Where once man looked to the sky and ascribed names to the constellations, one name in particular holds more meaning than could be imagined for Metallica fans. “Orion,” the 8 minute, 27 second instrumental on arguably Metallica’s masterpiece album Master of Puppets, now lends its namesake to the band’s foray into the music festival world. On June 23rd, 2012 Bader Field in Atlantic City, New Jersey became a historical landmark for fans of the heavy metal Gods, as it hosted the first annual Orion Music & More Festival (www.orionmusicandmore.com).
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t get my disclaimer out of the way. Over the years, I’ve lost some love for the music festival as an event, or venue to catch one of my favorite bands. Often the size and scope are so mind-numbingly overwhelming that just figuring out where and when the band you want to see is playing is a challenge. Once you get a handle on the schedule and layout of the event, learning all the routes to the elusive 2nd, 3rd and sometimes 4th and even 5th stages, should you be looking to catch more than one particular band often you’ll find you must make a few Sophie’s choices through the day, as without fail two of your favorites will be playing at overlapping time-slots. Once you throw additional acts into the mix (like skateboarding ramps, art show exhibits, etc.), it officially hits capacity. Get your gear, strap in, and start beating feet. Stay hydrated and keep moving.
For the die-hard music fan and the loyal followers of rock icons, the music festival is a coveted experience, a day on the battlefield, followed by a night that will change you forever. When attending the Orion Music & More Festival, this is the grandest of understatements. Metallica, true to form, has redefined the music festival experience and for this former lover of the music festival, it was a welcome surprise; it may have rekindled a dying flame for festivals in general for me. Why I expected any less from Metallica is beyond me, and I gladly take this opportunity to apologize…by gushing over how sick this event actually was.
Seemingly through simple things like logic (having the time-slots for the acts across four stages work with each other, and not against each other), clear communications from the event organizers (giant screens that constantly rotated between the event schedule, stage line-ups, and event information), or the layout of the event itself (from the center of the field, you could hear/see all 4 stages), this was a festival to make all other festivals bow down. In addition to enjoying the wide variety of offerings from the concession stands, that included vegan and Asian food, as well as the “& More” acts that comprised the festival, I was able to catch Cage The Elephant play their set on the Fuel Stage, and then have time to get an awesome spot to catch a legendary set by Suicidal Tendencies on the Damage Inc. stage. Each act on the four stages got introduced to the rabid fans by one of the four horsemen themselves, and Rob Trujillo stuck around to rock-out on four songs with his old “Institutionalized” friends. It was amazing.
As impressive and extensive as the line-up of bands for this festival is, ultimately this entire event is about one band…METALLICA. I attended the first day of this two-day extravaganza, which promised that the living legends would be playing the Ride The Lightning album in its entirety, the following night would feature them playing The Black Album in its entirety. (How you call a festival “Orion” and NOT play Master of Puppets is really surprising, but let’s hope that’s in store for us at the second annual Orion Festival.) The big question on everyone’s mind as they pushed forward, fighting for purchase on the precious real-estate in front of the stage, “are they really going to play the entire line-up of their epic sophomore album? Including ‘Escape’?” They did. History was witnessed.
Hands down, Metallica is the best live show ever! Not only are they true professionals, and sound even better live than they do on their studio albums, but their presence and passion are even larger than life than the massive screens that make the stage a constantly erupting volcano, light and sound that rattles the ground down to the mantle of the Earth. The sense of awe inspired was palpable in the air hovering above the crowd, and audible in the cacophony of voices that echo every lyric that escaped James Hetfield’s lips. This night was more than just a Metallica performance. This was something different, something special.
This wasn’t my first rodeo by any means, but it was the first time I felt completely encompassed by the moment of being there and hearing the music I’ve grown up with and been living with as part of the soundtrack of my life being performed live, and performed perfectly. The entire night I kept thinking, “I feel like I’m in the audience of the ‘Live Sh!t: Binge & Purge’ taping,” that’s how crisp and classic the ‘tallica boys were sounding as they rocked New Jersey. With every chord that followed their opening salvo of “Hit The Lights,” “Master of Puppets” and “The Four Horsemen,” the anticipation for how they would begin to fulfill their promise of Ride The Lightning grew. After another two songs, “Sad But True” and “Hell and Back” (a head scratcher for most in the audience, but bad ass nonetheless), we got our answer.
Following an introductory video featuring interview footage of all of the original line-up of the band, including the late Cliff Burton, the first tones of “Call of Ktulu” began as blue lightning illuminated photos of the group floating in a void of bluish clouds on the giant stage screens. A moment and flash of stage lights later, the live band was continuing the epic instrumental that closes the classic album, without missing a beat. From that point on, it was a surreal night that felt like a walk through a lucid dream. There were instant bonds with those directly around us as we chanted song after song, and all screamed in childish giddiness as we witnessed “Escape” live for the first time ever. It was a night with that sort of kismet feeling, like years of fandom has led to this night, and that’s exactly as it should be.
The first-nighters were treated to some songs off of The Black Album as well, which only added a more complete feeling to a night already epic in proportion. If there’s ever been a group to make being larger than life so effortless and make us all feel special for being there with them for the magic, it’s Metallica. Any who would dare to want to inherit that mantle, the road is far and wide to follow in the footsteps of these Leper Messiahs.
I could complain about the ticket prices these days, and how on the heels of The Big 4our tour, this seems a bit money-grabbish, but these are tough economic times, and it’s easy to let that affect how we see things that we grew up loving more than a casual fan would as luxuries. Metallica and their world have been a part of my life and my world for over two decades, so hell yeah am I buying the Blu-Ray of this show, and hell yeah am I going to be at Orion Festival ’13 (whether my girlfriend wins the tickets on the radio for us, or not).
P.S. If I could take this opportunity to beg for next year’s album choices, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do Master of Puppets and …And Justice For All.
Metallica Set list:
Orion Festival – June 23, 2012 (Ride The Lightning)
The Ecstasy of The Gold (Ennio Morricone)
1. Hit The Lights
2. Master of Puppets
3. The Four Horsemen
4. Sad But True
5. Hell and Back
Ride The Lightning (Video)
6. Call of Ktulu
7. Creeping Death
(Frayed Edges of Sanity Jam)
8. Escape (WORLD PREMIERE)
9. Trapped Under Ice
10. Fade To Black
11. For Whom The Bell Tolls
12. Ride The Lightning
13. Fight Fire With Fire
14. Nothing Else Matters
15. Enter Sandman
18. Seek & Destroy
1. You Can’t Bring Me Down
4. War Inside My Head
6. Possessed To Skate
7. Cyco Vision
8. These Freaks Are Here To Party (Infectious Grooves Cover)
(w/ Robert Trujillo)
9. Turtle Wax (Infectious Grooves Cover)
(w/ Robert Trujillo)
10. Punk It Up (Infectious Grooves Cover)
(w/ Robert Trujillo)
11. Violent & Funky (Infectious Grooves Cover)
(w/ Robert Trujillo)
12. Therapy (Infectious Grooves Cover)
(w/ Robert Trujillo)
13. Pledge Your Allegiance