This past weekend, Metallica presented the inaugural Orion Music + More festival in Atlantic City, NJ. Metal Insider’s Bram Teitelman, Zach Shaw and Kodi McKinney were there, as was MI contributor Alex Rudisill. We’ll be bringing you plenty of interviews from the show, but today is the first of two recaps, covering the first day’s festivities.
11:45am – Enter Shitshow
BT: A festival is always a dicey proposition. You never know how it’s going to be run, what the weather’s going to be like, or where the next several days will take you, but the anticipation of getting to the festival proper is a part of any fest. After parking, we get on a shuttle that takes us to Bader Field, a decommissioned airport several miles away. I start listening to two Metallica Club members, from Missouri and Arizona, who traveled in for the show. While some had dismissed the diversity of the lineup when it was first announced, these two were looking forward to it. “I admit I’m narrow-minded,” said one. “This will give me a chance to see bands I wouldn’t normally listen to, and maybe I’ll like some of them.” They also mused that if it was only a metal show, it wouldn’t have sold as many tickets. I start counting Metallica shirts (aka ‘that guy’) and realize that there are simply too many to count – and this is just on the bus.
We arrive at the Fest and walk to get our credentials. The first thing we see to our left is the monstrous Orion stage, where Baroness are set to perform. We eventually realize the stages, in a diamond formation, are set up as such:
Orion stage: big, for moderately large to huge bands (this is where Metallica played)
Fuel stage: not quite as big as Orion, but still large
Damage Inc. stage: the metal stage
Frantic Stage: small stage, covered. This is where the comedy, indie and more rootsy stuff (for the most part) happened. It maybe held about 1,000 or so, and for the most part wasn’t packed most of the time.
One thing that’s good about the stages is that although they’re relatively close together, sound isn’t an issue. None of the stages are more than a five minute walk from each other, and if you were at a stage, there was no major concern of sound bleeding from the other stages.
ZS: As I enter the heart of Orion, it became apparent to me that Metallica took plenty of notes during their 2008 Bonnaroo performance. The festival’s stage layout, activity tents and even food options reminded me of what I saw during my time at Bonnaroo. The only difference was that it was on a slightly smaller scale, hence the nickname Mini-roo I gave Orion. And having had such a great time at Bonnaroo, this layout was perfect in my mind.
Something that you’ll probably hear us discuss multiple times throughout here is the sound. While the music from different stages didn’t overlap each other too badly, there were many instances where the sound was muffled. Envision, if you will, how a band sounds different at a concert hall when you go in and out of a room. That seemed to happen numerous times during various sets, even though this was an outside festival. If you were to ask me what was the reasoning behind this, I’d put my money on wind. Though not overly strong, the ocean breeze was evident on both days, making me believe that it may have affected the sound in some fashion.
Another thing that I found interesting was the number of international fans present. One particular group of four horsemen dressed as blue and yellow Vikings came all the way from Sweden for the weekend festival. Meanwhile, I overheard a variety of different languages overheard throughout the day. Considering how me and fellow Northeastern fans joked before arriving how Atlantic City isn’t that easy to get to, it was pretty cool to see how far people traveled to be at Orion in person.
KM: On the shuttle ride over, I got to thinking that Metallica did something very intelligent here. The dividing line between underground metal and indie rock has been stretched increasingly thin, and this festival is a chance to bring both groups of fans together. The indie guys that show up likely won’t be impossible hipsters, because hipsters don’t give one hot damn about Metallica. And the metalheads that show up likely won’t be painfully elitist, because elitists wouldn’t be caught dead watching Arctic Monkeys open for Ride the Lightning. You’ll get the most open communicative sides of each fandom, everyone will love Metallica, and they’ll likely be alarmed at how much they have in common with each other. If done correctly, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Could a more inclusive fan of high-energy music be the new hotness? I’d like to think so, and my guess is that this might be a quick way to find out.