BY EVAN J THOMAS | Go Venue Magazine
Chicago Open Air 2019 was an interesting event this year. After taking a year hiatus in 2018 COA was back in Bridgeview, Illinois at what is now called SeatGeek Stadium (Formerly Toyota Park). This year the festival was a scaled back version of its first two years in 2016 and 2017 as it was cut down from three full days to two. COA in its first two years had 2 stages where the bands set times would jump back and forth from second stage to main stage but this year COA only had one main stage.
Unfortunately I missed the opening day, Saturday, which featured a reunion of System of a Down as well as Ghost but Saturday also started late as a severe thunder storm rolled through the Chicagoland area. Three of the early bands on Saturday were cut from the show to make sure the show finished on time for curfew. Code Orange, Knocked Loose and Vein were the product of the cut down sets. All three bands did manage to play a surprise local show at The Metro that I heard was a blast! Check out some social media video of that show.
Sunday was the day for me to attend as Tool was the headliner for the festival. I managed to make it for the last song of The Black Dahlia Murder set. The crowd was slow to arrive due to more potential storms lingering in the area that day.
I wanted to make sure I made it in time for Fever 333 since they jumped into the scene last year and recently released their album Made in America. Lead singer Jason Aalon Butler came out to the stage with a handler wearing a black hood over his head while sporting a vest that had “333” scripted on the front. If you saw Butler in his previous band Letlive you know that he has a ton of energy on stage and he didn’t disappoint today. Butler and the boys slashed through their set that included “One Of Us” and “Burn It”. In the middle of the set Butler took his microphone and took to the crowd. He set up shop right in front of the soundboard and started to talk when he was interrupted by a loud mouth fan but Butler quickly put him in his place by saying “I’m the one with the microphone.” At the end of the set Butler again left the stage and made his way up to the top of the VIP/ Luxury Box high above the ground as he rocked it out with “Hunting Season”. Fever 333 put on an incredible show.
In This Moment was next up and the ever so beautiful Maria Brink arrived on the stage looking like a “Game of Thrones” character. ITM due to a time constraint only had time for five songs of their set but they did entertain the masses with “Big Bad Wolf”, “Natural Born Sinner” and “Whore”. The imagery of ITM is something to be seen as Maria is in character for each and every song as her dancers parade around her as part of the experience.
Hailing from France, Gojira was next up at COA and it was the second time the band has played COA. This year they stepped up their stage show by having some wicked pyro and fire blasts going on throughout the set. A day prior to their COA set, Gojira guitarist Christina Andreu had his face burned as a gust of wind blew the fire into his face. Luckily it was just a minor snafu and he powered through the rest of his set. Sunday night though Gojira thrashed through 8 songs of their catalog including “The Cell”, “Vacuity” and my personal favorite “Stranded”.
The Cult was the second to last band of the night and if you weren’t aware they were the replacement for The Prodigy after the suicide earlier in the year to frontman Keith Flint. It must be tough for a band to be a replacement and to go on right before the all mighty Tool. The fans weren’t as engaged during the bands set as they could have been but The Cult did put on a good performance despite the lack of crowd energy. The band played “Rise” and the song was dedicated to Keith Flint, they also nailed it with their song “Fire Woman” and finished their set with “Love Removal Machine”.
I’ve seen thousands of bands, hundreds and hundreds of shows but one of my most anticipated band who I have not seen was next up, TOOL. The crowd grew restless moments before the stage lights went dark but then “Ænima” started playing with a light show and video imagery on the screens behind the band that made the wait worth it. Maynard James Keenan and the rest of Tool pumped out a one hour and 30 minute set that felt like it could have easily gone on another hour. Playing “The Pot”, “Schism”, “Jambi”, “Forty Six & 2”, along with their new song “Invincible” and finishing with “Stinkfist” among other tracks mixed in. Tool is a band that just knows how to bring it musically and visually and were the perfect finale for Chicago Open Air 2019.
Chicago Open Air 2019 Photos below: