Metallica Leads Heavy Orion Music Festival, Tells Detroit 'We'll Be Back'
After setting a high bar with its first-day front-to-back surprise performance of 1983's "Kill 'Em All," Metallica closed its second Orion Music + More festival with a more conventional but characteristically ferocious concert on Sunday -- and promised to be back for more next year.
As tight and polished as the previous day was raw, the quartet's pyrotechnic-laden two-hour and 10-minute show -- which featured rarities such as "Carpe Diem Baby," "I Disappear," "Disposable Heroes" and the group's cover of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" amidst a generous helping of head-banging staples -- finished off a successful second year for Orion and a relatively smooth transition to Detroit's Belle Isle Park after starting in Atlantic City last year. Some 37 groups, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Deftones, Silversun Pickups, Rise Against and Bassnectar performed on Orion's five stages, with Metallica posing as Dehaan for the "Kill 'Em All" set and the Joy Formidable bowing out after arriving late in Detroit on Sunday afternoon.
Metallica's members were visible throughout the two-day affair, mostly via hosting the various lifestyle sideshows they curate, such as frontman James Hetfield's custom car and motorcycle exhibition (which included three of his vehicle`s and one of bassist Robert Trujillo's) and guitarist Kirk Hammett's Kirk's Crypt display of horror memorabilia. Trujillo rode herd over the skateboarding exhibitions at the Vans Vert Ramp, while drummer Lars Ulrich debuted a scene from the forthcoming "Metallica Into the Never" 3D movie with director Nimrod Antal in his "Hit The Lights" film tent.
The Metallica Museum, meanwhile, displayed the bass Cliff Burton played at his final concert before his 1986 death in a Swedish bus crash, as well as other instruments, stage props and vintage handbills.
The Chili Peppers closed Saturday night's lineup in drummer Chad Smith's home town with an hour and 45 minutes of mostly hits, including "Dani California," "Scar Tissue," "Can't Stop," "Californication," "Snow (Hey Oh)," "By the Way," "Under the Bridge," "Give It Away" and a frenetic rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground." Their set was preceded by a reunion of the first lineup of the all-star Infectious Grooves on the Fuel stage, with former Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin filling in for Adam Siegel. The hard-hitting funk-rock workout started with an instrumental rendition of Jane's Addiction's "Mountain Song" and revisited Infectious favorites such as "These Freaks Are Here to Party," "Turtle Wax (Funkaholics Anonymous)", "You Lie...And Yo Breath Stank," "Monster Skank" and a version of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," as well as a bit of Journey's "Lights" sung by the group's alligator-headed mascot Sarsippius. Frontman Mike Muir and guitarist Dean Pleasants also joined the Trujillo Trio during its Sunday set.
Other notable musical moments during Orion included:
- The first-ever performance by alumni of stoner rock titans Kyuss, now billed as Vista Chino after being forced to drop the moniker Kyuss lives. The group still leaned on its old repertoire for "Gardenia," "Hurricane," "Green Machine" and "Thong Song" during its Sunday show in the Frantic tent and previewed one new track, "Dargona Dragona," from its upcoming album "Peace."
- Gogol Bordello threw a gypsy punk party on the Fuel stage Sunday that certainly whipped the crowd up for Metallica -- although maybe it tired them out, too, as Orionites began leaving in a steady stream during the final third of the closing concert.
- The all-star EDM trio Destroid, decked out in futuristic space suits, drove the Sanitarium electronic tent insane with its opulent light show and next-level blend of dubstep, drumstep and electro house.
- Detroit headbangers Battlecross, introduced by both Hetfield and Trujillo, delivered on its potential breakthrough moment with a furious Saturday set in the Frantic tent that debuted several songs from its forthcoming Metal Blade sophomore album "War of Will."
- Death, which had spent much of the week promoting its upcoming documentary "A Band Called Death," made a triumphant and emotional return to its home town with a 50-minute Sunday show on the Damage Inc. stage that included groundbreaking mid-70s protopunk songs such as "Politicians in My Eyes," Keep On Knocking" and "Freakin' Out," along with a raw cover of the Beatles' "Got to Get You Into My Life" and the new single "Relief."
- And Ben Blackwell, who by day works for his uncle Jack White's Third Man Records, brought the Dirtbombs' Sunday performance in the Frantic tent to an up-close-and-personal with fans, jumping into the crowd during a cover of INXS's "Need You Tonight," then returning with a floor tom for the set-closing "I Can't Stop Thinking About It."
Charlie Walker of C3 Presents, which produces Orion, told Billboard that about 20,000 attended the festival's first day -- about the same as in Atlantic City -- and there appeared to be even more on Sunday. He didn't guarantee a return to Detroit next year, however, though he praised the bucolic Belle Isle site as "awesome."
"We'll go through this one, wrap it up, see what the feedback is," Walker said. "I think we'll look at the attendance and what the actual, final expense budget comes in at, which is sometimes a little different than what it's supposed to be. Then we'll sit down and try to get a grip on what to do next."
Metallica's members, meanwhile, sounded like they'd already made up their minds. Before the Trujillo Trio set, the bassist promised the crowd that Orion would "definitely" be back in 2014 and said during a subsequent golf cart ride back to his trailer that, "You can tell Belle Isle is the perfect location for an event like this. This is such a great city and it has such a rich (music) history. I'm really glad we're here...We'll be back."
Hetfield intimated the same during Metallica's show on Sunday. He spoke of a seemingly certain future when he promised, "you gotta know the first year there's going to be some screw-ups. So next year, hopefully, it'll be even better." And at the end of the concert he asked the crowd, "You think we should come back next year?" to a clearly affirmative response. "As long as you promise you'll be back too -- and bring some friends!" Hetfield added.
Meanwhile, the Orion crowd, and Metallica, were still buzzing about Saturday's "Kill 'Em All" set -- which was witnessed by Burton's father Ron and Chili Peppers bassist Flea. Trujillo said the album performance came together "with short notice," but was in keeping with Metallica's re-creations of "Ride the Lightning" and "Metallica" (aka "The Black Album") at the inaugural Orion. "This is the event where things like that can happen," he explained. "We wanted to do something special for this crowd. Everybody was saying, 'Hey, why are you guys only playing one show?,' and it was like, 'Well, we don't know if we're playing one show.' Half the time we don't know what set we're gonna play or which direction we're gonna go with it. Literally, like maybe two days before, it was like, 'Let's play 'Kill 'Em All.' It's the 30th anniversary.' So that was special, too."