Music Feature

Concert Primer: Metallica's Orion Music + More Festival

by Ryan O'Connell
Getting ready to rage at Metallica's two-day festival this weekend in Atlantic City

Let’s be honest, nothing says summer in New Jersey like spending the weekend checking out the favorite hobbies and passions of a popular metal band’s iconic members. Frankly it’s neck and neck with keeping track of which Jersey Shore cast member was arrested (the new one,) complaining about something Governor Chris Christie said (again) or sitting in traffic on the Parkway, Expressway or Turnpike (bring snacks.)

The real truth is that for years has there been any song out there better to listen to while wildly cruising down the AC Expressway en route to a weekend full of Jersey Shore drunken debauchery than “For Whom the Bell Tolls?” Probably, but whatever. This isn’t about summer jams, Nicki Minaj or that “Call Me Maybe” chick. This is about Metallica. This is about the Orion Music + More Festival, taking place this weekend in Atlantic City.

Say what you will about the rock legends of Metallica, they like to keep people on their toes like a midget at a urinal. The Orion Music + More Festival is two completely action-packed days of loud music, funky music, alternative music, horror movies, skateboarding demos, art house films, custom cars and more. The festival is at Bader Field. You know, where Phish just played and Dave Matthews Band played last summer. Yup, same place but most likely a much different vibe.

To prepare you, here is a breakdown of the “music” involved and the “more” that comes with it. We’ll start with the music.

One would initially think a music festival put together by Metallica would feature a cavalcade of metal bands. But no way man, Metallica thought a little…just a little, but enough…outside of the box for the Orion Festival. In addition to Metallica handling head-lining duties on both nights, there will be Modest Mouse, the Gaslight Anthem, Avenge Sevenfold, the Arctic Monkeys, Cage the Elephant, Suicidal Tendencies, Gary Clark Jr., Titus Andronicus, Sepultura, the Black Dahlia Murder, Best Coast and more. There will also be comedy from Jim Florentine and sets on both days by the Jim Breuer Heavy Metal Comedy Tour.

Well right off the bat I’d say you should check out New Jersey’s own, the Gaslight Anthem. Gaslight plays the kind of music made for summers on the shore- loud, fast and easy to sing along too. Need proof? Check out their new single “45,” off of their upcoming album, Handwritten, and an easy nominee for Summer Jam of 2012. Take that “Starships.” Sure, you’re in the sky but Gaslight is in the streets, where the true summer fun happens.

And then there’s Gary Clark Jr. – a vintage blues man in the vein of some of those nitty, gritty blues legends from back in the day. His song “Bright Lights” is the absolute best kind of stomping, beer chugging, let’s effin’ get in a fight kind of blues music. It’s roadhouse music- down and dirty and looking to rumble and tumble. Clark plays Orion on Sunday afternoon, which depending on how your weekend went, is the perfect time for some blues music.

I don't think you'd want to sleep on Breuer either. The celebrated stand-up comic, epic story teller and Saturday Night Live vet mixes traditional stand-up with spot on impersonations of some your favorite metal gods. Don't have any metal gods but dig goats? You're in luck. There's a damn good chance he'll bust out Goat Boy at least once.

The rest of the bands playing are pretty self explanatory and you know, I really dig the sneaky awesomeness of the lineup. There is a common thread running through the schedules of both days: ballsyness. For the most part these are all bands and acts with an ax to grind. It’s going to be hot, you’re going to be sweaty and the music is going to be loud. You can’t really beat that. And at the end of both nights, Metallica is playing an album in its entirety. Saturday night they’re playing Ride the Lightning for the first time start to finish and on Sunday they are playing the Black Album, as it celebrates its 20th anniversary. Twenty years. I still remember having that cassette and listening to it endlessly on my walkman. Wow. I’m old.

Now let’s get to the “more” section, which could also be titled Shit the Band Members Like. Right off the bat I can tell you that Kirk Hammett digs weird & scary horror movie memorabilia, James Hetfield is a car dude, Lars Ulrich is a film buff and Robert Trujillo gets down with board sports. But let’s elaborate some.

There is a car show…yes, there is because Hetfield is apparently a gear head. Specifically it’s a custom car and motorcycle show and will feature 100 custom cars, hot rods, muscle cars, custom motorcycles and celebrity cars. Best in Show winners will be announced and fans can vote on their favorites. An early front runner has to be the one with flames on it.

There is a film festival…and a chance for Lars the Film Geek to show you some of his favorite films, including My Blue Valentine. Sorry ladies, I don’t think Ryan Gosling will be there. But Lars will and he’ll also be showing the documentary Mission to Lars, a documentary about a family’s journey to meet him and the new HBO movie Hemingway and Gellhorn, in which Lars plays filmmaker Joris Ivens and you learn astonishing new facts about some of our favorite literary giants. Get this…Ernest Hemingway liked to drink and shoot guns. I know, wild.

There is a weirdo tent…because in case you forgot, Metallica is still technically a metal band and metal bands like weird shit. In this case, it’s guitarist Hammett’s weird shit in Kirk’s Crypt, which features his personal collection of rare horror movie memorabilia, classic comics, monster toys (Tickle Me Loch Ness Monster?,) freaky posters and props from classic horror films. Sounds like you want to bring a friend to this one.

There is a sports component…because bassist Robert Trujillo is still a SoCal kid at heart and SoCal kids love two things: surfing and skateboarding. On Saturday, there is the Jersey Shop Challenge, a tow-out surfing competition featuring local boarders going head to head and on Sunday, there is the All Out Assault competition, featuring a handful of surfing pros searching for big air and showing off their skills above the lip. Of course those two events are off site. At the venue, there will be a mini ramp and skateboarding demos throughout both days.

All in all, if you’re a Metallica fan, there isn’t much not to like about the Orion festival- loud music, cars, crazy movies, fire-breathing dragons (speculating on that one.) If you’re not a Metallica fan, the festival has just enough diversity to lure you in. Modest Mouse haven’t played in these parts in a while and the Arctic Monkeys are crazy Brits who put on a heck of a show. Don’t feel you have to commit to the whole shindig either, as individual tickets are available in addition to your traditional multi-day packages.

It’s going to be hot this weekend (like Hell hot?,) so why not rage out in sunny Atlantic City? Pump your fist, resist the urge to wear black and drink plenty of water and you’ll be in good shape.

Look for pictures by photographers of the Orion Music + More Festival the following week at

For more information, check out the Orion Music + More Festival page.

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