photos by Dana (distortion) Yavin ; words by Andrew Sacher
Metallica / Fucked Up at Orion Music Fest, June 23, 2012
Metallica's Orion Music & More festival went down in Atlantic CIty's Bader Field this weekend, featuring the band performing Ride the Lightning in full on Saturday (6/23) and The Black Album on Sunday (6/24), in addition to many other bands across four stages. Bader Field, which was previously used as an airport, was filled with rockers of all kinds -- from the satanist metalheads to the Gaslight Anthem-shirt bearing rock and rollers. In addition to the bands, you could check out Lars Ulrich's curated film screenings, James Hetfield's classic cars, Kirk Hammett's horror memorabilia, rock memorabilia with everything from old Velvet Underground postcards to Melvins posters, and much much more. And all of this went down just across the water from the towering, lit-up excess of Atlantic City's Trump Plaza, Caesars Palace, and the like.
I showed up to the festival on Saturday about halfway through Baroness' opening set on the main Orion Stage. Though the crowd was still pretty thin (they went on at 1 PM), the band delivered a strong set filled with a great mix of hooks and sludge, winning over most of the people who had showed up early enough to catch them.
Next stop for me was Lucero, also on the Orion Stage. "This song's called 'Women and Work,' it's about whiskey," said singer Ben Nichols of the title track off their most recent LP, making what was only one of many whiskey references during their set. They had a solid mix of the upbeat ones like that, and their sprawling slow-burners. The band sounded best on those slower cuts, as they drifted across the hot, sunny, mid-afternoon Bader Field, though I'm sure the foot-stompers would have taken charge in a smaller, tightly packed venue like their drunken NYE show at Brooklyn Bowl. The band did crank up the distortion on "Sounds of the City," and got great crowd reaction during "All Sewn Up," which he dedicated to the audience: "Plenty of fucking bad tattoos out there, so this one's for all y'all."
After Lucero's set ended, the Fuel stage saw what might have been the wildest set of the day with Fucked Up. Frontman Damian Abraham began by saying, "Last year we were thinking... who would be the craziest band we could play with, and we were like... METALLICA!" before kicking into "Queen of Hearts" off 2011's epic David Comes to Life. As per ushe, it only took about three seconds into that song for Damian to barge into the crowd (where he spent most of the show) and another few minutes before he took his shirt off. They relied most heavily on material off of David, playing other highlights like "The Other Shoe," "Turn the Season," and more. In the past I've said that Damian's in-the-crowd antics tend to be less successful in larger venues, but at Orion fest he did everything in his power to make his way through the entire crowd. He must have been part of every single mosh pit that broke out, and traveled everywhere from the kids pushing against the barrier to the people standing in the very back.
The Gaslight Anthem followed, taking to the Orion Stage, and came out with an introduction from Lars (as many other bands that day did). After his introduction, the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" began playing through the PA as the band walked out, with frontman Brian Fallon decked out in an "RIP MCA" shirt (written in Run DMC typeset). I didn't notice it during Baroness or Lucero (and maybe Fucked Up's loud mayhem was to blame), but the sound at Orion Stage was significantly lower for all the non-Metallica bands that played, and it became easy to feel removed during The Gaslight Anthem's set. Despite the conditions, the band still sounded on point. They played "45," the single off their upcoming album, which is easily their best song since The '59 Sound, and older favorites as well, like "Old White Lincoln," "The Patient Ferris Wheel," and of course, "The '59 Sound."
Lars Ulrich introducing Hot Snakes
I then made my way over to the Frantic tent -- undoubtedly the best stage to watch bands -- for Hot Snakes, who were also introduced by Lars. Lars acknowledged the stage as well ("this is becoming my favorite stage of the day... this is where all the cool kids hang out!") and said tons of flattering things about Hot Snakes. The band thanked him a couple times for his compliments, before asking the crowd if any of us had heard of them, to which they were greeted with massive cheers that they seemed pretty surprised about. After all the intro-ing, the band began playing the buzzsaw guitar riff of "I Hate the Kids," the opening track off 2002's classic Suicide Invoice. They reunited last year after breaking in 2005, and they've definitely still got it. They played a good amount of Suicide Invoice, including "LAX," "Who Died," "Gar Forgets His Insulin," and the punishing title track.
After Hot Snakes' set, Modest Mouse took over the Orion Stage, and like with The Gaslight Anthem, the sound and setting of this stage did them absolutely no justice. We got some great songs -- "Bury Me With It," "Dramamine," "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" -- but they were mostly drowned out by the talking of the uninterested crowd, many of who had begun gathering for Metallica. Not surprisingly, "Float On" was the one song that stopped the crowd from talking and got 'em singing along. Things probably went over better for Modest Mouse at the more indie-centric Governors Ball, which they played on Sunday.
Suicidal Tendencies meanwhile were playing to a giant crowd on the smaller metal-centric Damage Inc. stage, with help from their ex-bandmate, Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo who joined them for a bunch of songs.
Suicidal Tendencies/Arctic Monkeys
Hands down, my highlight of the pre-Metallica portion of the festival was Arctic Monkeys, who played the Fuel stage directly before the headliners took over Orion. It goes without saying that Lars took the time to introduce this band (their first record is his favorite of the '00s) and he said tons of appreciative things about the band, including that he's seen them every time they've played his city. They opened their set with the attack of "Brianstorm," which sent the band into a frenzy that didn't let up once during the set. Though the band's latter two records have been a bit less popular than their first two, they've really shown a maturation in sound on them and especially on a festival with a mass of heavier bands a lot of their newer material fit right in. Songs like "Pretty Visitors" and "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair" border on sludge metal and stood out just as much, if not more than older classics like "Teddy Picker," "Fluorescent Adolescent," and "Dancefloor." In keeping spirits with the festival, during "Don't Sit Down," Alex Turner changed the line, "bite the lightning," to "Ride the Lightning," and pointed across the field at the Orion stage where Metallica's stage hands were gearing up for the band to play said album in full.
Alex takes complete control of the crowd and throws in a bit of playful arrogance, like pointing to Matt Helders and saying, "check this shit out," before one of Matt's more technical drum parts. The band pretty much kept their whole set in full throttle mode, eschewing many of their lighter songs, and they delivered with colossal power. Over ruthless drumming, stoner rock guitar solos, and overall ceaseless energy, Alex effortlessly topped it all off with his soaring vocals, almost of all of which were met by singalongs from the crowd.
Finally, after the rest of the festival had wrapped up, the strings of Ennio Morricone's "The Ecstasy of Gold" from Metallica's S&M album began playing through the PA, which meant the band -- who for many, were the sole reason of coming to the festival -- were about to take the stage. They opened with a bunch of live staples, like "Hit the Lights," "Master of Puppets," "Sad But True," and "The Four Horsemen," plus a newer one as well. Then the lights went black and on the stage's screens, popped up a video of clips from Metallica's Ride the Lightning period, which was greeted by huge cheers of the thousands of people that knew the band's performance of the album was on the way. When soundclips of Cliff Burton surfaced on the video, even more applause came, honoring the band's bassist who performed with them on their first three albums before passing away in a tour bus accident in 1986. After the video ended, an animated play on the Lightning album artwork took over the screens and the album's final track, "Call of Ktulu" began playing (they performed the album in reverse). Once "Ktulu" picked up, the lights came back on, revealing the band members on stage playing the song, and yielding more and more applause.
After the instrumental track, live favorite "Creeping Death" came in, sending the band pummeling into a spiraling vector of thrash. The band's theatrics, rock star approach, and tendency to play hits-heavy sets can give off the feeling that they've reached the point where their shows are simply crowd-pleasers, but it's really not the case. The band whole heartedly rock the fuck out on stage, and despite everything else going on, simply watching them play is pretty mind blowing.
According to Lightning's reverse tracklist, after "Creeping Death," came "Escape," which the band have never performed live, mainly because James absolutely hates the track. For anyone who didn't know, he made it abundantly clear at the show and even looked like he was having a bit of trouble getting into it while they played it live for their first time ever, but by the end, the crowd had welcomed its live debut more than excellently. Though James wouldn't hear of it -- "NO!" he yelled when the crowd tried convincing him that they loved it.
Then came "Trapped Under Ice," followed by "Fade to Black," which was by far the loudest singalong on the album during the acoustic guitar-led verses and, as occurs at Metallica concerts, the melody to Kirk's guitar solo in the intro. After the song's headbanging second half, James, with a smug smile, responded to the fanatic cheers with, "Yeah, I like that one too." The level of noise stayed above 10 for the following song, "For Whom the Bell Tolls," whose chorus saw tons of \m/-raised arms attached to bodies screaming along. Following the album's title track, Metallica wrapped up their performance of the album with much anticipated opening thrasher, "Fight Fire With Fire," for which the screens behind the band showed the masses of audience members singing along to the song's choppy vocals.
Directly after the performance of the album ended, the band stayed on stage and went immediately into more live staples -- "Nothing Else Matters" and "Enter Sandman." They then left the stage before returning for an encore which began in the dark with the acoustic intro of "Battery," and then hitting the lights for the song's slaying mile-a-minute riffing. The encore wrapped up with loud fireworks, black Metallica beach balls thrown int the crowd and two more live staples, "One" and "Seek & Destroy" and after the members of the band continued to thank the crowd for coming and making their festival a success.
More Orion Music Fest coverage to come. Lots more pictures, including Roky Erickson, Red Fang, Suicidal Tendencies, and more are below.
host Lars Ulrich could be seen all over the place throughout the day
there was Kirk's Crypt and the Metallica Museum
live graffiti was on display
seagulls were a common site, especially near the garbage
original Pushead artwork in the Metallica museum
the classic and custom car show
compulsive gamblers probably had a hard time dealing with the casinos constantly looming in the background
If I had a nickel for every person wearing a Metallica shirt at this fest...
Vans skate ramp (where Steve Caballero and many more skated throughout the day)
Lars hangs with and introduces Hot Snakes (who he "started listening to nonstop a year ago")
Cage the Elephant
Lars introduces Arctic Monkeys