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More Orion Music + More: Day 2.
Indie rock, punk, experimental metal. And, again, Metallica. Photos by Joshua Pelta-Heller
After arriving late to Day 1 of the Orion Music + More festival, I decided it was best to get to Day 2 of Orion as early as possible, especially considering the fact that there were two bands, A Place to Bury Strangers and Liturgy, playing first thing Sunday afternoon that I wanted to see. As such, I started the drive/shuttle bus/long walk journey to Orion early on Sunday morning. On the shuttle to the festival, I listened in as a few diehard Metallica fans were discussing their favorite bands from the day before. The fact that they were open to new bands, and heading to the Fest early on Sunday to catch some more, had me reevaluating my opinion of Metallica diehards as musically close-minded.
A Place to Bury Strangers
Thankfully, I arrived at the Fuel Stage just as A Place to Bury Strangers were starting their set. Considering their early start time, there was a decent crowd assembled to watch A Place to Bury Strangers. They played a solid set, including Exploding Head standouts “In Your Heart”, “Dead Beat”, “Ego Death”, and the title track from this year’s Onwards to the Wall EP, but the early afternoon set time did not help the atmosphere of their dark noise-rock/shoegaze sound. Imagine the Jesus and Mary Chain or Interpol playing outside in broad daylight, and you’d have an idea of how oddly the music and surroundings meshed. For their part, the band did what they could to translate their chaotic club show to a large, outdoor venue, with guitarist/vocalist Oliver Ackermann tossing his guitar around the stage (at times, barely having his guitar strapped on as he played) and making full use of the huge stack of effects processors that were visible on his amp.
About halfway through A Place to Bury Strangers’ set, I joined a small but attentive crowd at the Frantic Stage to see Liturgy. I’ve been intrigued by their droney, experimental metal since I started listening to last year’s Aesthethica, and was interested to see how it translated live. With the recent departure of Greg Fox on drums, the band was down to a two-piece of guitarist/vocalist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix and guitarist Bernard Gann, who were accompanied by a drum machine. Their live performance delivered pretty much what I expected: repetitive guitar riffs, penetrating beats, and wailing vocals, but watching two guitarists stand still for almost the entire set was a disappointment, especially after A Place to Bury Stranger’s energetic set.
Thy Will Be Done
After Liturgy’s set, I made my way across the festival grounds to catch the end of Thy Will Be Done’s set on the Damage Inc. Stage. The band traffics in a thrash metal style that one would actually expect to hear at a festival curated by Metallica: think Anthrax, Testament, or Exodus, and you have the idea. Not surprisingly, the diehard Metallica fans seemed receptive to them, and they obliged with a spirited set, including synchronized head-banging and fervent lead singer J. Costa whipping up the crowd.
After Thy Will Be Done, I trekked back to the Frantic Stage to catch the Black Angels. The Austin band’s trippy psych rock set, including “Entrance Song”, “Bad Vibrations”, and “Haunting at 1300 McKinley” from Phosphene Dream and “The First Vietnamese War” from their self-titled EP, gave the hot early afternoon the perfect chill-down it needed (aided by the covered audience area at the Frantic Stage) and was well-received by the decent crowd that had gathered there.
After catching four straight sets, I took a well-deserved break, before heading back across the field for Torche. On the way, I caught a bit ofthe Soul Rebels at the Frantic Stage, an R&B/soul/jazz/hip-hop/etc. group from New Orleans. Anyone doubting the true diversity of this festival, or the diehard Metallica fans’ ability to appreciate that diversity, just had to catch their set. A large crowd was gathered at the stage to watch their set, and I even caught a few attendees dancing.
Eventually, I made my way to the Damage Inc. Stage to catch Miami, FL stoner rock band Torche. After a warm introduction from Metallica bassist Rob Trujillo, the band launched into a few songs off of this year’s excellent Harmonicraft, including “Letting Go”, “Kicking”, and “In Pieces”. Unfortunately, the sound cut out during the band’s fifth song (one of the few sound problems over the weekend) and, as I had an interview scheduled with Thy Will Be Done’s J. Costa, I took this opportunity to head for some shade and prepare for the interview.
After the interview, I had some time to kill before the next band I wanted to see, Titus Andronicus, so I took this time to check out the “More” that Orion promised in the name of the festival: including the Orion Custom Car + Motorcycle Show, the Vans Motorbreath Mini Ramp, the Metallica Museum & Graffiti Art Expo, Kirk’s Crypt (a collection of Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett’s creepy collectibles), and Hit The Lights Films (a tent showing movies hand-picked by Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich). Suffice to say, there were plenty non-music diversions going on, and it was a decent way to kill time between bands.
Finally, I made my way back to the Frantic Stage for New Jersey’s own Titus Andronicus. To be honest, I’ve never been too impressed by their Bruce Springsteen-via-Hold Steady punk/indie sound, perhaps because of my perception of them being hipster-than-thou, but the band won me over this time. They ran through a bruising set, including “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future”, “A More Perfect Union”, “Titus Andronicus Forever”, and “Four Score and Seven” from The Monitor, “Upon Viewing Brueghel’s Landscape With The Fall Of Icarus” and “Titus Andronicus” from The Airing of Grievances and new song “My Eating Disorder”. Singer Patrick Stickles was his usual enthusiastic, cathartic self, crossing the sizable photo well/bouncer pen to jump on top of the small but passionate crowd to scream the “your life is over” coda of “Titus Andronicus”. Stickles was the only band member of the weekend who I heard verbally address the disparity of a punk/indie band playing a fest curated by Metallica, saying, “Metallica is up next … I never thought I’d say that” toward the end of their set.
Once again, it was time for the festival curators and headliners, Metallica, to take the Orion Stage. Sunday night’s set began much as Saturday’s had, with another clip from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly playing, before they came out to start their set with “Hit the Lights”, “Master of Puppets”, “Fuel”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, and “The Shortest Straw”. Again, the stage went black, while a short video played featuringBlack Album-era video and pictures of Metallica, introducing tonight’s album that was to be played in full. And, again, the album was played in its entirety, but backwards, before the band closed with an encore of “Blackened”, “One”, and “Seek & Destroy”.
All things considered, Metallica’s inaugural Orion Music + More festival was a success. It was a gorgeous weekend, with temperatures in the mid-80s, and a perfect weekend for a well-run, well-curated, and diverse outdoor music festival. With the announcement that Metallica is planning on repeating the festival in 2013, either in Atlantic City or elsewhere on the East Coast, this could develop into a serious summer “destination” festival.