Metallica kicked off their inaugural Orion Fest at Bader Field in Atlantic City on Saturday night with their first-ever full performance of their 1984 classic 'Ride the Lightning.' They followed Sunday with a relentless, powerful run through their 1991 self-titled landmark, aka The Black Album, that made Saturday's 'Lightning' set feel like a warm-up. While the album performance slayed, the set's highlight came during "The Shortest Straw," a vicious track from '...And Justice for All.' It sounded faster and heavier than the recorded version, and inspired a massive circle pit in which dude's rammed each other like mountain goats and one plotting girl occasionally charged in from the sidelines to deck somebody.
Kevin Tully for Fuse
Avenged Sevenfold's Family Values
A few tracks into their late evening set, M. Shadows, the bandana and ball cap-sporting singer for the Huntington Beach, CA, metal band, looked to the crowd around the Fuel Stage: "How many of you out there are seeing Avenged for first time? Let's see a show of hands." Thousands shot up instantaneously. "Well, welcome to the family!!!!!!!!!!!" The band plowed into "Welcome to the Family," off their latest album 'Nightmare,' and flames and fireworks shot from onstage. Now that's what I call a warm welcome to the Avenged family.
Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett is a horror film fanatic. He has an impressive collection of monster movie memorabilia, from vintage posters to bloody movie props, all of which he brought to Orion for an exhibition entitled Kirk's Crypt. The entrance line was 100 yards long all weekend, and it was totally worth the wait. Highlights included his custom monster movie guitars, including a 'Dracula'-themed ESP, plus classic comics, monster toys and posters for ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ ‘Re-Animator,’ ‘The Evil Dead’ and ‘White Zombie.’ There were original props for films like 'Aliens,' which were pretty creepy, but they weren't nearly as scary as what happened to the woman in line ahead of me. Once we entered the Crypt, a volunteer worker dressed up like a zombie, who legitimately had only one arm, stood right next to her, staring hard. When she turned, he screamed and she quite nearly hit the roof. "Boooo!"
Kevin Tully for Fuse
Arctic Monkeys Get Heavy, Inspire Crowd Surfing
On 2009's Josh Homme-produced 'Humbug' and 2011's 'Suck It and See,' the Sheffield, England quartet gave their snappy, dance floor-ready indie sound a shot of steroids—and at Orion, they sounded heavier than ever on "Crying Lightning" and "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair," like Alex Turner and co. purposely performed with extra ooomph to please the Metallica devout. During the Monkeys' performance of the former on the Fuel Stage, fans ripped it up and crowd surfed. "Huh. I didn't think the Arctic Monkeys were so heavy," said one Metallica tee-sporting concertgoer to his pal. True that.
Modest Mouse Play New Tracks
Modest Mouse have been cooped up in a studio recording their follow-up to 2007's 'We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank' with a special producer: OutKast's Big Boi. No word yet on when the album will drop, but frontman Isaac Brock and co. aired a few newbies at Orion Fest, both of which sounded, well, like vintage Modest Mouse (think 'The Moon & Antarctica'). No horns. No banjos. Just dreary, ethereal guitar and propulsive bass grooves courtesy of the player filling in for Eric Judy. So, sounds like Big Boi is helping Modest Mouse reconnect with their former selves. This is GREAT news.
Jam on tiny cities.
Kevin Tully for Fuse
Volbeat Cover Dusty Springfield
"I Only Wanna Be With You" is a touching love song that British songbird Dusty Springfield made popular in 1963. It's full of emotional string arrangements, horns and girl group backing vocals. In other words, it's about as far from the sound of Danish heavy metal band Volbeat as possible. But they straight slayed a cover of the track that was immediately recognizable from the press area, clear on the other side of the festival. Michael Poulsen can sing! The frontman also told the audience that the band are working on new album, which they teased with a new song called "Momma, Can I Have a Shotgun..." which was heavier and louder than most of what I heard all weekend.
Jim Breuer Revives 'SNL' Character Goat Boy
Remember Jim Breuer? The former cast member of 'Saturday Night Live' and the Jerry Garcia-idolizing hippie on 'Half Baked'? Of course you do (or don't, depending on how much weed you've been smoking). He's a big Metallica fan, so he delivered the gut-busting goods for his fellow Orion concertgoers. He brought out a metal band of his own to play a ridiculous cover of children's song "B-I-N-G-O" and, in the undeniable set highlight, revived his 'SNL' character Goat Boy. "Bahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!"
While Metallica gave Orion concertgoers a taste of their personal hobbies with the motorcycle and hot rod show (James Hetfield), Vans surfing and skateboard demos (Robert Trujillo), art-house movie premieres (Lars Ulrich) and Kirk's Crypt (Kirk Hammett), they also provided a look back at the band's history with the Metallica Museum. The line was long, but inside there were some cool metal artifacts, including old instruments, concert posters and t-shirts. The best was Hetfield's charred guitar from an incident in Montreal in August 1992 during a stop on Metallica's co-headlining tour with Guns N' Roses. Hetfield was hit by the 12-foot-tall flame of onstage pyrotechnics, suffering third-degree burns to his arms, face, hands and legs. His guitar was heavily burnt on the neck and body, too. Now that's heavy.
Kevin Tully for Fuse
Best Coast's Breezy Summer Vibes
Where was Orion Fest during the midday Sunday set from Los Angeles' surf-pop outfit Best Coast? Who knows, but they weren't watching at the main stage, that's for sure. Tsk, tsk. And those who were seemed about as disconnected as an Atlantic City boardwalk drunk. Bethany Cosentino made an attempt to rile the audience with some Metallica-themed banter ("how awesome were they last night?"), but when that failed she led her band in what they do best -- summoning the summer vibes on a breezy and sunny summer day with tunes like "Summer Mood." How could Orion not dig this? Really, the band's jangle-y Cali-pop was a dream come true and a brief reprieve from any song played in Drop D tuning.
Cops Love Eric Church
North Carolina-bred country rocker Eric Church sang about cocaine, weed, beer and whiskey, and the cops posted up at Orion Fest absolutely loved it. While they didn't seem too thrilled to be assigned near, say, the Avenged Sevenfold show earlier, the Boys and Girls in Blue showed up in droves on their golf carts to watch Church do his Southern boogie-woogie. One even lit up a cigar to rejoice. Also, during Church's entire set, I felt like the cops were just itching to let a few fly into the sky. Yeeehaw.