Monday, June 25, 2012

Orion Music & More - much, much more

Metallica's first (annual?) Orion Music & More festival was easily the best festival of any kind I've been to. Top notch location, planning, transportation, logistics, bands, set times, staging.... even prices were reasonable. Bottles of water I've seen go for $8 at most venues were only $3, plus there was free water refilling stations. The last big giant outdoor mess I went to was Woodstock '94 and it was a big giant mess.
Lori in Kirk's Crypt
James Hetfield said repeatedly from stage that they decided to have "a backyard BBQ" and thanks for showing up, but it was so much more. This was really a Metallica Theme Park - between the Custom Car Show showing off a few vehicles from James and 100 others, Hit The Lights Films curated and hosted by Lars Ulrich, "Kirk's Crypt" showcasing a sampling of Kirk Hammett's massive horror movie props and memorabilia collection - complete with live girls and ghouls making it more of a haunted house than just a tent full of stuff, Skate board ramps with pros and Robert Trujillo showing their stuff, a Metallica Museum of art and artifacts, 30+ bands hand picked by Metallica playing on four different stages, and most them were introduced by a member of Metallica. This truly was Metallica's back yard and they played perfect hosts.
I must admit I only went to this for Metallica and I hadn't even heard of many of the bands playing, but I left a fan of many of them and isn't that the point of this sort of eclectic festival?

Day 1, June 23, 2012
We are on the 1st shuttle bus from our hotel, the Borgata, at 11am (only 4 people on it) and were at Bader Field before gates opened at noon and started meeting people from all over the world right away. I've been in the Metallica Club since 1994 and my fellow clubbers have consistently proven to be the coolest people on the planet.
We had tickets to see Lars' dad Torben Ulrich's film "Before The Wall: Body & Being" and were in the front row for an hour of discussion with Lars and Torben and the "gift of gab" is definitely a family trait. It was a fun and funny experience.
Since we had bumped into comedian Jim Breuer that morning at the Borgata (he really does always look stoned) we hit the comedy portion next (it was also the only stage with shade). Lars showed up to introduce Don Jamieson and then James introduced his good friend Jim Breuer who is living his dreams combining metal and comedy. He was a blast!

Rob jams with Suicidal Tendencies
By this point in the afternoon I had yet to see a band, though I did hear The Sword cover "Cheap Sunglasses" from afar, so it was time to take my position for Suicidal Tendencies, a punk/skate/metal fav of mine since the 80's, and since this was Roberts first band I was confident of a reunion. I placed Lori near the sound board and moved deep into the crowd at The Damage Inc. stage. ST were introduced by Robert, who said he wouldn't be here today if not for this band. They opened with 'You Can't Bring Me Down" and then right into their biggest/oldest hit, "Institutionalized" (the infamous "all I wanted was a Pepsi" song) and the place went frickin' nuts. I was scared a few times. Boots, bodies and blood were flying. I didn't know till later that someone went down hard and was taken away on a stretcher. I tossed a few willing participants up for some crowd surfing and had an awesome time. Robert did indeed strap on a bass and jammed 4 or 5 tunes from "Infectious Grooves" - a bass heavy side project from ST. Heaven. When I turned to leave I couldn't believe how large the crowd had gotten.

Then it was Metallica time. Ride The Lightning night - the first Met album (yes album!) I bought back in high school. Our outstanding Met Club Ultra package got us into an exclusive area up close to the stage. As the thousands behind us chanted "VIPs suck!" I smiled to myself with metal glee.
Lori made some friends as I left her behind to go deeper by another 20 feet or so towards the stage.
Metallica played arguably the best show (this was #29 for me) I've ever seen complete with four songs I've never heard live before and one song, "Escape" that they played for first time ever! James joked right until the very start of it that he didn't want to play and could they just skip it. It's a song the entire band never wanted to see on their set list.  While it is the weakest song on the album, I've always liked it and thought it sounded great live. Another highlight was "Trapped Under Ice," a personal favorite they've only played a handful of times.
They opened four epic favorites: "Hit The Lights", "Master of Puppets" (my sides already ached from singing/screaming), "The Four Horsemen" (holy shit!!), and "Sad But True" -- followed by new song "Hell and Back" (from EP of 4 tracks from Death Magnetic sessions) then into all of Ride The Lightning, for the first time anywhere, but played in reverse order to keep me having to think, I guess. The amazing night ended with "Battery," "One," and "Seek & Destroy". Wow.
But there was still another day. A day with passes into the Snake Pit - the hole within the Metallica Stage!!

Day 2
Decided today was going to be about seeing bands. We caught a few songs by the moody, distortion heavy three-piece A Place to Bury Strangers and then checked out Liturgy - a two piece band. Two guys shredding on guitar. Nobody else. Interesting. Their bio lists four guys, so maybe two slept late, I don't know.
I had been told ahead of time to see Ghost and I'm glad I did. They were on the main stage at 2pm and were introduced by James who said, "it's never too early for scary." Ghost are a group of anonymous ghouls from Sweden under white masks and robes lead by a skull faced Pope. I loved the music and the act. It felt so good to get a subtle head nod of approval from the Evil Pope. They were the most polite satanists you could ever meet and a good time was had by all. James stayed for the whole set and was rocking out at stage right.
Robert Introducing Soul Rebels
Next we caught the Soul Rebels, a brass group from New Orleans who opened for Metallica at their 30th anniversary Filmore Shows in December. They got introduced by Robert, and were a lot of fun. They even covered "Enter Sandman". Saw another first - moshing to a brass section.
Next up was another comedian, Shuli Egar, from the Howard Stern show. He was pretty funny, but I needed some metal. So I left Lori there and went to see Volbeat, a metal band from Denmark who are a top 10 act in Europe.  I'd never heard of them, but everyone I met talked about them, which was verified by the massive crowd at the Fuel stage waiting for them. James introduced them too and stayed for their set as well. They did a Johnny Cash cover and that fit them well, all dressed in black and rocking hard. They won me over.
Eric Church

Then it was time to prepare and get into the snake pit. I even persuaded Lori to join me there for Eric Church so she could decide herself to stay or not. Eric Church was another act I'd never heard of but I guess they are a pretty big deal in country. But they aren't country like I expected - they had pyro, smoking guitars and Black Sabbath riffs. I'm shocked to say I was front row and going off for a country act.
After that we could hear a blazing set by Avenged Sevenfold from across Bader Field as we waited for the return of the Mighty Metallica and the first time playing of the Black Album in North America. I was one person away from the front stage barrier. In front of me was a 5' tall woman from Japan at her 50th Metallica show. I made it my mission to keep her safe - cuz I wasn't gonna have clearer lines of sight over anyone else.
They opened with the same two songs as Saturday night then varied it with "Fuel", "Bellz" and another rare personal favorite from Justice For All, "Shortest Straw".  Then into the career changing, blockbuster, Black Album, in reverse order. I absolutely loved the deep tracks "Struggle Within", "My Friend of Misery" and "The God That Failed." Hell, I loved every single song, even the one I never really cared for, "Don't Tread on Me." As I did the previous night, when they played "Nothing Else Matters" I thought of Lori. (when we first met 16+ years ago she didn't know what a Metallica was. Then a few live shows, "Nothing Else Matters" as our wedding song and BANG, she's in the fucking pit! How lucky am I?)

At the end of Sandman I abandoned my front position to dig into the back and find Lori for the encores, "Blackened" (SWEET!), "One" and "Seek & Destroy."  I caught a pick from Kirk after having one tossed by James rebound off my head earlier in the show and we limped away exhausted, enthused and grateful for yet another amazing show.  Can't wait for next year.
James & Rob
Final bow at Orion

good night!

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