ATLANTIC CITY, NJ—Prior to the first annual Orion Music + More festival at Bader Field in Atlantic City, the guys of Metallica held a press conference on the Friday beforehand. Under the shade of the tent over the Frantic stage on location, the band congregated with bloggers, journalists, and radio hosts alike. The musicians discussed that the idea of the festival came from a want to give fans the best concert experience that they can have. They did not want to exclude any artists upon musical difference; in fact, what the group wanted was a variety. Ride The Lightning was selected to be performed because it was a record that listeners have been asking to hear live. Metallica (aka the black album), on the other hand, was chosen in honor of its 20th anniversary.
Not only did they map out the show to incorporate different styles of music, but the band wanted their fans to get to know them through their cultural preferences. Vocalist James Hetfield handpicked old-school muscle cars for the Custom Car Show (in which his own vehicle was on display) where he stepped out to, at one point, rev some engines. Rob Trujillo had a hand in organizing the demo by the Vans skate team on the Mini Motorbreath Ramp, as well as the Seek And Destroy Atlantic City Air Assault, a surfing competition. Kirk Hammett amassed his collection of monster movie memorabilia for Kirk’s Crypt and Lars Ulrich had his own film tent where Metallica related films were being screened.
When asked about the challenges of revisiting Ride The Lightning musically, the band stated that sequencing and alterations in song structure live were their main concerns. Feeling strongly that some of the bands on the bill could use the exposure, the guys seemed to have enjoyed the challenge. Each member was also asked which groups they were looking forward to seeing live, and they listed Baroness, Gary Clark Jr., and Ghost. Trujillo stated that if he didn’t say Suicidal Tendencies there would be consequences. Hetfield simply said, “Live is where it’s at.”
With four stages and simultaneous performances happening, it was physically impossible to see every band at Orion. This did, however, allow for non-stop rock and events throughout the day. At 1 p.m. on Saturday, Baroness took the Orion stage and drew a well-sized crowd of listeners. Musically, they swayed from heavy to ethereal as they flawlessly performed “Take My Bones Away.” Wooden Shjips played the Frantic stage later that afternoon. Masters of psychedelic stoner rock, their super spacey keyboards and overzealous drummer are what stuck with you after they left the stage. Under a medium-sized and thankfully air-conditioned tent, Metallica had their own museum, which was filled with art, posters, shirts, and guitars that have become legendary due to their roles in the recording of the albums in question.
On the Fuel stage, The Sword took up their instruments to put on a show of Southern-influenced stoner rock accented with raw, imperfect vocals that were clearly influenced by the sounds of the ‘70s. Legendary artist Roky Erickson drew quite the gathering and an even better crowd response for his time on the Frantic stage. As 4 p.m. rolled around, That Metal Show’s Don Jamieson did an opening bit for the obscenely hilarious Jim Breuer Heavy Metal Comedy Tour, to which there was a massive crowd response as he did his best impressions of Hetfield and Ulrich. The Gaslight Anthem played the Orion stage and the band seemed a little lost in a stage set of that magnitude. It was difficult to ignore the guttural thrash of Red Fang performing across the way. Both in the six o’clock slot, Cage The Elephant (introduced by Hammett) and Hot Snakes (introduced by Ulrich) couldn’t be more opposite, as they varied from hippie-like musicianship to high energy screeching of instruments and vocals alike. Modest Mouse brought in one of the larger audiences as well.
At long last, the time had come and after much anticipation, Metallica opened the show going with “Hit The Lights.” Not a second was left for breathing room between tracks as the group of seasoned musicians thrashed into “Master Of Puppets.” Pleasing the crowd, the band turned their focus to tracks off of Ride The Lightning, which included songs like “Fade To Black,” “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” and “Escape.” Amidst the controlled chaos of their set, Hetfield did not interrupt much but at one point did ask the crowd, “Are you alive? Are you alive? How does it feel to be alive?” “One” was played shortly thereafter after and there was an awesome demonstration of smoky explosions, laser lights, fireworks, and pyrotechnics. The guys performed an older and certainly unexpected song, “The Four Horsemen,” and closed the show with “Seek And Destroy,” which included a massive Metallica balloon drop. Insane pyrotechnics and lights were a constant during the band’s first show of the festival, after which they thanked the audience gratuitously. The metal men did not disappoint.
Day two begin with a little relief from the intensity of the sun around midday, as A Place To Bury Strangers took the Fuel stage with a small audience in attendance. They played with a style that was something like space metal with heavy distortion. Introduced by Hetfield, Ghost amassed quite the accumulation of viewers on the Orion stage, where their set time was more of a theatrical performance. The band seemed to have found a happy medium between a sound similar to that of Rammstein’s and the Misfit’s, as they played fully robed. Prog-influenced hardcore outfit, Landmine Marathon, was the only group of the festival to be fronted by a female vocalist who screamed. Hendrix-inspired guitarist Gary Clark Jr. brought in a large crowd with soulful vocals and grooving skills that were difficult to ignore.
Around 4 p.m., Best Coast was up on the Orion stage with the third largest following of the weekend, playing their hit song, “The Only Place.” Things took a heavier turn with Volbeat rocking the Fuel stage at sundown, opening their set with “A Warrior’s Call” and even covering a Johnny Cash song for their decent-sized crowd. Soon after on Fuel, with an intro from Ulrich, Avenged Sevenfold exploded onto the stage with their single, “Nightmare.” The band played radio and fan favorites with a tangible energy, having an audience second to only Metallica in size.
As Avenged Sevenfold’s last track ended, Metallica was performing within minutes, kicking things off again with “Hit The Lights” and “Master Of Puppets.” With the black album, the band pleased the fans that they acquired at one of their more mainstream moments, during which time they were best known for the hit “Enter Sandman.” The most well-done tracks off of the black album in this performance were “Sad But True,” “Of Wolf And Man,” and “The Unforgiven.” Once again, amazing lights and explosives complemented the intensity of this band’s power. The crowd was taken off-guard with Metallica jumping into songs like “Fuel” and “Blackened,” and both garnered a huge ovation. They closed their Orion Music + More festival with “Seek And Destroy” and another balloon drop. Metallica expressed their gratitude to the fans and hinted at this being the first of many years of Orion.