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Heavy metal Open Air wails its way into Bridgeview

From left, Bassist John Moyer, vocalist David Draiman, drummer Mike Wengren and guitarist Dan Donegan of Disturbed, a heavy metal band founded in Chicago. | Travis Shinn

Music lovers will have plenty of options this weekend, with the first-ever Chicago Open Air music festival launching in south suburban Bridgeview, featuring a lineup of more than 40 heavy metal bands including Rammstein, Slipknot and Chicago’s own Disturbed.

Other weekend performers include Korn, Breaking Benjamin, Marilyn Manson and Ministry. The fest will be held on two stages at Toyota Park and will offer craft beer and bites from local vendors including Bruges Brothers, Dia de los Tamales and Dinky Donuts. Doors open at 11 a.m. each day and close at 11:30 p.m. Friday, 11 p.m. Saturday, and 10 p.m. Sunday.

Disturbed guitarist Dan Donegan of southwest suburban Homer Glen says the band is eager to return to its home city after the release of its 2015 album “Immortalized” and subsequent international tour.

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“We’re all thrilled to be back — the last show we did [in Chicago] was just for the record release. We downsized it at the House of Blues to keep it intimate,” Donegan explained over the phone. “So for us to come back and headline Saturday night at Open Air and to see the masses of the big weekend and to see the fans again, we are very much looking forward to it. It’s been many years since we’ve been in front of the home town crowd at that scale.”

Clay Busch, vice president of marketing and sponsorship of the production company behind the festival, said his team selected Chicago after a year-long tour of the country’s major cities to find the right location for America’s “premier” metal fest.

“Chicago has always been a great rock city — there’s such a rich heritage of rock ‘n’ roll in Chicago,” Busch said, anticipating a sold-out weekend with 25,000-30,000 attendees based on current ticket sales. “It’s an opportunity to have a one-of-a-kind experience that can only happen in Chicago. You’re not going to get this kind of event anywhere else in the U.S.”

<em>Berlin’s Rammstein has not performed in Chicago since 2012, with Chicago Open Air their only planned performance in the U.S. this year. | Bryan Adams photo</em>
Berlin’s Rammstein has not performed in Chicago since 2012, with Chicago Open Air their only planned performance in the U.S. this year. | Bryan Adams photo

Die-hard fans can enjoy official after-shows as well, including Helmet with Tight Phantomz at Double Door Friday night and Carcass with Deafheaven at the Metro Saturday night. An official pre-party begins the festival Thursday evening at Concord Music Hall headlined by Otep, with Shaman’s Harvest, Islander and Through Fire opening at 7 p.m.

Also on Thursday is a BYOB, five-course inaugural dinner to kick off the festivities at Bucktown’s Goose & Fox featuring local, seasonal ingredients, hosted by Jose Mangin of SiriusXM. The dinner costs $75 and begins at 6 p.m., with tickets available at Brownpapertickets.com.

For Busch, these types of extra events are important details in how visitors experience the festival.

“They expect the bands — it’s what they don’t expect that’s going to sell it,” Busch said, two of his favorite extras being “The Music Experience,” an area where visitors can play with guitars, drums, basses and amps, and the “Headbangers Bier Hall,” a metal-themed bar complete with craft beer and artist-inspired beverages, a jukebox and pinball machines. “We want you to walk in and be blown away.”

Donegan’s focus, however, remains the music. He said Disturbed is looking forward to playing “a mixture of songs off each album,” including the band’s popular cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” which garnered positive feedback from original songwriter Paul Simon.

“It’s a big honor to not only cover it, but to obviously get his blessing,” Donegan said. “It’s a big accomplishment for us.”

Disturbed has played shows at many iconic Chicago venues, including the Aragon Ballroom, T=the Riviera Theatre, the United Center and Allstate Arena. But the band is not afraid to continue dreaming big.

“Everything that’s always been on our bucket list, our wish list of venues to play ever since we were kids — we are kind of checking them all off the list,” Donegan said. “The only thing left on the list is Soldier Field. That’d be a nice one to play some day.”

*Chicago Open Air, July 15-17 , Toyota Park, 7000 Harlem Ave., Bridgeview. One-day passes are $69.50 and three-day passes start at $149.50. Tickets can be purchased at Chicagoopenair.com.