This past weekend, Orion Music + More (Metallica’s curated music festival) took over Atlantic City’s Bader Field for two days of (mostly) heavy music, skateboarding, surfing, car shows, films, and even some horror (Kirk Hammett’s personal collection of horror memorabilia, that is). The festival seemed to be a great success, and during the two days there, I heard only positive things from the attendees. Even during the most brutal of pits that broke out, fans were eager to pick up anyone who tripped, and throughout the entire weekend there seemed to be a sense of comradery that overpowered everything else.
(credit: Matt Ellis)
Day one kicked off with a bang thanks to an aggressive set from Los Angeles based post-hardcore band letlive. (yes, the lowercase ‘L’ and period are included in the band’s name). While the entire band delivered a heavy set that sparked the slightest bit of moshing at 2:30 in the afternoon, it was vocalist Jason Butler that stole not only the show, but the allegiance of the crowd. Throughout their 45 minute set, he exhibited a confidence that is typically reserved for bands playing much later in the day. One such moment came in between songs, when it was possible to hear music coming from a nearby stage. Upon hearing the other band’s music, Butler screamed into the microphone “Yo shut the fuck up over there, don’t you see we’re trying to play a show?” His stage antics continued throughout their set and included climbing as high above the stage as he could and violently shaking the scaffolding that he was climbing on, running off the stage and trying to steal a golf cart (when he released that he couldn’t he resorted to throwing bags of trash out of the back of it) and smashing the clock that the festival crew used to keep time during the day. Indeed, letlive. set the bar high as the first band I caught of the festival.
(credit: Cambria Harkey)
The next band up was Lucero, who struck me as one of the more eclectic choices of the weekend. While the band does have roots in punk, they also have strong ties to the South and thus, country music. However, the crowd was indeed very receptive to the band, especially when they broke out a cover of Jawbreaker’s ‘Kiss the Bottle’ early on. As one would expect, when the band explained that the next song, ‘Women and Work’ was about whiskey, the crowd’s ears perked up and ate it up. Vocalist Ben Nichols has an extremely distinctive voice, and the rest of the band provided a fusion of heavy and country that is quite hard to put down in words. Overall, their set was great; however, I did miss the last couple songs of it to get a good spot for the next band taking the opposite stage.
(credit: Michel Dussack)
Toronto based punk band Fucked Up were next, and after vocalist Damian Abraham explained that it was a dream come true to play with Metallica, he jumped off the stage as the band opened with ‘The Other Shoe’ off their critically acclaimed album ‘David Comes to Life’. Damian made his way through the entire crowd during the show, not returning to the stage until after about 45 minutes of their hour long set. During this time, he allowed members of the crowd to sing parts for him, gave his microphone away while he jumped over a barricade to give high-fives to everyone in the handicap section back by the soundboard, and became the center of multiple mosh pits. In between nearly every song, he thanked the crowd multiple times with sincerity rarely seen in rock and roll. He seemed genuinely shocked that so many of the audience knew the words to the songs and, together with the rest of the band, delivered the best set of the day (besides Metallica of course).
(credit: Cambria Harkey)
As soon as Fucked Up’s set ended, the distinctive sound of Beastie Boy’s ‘Sabotage’ could be heard from the main stage, which meant one thing – The Gaslight Anthem would be taking the stage next. While the New Jersey based band delivered a fantastic set, it was also extremely hard to get into given the distance at which anyone without a Met Club wristband had to stand. Despite this, the band delivered a tight and impressive set which included hits such as ‘American Slang’, ‘The ’59 Sound’ and their newest single ‘45’. They were also the first band of the day that the majority of the crowd seemed to already be familiar with, in no small part due to the fact that they were essentially a local band. As soon as set closer ‘The ’59 Sound’ started, some of the crowd, myself included, began to slowly walk over to the secondary stage for Cage the Elephant’s set which was scheduled to start as soon as The Gaslight Anthem ended.
(credit: Michel Dussack)
Cage the Elephant delivered an hour long set that encompassed both of the bands studio albums, and lots of crowd surfing. Singer Matthew Schultz was unstoppable throughout their set, hardly pausing to take a breath after moving constantly during every song. The band seemed to be slowly winning over the crowd throughout the set, until the end, when nearly everyone in the crowd exploded in cheers during ‘Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked’. ‘Shake Me Down’ followed, and when it came time for the bridge, Matt let the crowd take over vocal duties for him as everyone sang “Even on a cloudy day” over and over despite there not being a single cloud in the sky. The band closed their set with the ferocious ‘Saber-Tooth Tiger’ as Matt climbed his way on top of the crowd, stood on outstretched hands, and threw himself back down onto the crowd. For the large portion of the crowd that only knew a handful of the bands tracks, this was certainly unexpected.
(credit: Cambria Harkey)
Modest Mouse was next up, and despite playing a set filled with great music, they were the most poorly received band of the day. The band’s general mellow vibe didn’t mesh well with the crowd who had been seeing much heavier sets the entire day. The only point in which the band seemed to silence the critics was during their hit ‘Float On’. For the few members of the crowd that were more familiar with the band’s music, ‘Dramamine’ and ‘Tiny Cities Made of Ashes’ served as set highlights. It’s a shame that such a great set was marred simply because the band skewed too far from the “typical” sound that people at the festival were used to.
(credit: Dave Mead)
Sheffield based indie rock band Arctic Monkeys followed, and the crowd reacted in a much more welcoming manner to them. Towards the front of the crowd, hundreds of fans who knew every song were clustered around the quartet. The band packed 16 songs into their hour set, including hits such as ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ and ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’. Frontman Alex Turner was energetic and humorous throughout their entire set, particularly when he introduced drummer Matt Helders as the guy “on your girlfriend’s mind”. The band closed out their set with a powerful trio of songs – ‘Evil Twin’, ‘Brick by Brick’ and new single ‘R U Mine?’ and then it was time for the entire festival to head to the main stage for Metallica’s set.
(credit: Matt Ellis)
As soon as Ennio Morricone’s ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’ rang out over the PA system, fans knew that it was time for Metallica to take the stage. The band opened with ‘Hit the Lights’ before diving into one of their biggest songs – ‘Master of Puppets’. Everyone in the band sounded in top form throughout the night, and James Hetfield is second to none when it comes to fronting a band. Throughout the night he expressed waves of gratitude an appreciation to the crowd, and led numerous crowd chants and sing alongs. The band played five songs to start of the night before the real reason why everyone was gathered began.
The lights on the stage cut off abruptly and a video detailing the history of ‘Ride the Lightning’ began to play. When that video ended, the band ripped into a stunning version of ‘The Call of Ktulu’ and it became obvious that they would be playing ‘Ride the Lightning’ backwards, just as they had been doing for ‘The Black Album’ in Europe. When it came time for the band to play ‘Escape’, a track which had never been played live, there was a sense of tension on the stage. Hetfield remarked how the band had never played the song, something that the entire crowd seemed to already know, before beginning it. While instrumentally it sounded perfectly, Hetfield simply didn’t have the range to hit every note of the song perfectly. While it was amazing to hear live, especially considering it was the first time being performed ever, don’t expect for them to try it again.
The band continued through the album, before closing out that portion of their set with album opener ‘Fight Fire With Fire’. They didn’t stop there however, continuing on to play ‘Nothing Else Matters’ and close their main set with ‘Enter Sandman’ which featured countless fireworks shot off throughout the song. When it came time for the band to return for their encore, they did so with ‘Battery’ which caused the already large pits to double in size. ‘One’ followed and featured numerous explosions, pyro, and lasers. There were so many lasers in fact, that the band switched off the video screens during the performance, probably for fear of damaging their cameras. The band treated fans to one final song to end the night – ‘Seek and Destroy’ during which all the house lights were turned on and giant Metallica beach balls were dropped into the crowd. The audience took this song as their chance to dispel as much of their energy as possible, though some seemed reserved, knowing they would be doing this all again the next day.