutes long despite headlining the second stage and they only played their singles. I noticed Adam D's sunburn which implies that he was out watching the show with us. I can totally get appreciate that he loves the scene enough to actually be part of it and not sit back on his tour bus.
Five Finger Death Punch
Five Finger Death Punch are decent live but that can't compensate for their music being terrible. Ivan Moody is also a dick who announced his intention to sue another band on the bill and bragged that, “my lawyers are better than his.” And that came after mocking people in the audience who didn't bother to buy his newest album as, “the cheapest date in the arena.” As somebody who doesn't enjoy FFDP's mixture of country and hard rock, that actually did a lot to alienate me. I was so close to being won over to the point of just accepting them as mediocre and no longer outright hating them if not for Moody's childish stage banter. I can only imagine how much worse Moody is in person. And nothing justifies making shitty music and hiding behind veterans charities to shot down criticism. Everybody in this band deserves a Five-Finger Cock Punch.
Slipknot isn't so much a concert as an experience. By this point I was officially the drunk guy at every concert who gets pushed by everyone else because he's stumbling over himself and woke up on Monday with the worst hangover of my life. Thankfully I was still sober enough to remember and appreciate Slipknot's set. The custom percussion could have been a bit louder as could the keyboards and turntables but for the most part Slipknot absolutely killed it. Even wearing a neck brace after his recent spinal injury, vocalist Corey Taylor was amazingly magnetic on stage. Songs both old and new sounded great and the audience participation part during “Spit It Out” was astounding. Despite the fact that I was more than a bit tipsy, I still recall everything perfectly and the slideshow, the stage setup and everything else from a presentation standpoint was absolutely impeccable. I even heard some songs from their first album that I never thought I'd hear live like “Sic” and “Surfacing.” Slipknot are every single bit as popular as they are and have maintained their fanbase for a reason. For as much as I love the majority of their albums, they really do need to be heard live because the live setting changes everything. They were a great choice to headline the entire festival and I gladly thank them for not canceling despite Taylor's injury.
Once they stopped playing, I wound up not only still drunk but also caught in a torrent of rain and the only shelter was a gas station while I waited for a ride which seriously killed all the good vibes. I still had a ton of fun and I was really glad to have had the experience of being there.
Would I see Slipknot again? I would if money were no object but Slipknot tickets are incredibly expensive. Still, there are so many amazing Slipknot tracks that weren't played that night like “Everything Ends,” “Vermilion,” “Sarcatastrophe,” “Metabolic” and “Pulse of the Maggots.” I really want to see Slipknot again and I know that I'd absolutely relish the chance to see more.
Overall, I'd like to see some more established openers and less hard rock next year. 75,000 tickets were sold this year, it was the most extreme of the Danny Wimmer Presents festivals this year and when I stopped to buy a shirt, the shirts for all the heaviest bands were all sold out. If anything that means that there's a market for more extreme music. Maybe not on the main stage but there are plenty of relatively obscure bands who can easily make it into next year's festival as second stage openers.
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