Daniel Oliver, Nothing More, and creator of the Bassinator
Not only the music, and the songs--familiar from metal and rock radio--but the entire band's stage presence, Jonny Hawkins' occasional and uncanny resemblence to Jim Morrison, the genius bass solo involving three members of the band and a metal contraption, the Bassinator, which allowed playing the bass with picks, slide, and drumsticks...
Nothing More, Chicago Open Air
The set opens with extra drums, front and centre, wound with rusty bike chains and other recycled metal. Jonny Hawkins, barechested, attacks them; Ben Anderson on regular drums, Mark Vollelunga on guitar, Daniel Oliver on bass, and the band is complete.
I had seen people wearing #IamJenny t-shirts. It wasn't until I'd returned home and worked on the Nothing More photo gallery, doing what I usually do--listening to a band while I work on the photos I've taken--that the story, and the meaning, became very clear. If you haven't already seen it, watch the official video for Jenny all the way through, right to the end. Every one of us--and I mean, each and every one of us--knows someone who has struggled with, who is struggling with, who lives with mental illness, addiction, depression, any or all of the above, or who has someone in their lives who are struggling with mental health... the song describes the turmoil, the hope, the love, the despair. At the end of the video, there are organizations who might be able to help, such as Bring Change 2 Mind, The Jed Foundation, The International Bipolar Foundation, Young Minds (UK), and To Write Love on her Arms, with whom the band have partnered to raise awareness. (There is always, always someone to talk to, no matter how bad today is... if sharing this video, and these organizations, and #iamjenny, makes a difference to one person, one family, one person's friend, sister, child, brother, parent, lover... it's worth so very much. You can check out and share #iamjenny stories on instagram and other social media. Let's keep this message going.)
(I wasn't photographing last night, so these photos were all taken at Chicago Open Air.)
It was very interesting to see both Silver Snakes, and letlive, twice within a very short time--less than two weeks--and in such different environments.
At Chicago Open Air, before thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people, both bands playing the festival's second stage, outdoors, as the festival's name suggests. And then last night, at the Boardwalk in Orangevale, before an audience of maybe two hundred, if you counted very carefully (which I didn't); a compact venue, a tiny stage, sweaty, and dark, very dark.
Jason Aalon Butler, letlive, Chicago Open Air
These bands put every ounce of energy into their performance, regardless of the size of the stage, the venue, or the audience. (Seahaven too, had many in the audience singing along to their songs--it was my first time seeing or hearing them.) letlive's Jason Aalon Butler again launched himself into the crowd and continued singing while being passed from person to person, then back onto the stage.
And welcome to my nightmare... and yours, and yours, and yes yours, too. Visually and musically dark, scary, intriguing, heavy, and totally-spectacular, Slipknot's headline show at Chicago Open Air, and highlight for the many, many thousands of Slipknot fans filling Toyota Park.
Insane clown in your nightmares? He's here... I think everyone of our worst dreads can be found on stage during a Slipknot show, and yet, we love it, and go back for more.
Thank you for the music. And the dreams... shudder...
While editing a million photos this week, I've been down several internet ratholes researching the background/inspiration for several tattoos... coming across erroneous, Google-translated oooopses (I'm not telling where), and finding lots of people who have far too much time on their hands (nasty comments threads). But one of the most-interesting tattoos is the one on Phil Labonte's right arm; a segmented snake, and the words "Join Or Die". Each of the snake segments has the initials of an early USA state or region... it comes from a political cartoon created by Benjamin Franklin, and published in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1754. The meaning and use of the image has morphed since it was created (unity or war), and the history is fascinating. (You can see the tattoo in the live photo gallery.)
Each show, excellent, and each show, different. This time, without Chachi Riot (who departed the band in May), and also without new drummer Hayley Cramer (visa delay... thnx, US immigration, yet again, too many bands affected by this, this year). (The band's drummer did a great job--if anyone can share his name, please do, and I'll update this post!) Good news: Hayley is now all set with visa and will be appearing with Pop Evil from now on. I'm hoping (yes, greedy, I know) to see them again soon. Maybe a road trip to catch up with then on their tour with Three Doors Down?
Walking on hands: Pop Evil at Chicago Open Air, 2016
The Chicago Open Air set kicked off with Deal with the Devil, and rocked through to the last notes of Footsteps. Leigh Kakaty walked on the crowd. Numerous surfers glided into the pit. Great show.
(I keep saying that. "Great show". At the risk of repeating myself over, and over, again, t was a great show. Pop Evil rocked! And the whole Chicago Open Air weekend too!!!)
So much so, that I couldn't wait to see them take the stage at Chicago Open Air. And they did not disappoint. Opening with Sick Like Me, and also playing Black Widow, Sex Metal Barbie, Whore, and Blood, with drama, story-telling-in-song, and costume changes that the band are known for.
In This Moment, Chicago Open Air
Fronted by Maria Brink and the dancing Blood Girls, guitarists Chris Howarth and Travis Johnson, bassist Randy Weitzel, and now with drummer Kent Diimmell who recently joined the band, In This Moment are theatrical, dramatic, entertaining, and metal. Think Lady Gaga meets Alice Cooper, with a twist of Slipknot. (If you've never seen them, check out the official videos for Sick Like Me and one of my current favourites, the slower but strong The Fighter, on YouTube.)
Travis Johnson, bass, In This Moment
The pictures tell the wild, outrageous story.
Sex Metal Barbie, In This Moment, at Chicago Open Air 2016
Jonathan Davis, HR Giger, Korn at Chicago Open Air
A good, strong, festival set of Korn songs: opening the show with Right Now from 2003's Take A Look In The Mirror, premiering Rotting In Vain from Serenity of Suffering (see below), and through to Freak on a Leash, they kept the audience rocking, surfing, and moving like a giant Korn-powered monster with a life of it's own. Loads more crowd photos in the photogallery!
Korn, Chicago Open Air 2016
There's something very very special about a live Korn show, not least of which for any art-movie-sculpture fan, seeing the beautiful H.R. Giger-designed microphone stand that Jonathan Davis uses as his partner, muse and headbanging support, center stage, a stunning piece of work.
I have one regret with Marilyn Manson: that I didn't see him perform live, fifteen or twenty years ago. He still raises a huge crowd of followers, his recent album The Pale Emporer was huge, but no, I didn't see him all those years ago, and I do regret it.
Marilyn Manson, Chicago Open Air
Why? Because I have nothing to compare his recent performances with, except for shady YouTube videos. I can't talk to how good a performance he gave on Sunday last at Chicago Open Air in comparison to earlier shows... and so I'm not going to try. I do know that his rendition of Sweet Dreams is still my favourite Manson song, by far... so I'll just share the photos.
Marilyn Manson arrived on stage, tossed out one bag of pink powder which burst into a glorious opaque cloud (and several more bags which didn't burst, but became thudding missiles); he spent much of the first song with his back to the crowd, but smiling, a secret joke; and then the show really began, with Manson marching from one side of the stage to the other, rousing the audience, who responded beautifully.
Ivan Moody, Five Finger Death Punch, at the first Chicago Open Air
Sunday 17th July, it's evening, dusk is falling, and Five Finger Death Punch are on stage on the third day of the very first Chicago Open Air; a little late beginning, the previous act ran long... we lost the sound for a very short moment part-way through, and the stage lighting was a little timid, maybe just in contrast to the gathering thunderstorm which, thank goodness, held off; but nothing else is ever timid, sky or reserved with these guys. Not the music. Never the music. Full-bore-all-barrels-firing, Five Finger Death Punch brought the show to all the many fans who made up the huge audience.
(I've never seen Ivan Moody smile so much during a show. Take a look at the photo gallery: see what I mean? Yes, there are a lot of photos. Yes, there's a Share button. You know what to do.)
Jason Hook, Five Finger Death Punch
From Lift Me Up through to the band's closing song for the evening, pretty much a tradition, it was The Bleeding... we were all singing along. Complete strangers and best friends in a huge crowd, joined by the song, singing loud into each others' faces, grinning too.
Chris Kael, Five Finger Death Punch
Festival sets are always a condensed, best-of-radio-play selection of a band's songs; FFDP's set included Lift Me Up, Never Enough, Got Your Six, Bad Company, Jekyll and Hyde, Wrong Side of Heaven, Under and Over It, and finished with The Bleeding... which was probably the moment that melted more stone-cold metal hearts than ever before, when Ivan Moody invited young fan Chylynne on stage, who sang her heart out. Showing no fear before the huge audience--over 75,000 attended the three-day event--and it was clearly an emotional time for Ivan, and for lots of us watching. (There are several videos online now of the song, I'm sure you know how to use Google by now.)
Yes, you may have seen Chylynne before, if you were at Rock on the Range. But no, she wasn't just at Chicago Open Air for Five Finger Death Punch. This little lady, with her family, had been in, or close to, the front row of the main stage from early on day one of the festival, wearing her FFDP t-shirt, right through until she was invited on stage late in the evening of day three. Crowdsurfing like a hero (with a parent or friend in tow). Cheering the bands all through the festival. All day. All three days... Those of you who like to turn up just for the late-late show? Ask Chylynne what you miss! (It's a lot.) There are more photos in the People of Chicago Open Air collection, linked from this post, click here!
Zoltan Bathory, Five Finger Death Punch
And today... Five Finger Death Punch have released a new video, for I Apologise, from their latest album, Got Your Six. It speaks for itself. It's moving, it has a message, and I hope that everyone who knows someone suffering from an addiction, or who is struggling themselves, hears the message. There's only one person who can make the change. Just one.
One band that I somehow didn't ever expect to be lucky enough to see, let alone photograph, in person, live on stage: Ministry. And if I hadn't been at Chicago Open Air this weekend... who knows if that opportunity would come around. Read Al Jourgensen's autobiography, and know that he prefers being shut away in a studio making music to being on the road and on stage. Know that in 2008, Jourgensen disbanded the band, saying it was the end... but then reformed Ministry in 2011. Who knows what's coming next?
Johnny Depp may say that he based his characterization of Jack Sparrow partly on Keith Richard, but today the movie character bears a far closer physical resemblance to Jourgensen, who also sports as many piercings as a pincushion, a pirate's cheeky smirk, and nips nimbly around the stage while playing some of the heaviest music you're likely to hear anywhere. A bit like the engine which powers some underground, dark-but-purposeful machine; the setlist included newer songs Hail To His Majesty (Peasants), Punch in the Face, and oldies such as LiesLiesLies, Just One Fix and The Missing.