Chicago Open Air 2017 - Fisher Fotography

On the weekend of July 14th through 16th, 2017, Toyota Park was packed and the reason had nothing to do with soccer. Instead, the venue was completely taken over by 40 bands, all rocking the audience with an unparalleled energy. For 3 full days the array of talent drew such a diverse mix of people, representing many different ages and interests. Each day as the gates opened, the venue became home to rockers from all over the country. Being an all-ages event meant that the wide-eyed excitement of kids experiencing their first show was easy to spot. They shared the space with those Veterans of Rock who were out to see bands like Kiss and Megadeth for their 12th (or 20th time depending on who you ask). Some said they were there to hear a specific artist, some were there “to see them ALL”. I even met one concert-goer that has flown in from Canada with his father because his Dad told him he had to see KISS at least once in his life. Regardless of which performance the patrons came to see, and why, they were sure to be pleased. With such an amazing mix of up-and-coming artist performing back to back with those legendary acts, there was no shortage of entertainment to be had. Of course, the primary draw to OpenAir is the music, but don’t forget the Experiences that added to the event. Between the Caduceus wine experience, the Heavy Tiki Bar, the Jack Daniels Experience, and the Headbangers Bier Hall, there was no risk of going thirsty. There was even a Monster Energy Experience for those Under 21 or simply needing a bit of a boost to keep on rocking. And since nothing pairs better with drinks than some tasty Man Food, there were several vendors with seriously amazing eats. While the weekend's on-stage entertainment was punctuated with episodes of Joey Siler’s animated series, “Cooking Hostile” being played on the big screen, there was nobody feeling hostile about all of the food choices. I don't know who hatched the idea of deep frying ribs but let's just say someone deserves an innovation award.  Nothing adds to a concert experience like a Music Experience, where attendees can not only meet bands and have awesome merch like snares and sticks signed, but they can also get their hands on some of the hottest equipment available. Throughout the three days of performances, bestowed upon the audience were many amazing solos on guitar. Some epic guitar solos were also taking place offstage, at the Music Experience, where contestants were vying for a chance to win a guitar. On Saturday, the winner of the shredding competition got to take home his own axe after surviving three rounds of laying down riffs against his opponents. One round of the challenge even including being heckled by the audience to be sure once on the stage there would be no chance of distraction. So many people coming together and forming a collective surrounding the universal language of music was an energy to be reckoned with. The overall theme of artists appreciating their audience resounded throughout the weekend. The multiple appearances of Jose Mangin, one of the icons of the scene, kept the high-energy vibe alive. For three days in mid-July Toyota Park was the Chicago heavy metal depot. Those who were lucky enough to be there will never forget. Those who regret not coming are already making plans to be there in 2018!

Darian Mosley

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