The Orion Music & More Festival featuring Metallica
Bader Field, Atlantic City, NJ
June 23rd and 24th, 2012
While the two day Governor’s Ball was busy occupying Manhattan’s Randall’s Island all weekend, a far different music festival was happening just a few hours south in the open space of Atlantic City, New Jersey’s Bader Field. The inaugural two day event dubbed “Orion Music and More” would be a truly eclectic rock festival headlined by and in celebration of all things Metallica. Performing 1984′s “Ride the Lightning” in its entirety on Saturday night and 1991′s self-titled “Black” album on Sunday night, the band would feed the tens of thousands on hand the dose of heavy music that they were fiending for all weekend long in a way that only Metallica can- by putting on their very own festival. And with four full stages, the weekend would feature bands across a range of genres from Cage the Elephant, Arctic Monkeys, Eric Church, and The Gaslight Anthem, to Ghost, Volbeat, and Avenged Sevenfold, as well as a handful of comedians who are no strangers to the world of heavy music.
What was most important about the Orion Festival was perhaps that even if you had a passing interest in seeing Metallica, there was a bevy of other activities to keep you occupied. The surrounding exhibits and displays encompassed each Metallica band member’s passions. Bassist Robert Trujillo’s love for action sports brought out the Vans Motorbreath Mini Ramp- a quintessential skater’s paradise in the middle of the open field. With two separate sessions both days during band performances, teams of skaters would take to the ramps for live action demos. Adjacent to the juxtaposed half-pipe sat the Billabong Seek and Destroy Atlantic City Air Assault & Oasis Lounge, which hosted a beach side surf show on the Atlantic City beach, and also rider autograph sessions and surf films for fans. Ktulu’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Emporium collected a multitude of rock themed shops dishing out historic memorabilia, concert posters, live performance footage, awesome t-shirts and more, with rental lockers available nearby for storage of purchased wares. Kirk’s Crypt, affectionately named after lead guitarist Kirk Hammett showed off some of the musician’s favorite personal collectibles featuring horror movie memorabilia, props, toys, posters and more.
Blog: Orion Fest- Car Show
By far the two most interesting side attractions proved to be the Metallica Museum and the Orion Custom Car & Motorcycle Show. The diminutive indoor museum boasted the lengthiest lines of the weekend and for good reason if you wanted to catch a glimpse of some of the band’s historic memorabilia. From vintage shirts and tour posters to iconic guitars and set pieces from tours of years past, the museum was fascinating, but was candidly too small to have waited on line for- at least, not with so much other stuff going on all around you. The outdoor Car & Motorcycle show on the other hand was set up perfectly. Custom built hot rods and muscle cars galore paced the tented area, with over 170 being brought in for the festival- including some dating back to the 1930’s owned by Metallica members. Best of all, the sights and revved up sounds of the car show were free for all to take in, with plenty of standing room space for the thousands on hand.
Blog: Orion Fest- Metallica Museum
If some of the bands and musicians on hand weren’t of interest, the covered ‘Frantic’ tent provided some live comedic distractions, and was a surprisingly big draw. VH1 Classic’s ‘That Metal Show’ co-hosts Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine (interview with LocalBozo.com coming soon) each captivated the audience with separate half hour comedy sets, sandwiched in between comedian Jim Breuer’s ‘Heavy Metal Comedy Tour,’ for two full hours of metal infused joke telling. Breuer, who performed on both days, came out to a raucous rock star like ovation, donning a denim Judas Priest sleeveless vest, meshing heavy music with new material he’ll be using when he tapes a Comedy Central special in the coming weeks. Sunday’s set began with Howard Stern Show news correspondent Shuli Egar (interview with LocalBozo.com coming soon), who destroyed with bits about his pot habits, his Jewish religion, and his penchant for reality programming. Fellow Stern Show staffer Richard Christy was then out with his metal outfit “Charred Walls of the Damned” who performed amongst some of the heaviest music of the entire weekend. Led by Tim “Ripper” Owens, the band’s short set was a showcase of the band’s outstanding talents, highlighted by Christy’s virtuoso like drumming.
Blog: Orion Fest- Day 1
Even though there was plenty to distract you from the music, the bands themselves were clearly the drawing card. And although the entirety of the lineup lacked the meaty stack of big name acts that we’ve become accustomed to seeing at festivals of this ilk, the ones who showed up failed to disappoint. New Jersey’s own The Gaslight Anthem got a royal introduction from Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, before launching into their hour long mid day set on Saturday. Performing tracks from their first three albums and their upcoming release “Handwritten” (Out July 24th), the band deserved a better response from the Metallica faithful, but seemed honored to be involved on the historic bill. On the other hand, England’s Arctic Monkeys absolutely owned the crowd from the smaller ‘Fuel’ stage on day one, with an excellent 16 song set spanning the band’s four studio releases. Reminiscent of The White Stripes, the young foursome took the sizable audience on hand by storm, with tracks “This House is a Circus,” “Library Pictures,” and “Teddy Picker” being particularly rousing. A sea of hands swarmed over head in adulation of the band, notably selected as a favorite of Ulrich’s son Myles.
Sunday’s lineup proved more of the same with hard rock Danish band Volbeat destroying on the same ‘Fuel’ stage. “Radio Girl” and the single “Fallen” showed off the band’s rhythmic and melodic side, while their rocking cover of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want to Be With You” was both familiar and inspired at once. The band’s showing here was really a standout performance by a collection of musicians seeming on the verge of a bigger mainstream breakthrough. Meanwhile, the fans on hand sporting the most non-Metallica shirts all seemed to be wearing Avenged Sevenfold ones, and although their performance did not take place on the Festival’s main ‘Orion’ stage, fans were undeterred from going ballistic during their performance. Avenged’s nine song, hour long set was complete with pyrotechnics and rife with the band’s familiar hit singles. From “Nightmare’s” haunting opening to “Critical Acclaim, “Almost Easy,” and “Afterlife,” Avenged satisfied a swarm of thousands on hand with a pulverizing and heavy set. In closing with the circus like “A Little Piece of Heaven” and encoring with “Unholy Confessions,” which sported the most immense circle moshpit of the entire weekend prodded on by frontman M. Shadows, the band staked their claim as the weekend’s second most sought after musical act.
Blog: Orion Fest- Day 2
Even with the warm sun of the Jersey Shore beating down on thousands of concert goers all weekend long, anticipation for the headliners never wavered at any point. Capping off each of the lengthy afternoon schedules was Metallica themselves. And despite being around for thirty years, the band is showing no signs of letting up even a little bit. What Metallica manages to cultivate perhaps better than any other touring group, is the ‘big event’ feeling that surrounds their every show- from the first chords of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top” which booms long before Metallica shows their faces, to “The Ecstasy of Gold’s” instrumental opening, backed on large video boards by the corresponding scene made famous in “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly,” which the band has taken center stage to for decades- a live Metallica show is a larger than life experience from an entity that still makes their fans feel like members of a close-knit family. Perhaps that’s why so many of us live and die by some of the mind boggling choices that they collectively make. With two different albums being performed on consecutive nights, the band should have switched up their setlists more effectively than to open and close with the same two songs for the fans that purchased two-day passes to the Orion Festival. The band should have avoided overlapping songs on these albums by excluding them from their set lists on both nights. And all that said, Metallica was still… Metallica. Incredible live. Engaging to their audience. And doing just enough to keep everyone happy- not ecstatic, but happy.
If you would have indicated that the band would have opened with their first ever released song “Hit the Lights” from 1983’s “Kill ‘Em All” on Saturday night, I would have literally done a cartwheel in front of you. The surprise opening tune was a throwback to the dawn of thrash metal, and still manages to stand up incredibly well some thirty years later. But to open with it, followed by the tirelessly pounding “Master of Puppets” on back to back nights, was a smack upside the head to fans with tickets for both nights, despite the collection of love for both songs. Similarly head-scratching was their choice of encore- “One,” arguably the band’s second most famous song into the now tired “Seek and Destroy,” which the band is now permanently closing each show with, was even more disappointing than their opening, because we’ve heard them both so many times.
For fans coming out to Metallica’s ‘Orion Music & More,’ the band’s set was catered more toward those with a singular day pass and to those seeing the band perform live for the very first time. But for those of us die-hards who have caught the band live in the dozens of times, it’s safe to say that their repetitive set left something to be desired. Saturday’s performance of “Ride the Lighting” in its entirety seemed special as the band performed fan favorite “Escape” for the very first time in the song’s 28 year history. “Beyond Magnetic’s” “Hell and Back” B-side, and “The Four Horsemen” were notable additions rounding out an otherwise typical Metallica set. Sunday’s overall set was notably better, perhaps because the rarer songs on the “Black” album better lend themselves to Metallica’s live sound. 1998’s “Fuel” and 1988’s “The Shortest Straw” were tasty set opening alternates while little played jams like “Of Wolf and Man,” “Wherever I May Roam,” and “The Unforgiven” proved welcome additions to the band’s second set of the weekend. While “Blackened” was a pleasant add-on to Sunday’s encore, again, the band’s adherence to the same stringent setlist became disinteresting.
Few bands have the ability to promote and successfully pull off a festival of this caliber, which by all measures must be considered a complete success. The fact that fans traveled from all over the world to Atlantic City, New Jersey should be considered a feat in its own right. The entire weekend was expertly run without incident and both the bands performing and the fans on hand seemed equally gratified to have been a part of it. No band seemed more grateful than the hosts themselves as Metallica continually showed their appreciation both in addressing the massive crowd from center stage and in the disbelief on their faces during each song performed that this Festival had actually come to fruition. If this weekend was any indication, the “Orion Music and More” festival is sure to become an annual rite of passage for this band. Now if they’d only change up the damn setlist, we’d have absolutely nothing to complain about.
- Jane Van Arsdale