I failed. I knew I would, but I tried hard. Ok, not that hard. But I made a good run at attempting to catch a glimpse of almost every band that performed over the 2 day Orion Music + More Festival.
By bringing in bands from a wide spectrum of genres, Metallica wanted to create a Europeanesque festival in the U.S. And, I’d say they succeeded. For a look at my overall impression of the festival including a photo gallery, checkout this blog.
My goal here is to point out some acts that I might not have checked out otherwise, except for maybe Gary Clarke Jr.
Gary Clark Jr.
In preparation for Orion, I listened to a few tracks by GCJ. Impressed with his overall sound and vibe, I was excited to see him perform live. Especially considering I’m a guitar player who dabbles in playin’ the blues.
Bottom line, this guy’s the real deal.
Some reviews noted that he was the new Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan. For me, those 2 guitar players hold iconic status, so comparing anyone to Jimi or SRV gets my attention.
GCJ’s humble stage presence and modest demeanor remind me of Hendrix. His careful note selection captivated all of us. Would I throw his music into my regular mix? YES!
The Miami-based band put on a great show on the smallest of the Orion stages, aptly named Damage Inc.
I did some research on Torche before heading to Orion and thoroughly enjoyed the music from their 2008 release Meanderthal. Decibal Magazine ranked Meanerthal #1 on their list of Top 40 Extreme albums of 2008. Harmonicraft is their newest album, released earlier this year and is absolutely worth the listen.
It’s hard to classify this band. In one sense you think metal and the other you think hard rock (think Alkaline Trio). Their sound is big and hard hitting. Steve Brooks’ vocals meld nicely with the chunky guitar rhythms.
Cool band, for sure.
If you haven’t heard of them, check them out. Would I put them in my regular mix? Yes. Definitely.
I’m not a country music fan. Well, I am if you consider names like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Hank Willams Jr. country music. What I’m not a fan of is the new generation of designer jean- cowboy hat-pop country.
Opinions aside, I was actually looking forward to seeing Eric Church perform, particularly after James Hetfield announced him as “country’s bad boy.” That, along with the giant banner hanging above the stage featuring a skull with a “Busch Light” trucker hat and aviators.
His band was heavy. I mean the guitars were heavy! Their sound was perfect for the main stage and they drew a good crowd. To be fair, it’s not difficult to draw a crowd at a festival with lyrics like, “Jack Daniels kicked my ass again last night.”
Would I buy an album and listen to it regularly? Probably not. But I enjoyed their set and the change of musical pace on that warm sunny afternoon.
The Gaslight Anthem
Gaslight are local East Coast boys gaining in popularity. I can see why. I enjoyed their live show.
They are obviously influenced by Bruce Springsteen, another local East Coast boy done good. You can hear influences of Motown mixed with a bit of grit in their sound. Cool stuff.
Gaslight is a rock band. If you’re shopping for some new rock, check them out. Their style is very accessible and easy to listen to.
Would I put them in my regular mix? Sure. They seem like nice guys.
Playing on the biggest of all stages, the Swedish metal band Ghost was clad in full-length white garb. The singer wore a clergy cassock and skull makeup.
I, along with others, was fully entranced with the band’s stage presence and big sound. Not normally a fan of Swedish Heavy Metal, I’m glad I checked these guys out. Towards the end of their set they played a cover of the Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun.” Which seemed odd and fitting all at the same time.
After their set closed, I had a strong suspicion that they gained some new fans on American soil.
Are they going in my regular mix, I’m undecided. Although I like the song, “Ritual.” Check it out.
When I heard Metallica was hosting a summer music festival, my first thought was great, another day-long metal fest with the same metal bands, same metal fans, and the same $8 beers. I was wrong… except for the $8 beers. Let me sum up the vibe of the last two days of my life. Metallica threw a backyard BBQ and invited 20,000 plus fans. I heard this from many of the festival-goers who came from all over the world to see their favorite band. I met people from Russia, Spain, Brazil, Australia, and a strong contingent of folks from the Great White North. They speak funny you know, eh?
The Orion Music + More Festival had a packed line-up of diverse bands from all genres. Metallica was trying to emulate the big music fests from across the pond, where a similar setup seems to be quite successful. Bringing together fans from different backgrounds and exposing them to different styles of music is appealing to me. Stay tuned, I’ll be writing about the top 5 bands that blew me away over the weekend. For now, here’s what you need to know.
On the first day, heavy bands like Baroness, Black Tusk and Kyng played alongside less aggressive bands like The Gaslight Anthem, Cage the Elephant, and Modest Mouse – yep, Modest Mouse. Whose sound was just not big enough for the Orion main stage. There were a total of 4 stages hosting bands throughout the weekend. The next biggest stage was the Fuel stage, where The Arctic Monkeys played just before Metallica fianlly took over their festival. Playing the Ride the Lightning album in its entirety as the sun set over the Atlantic City skyline was truly a site to behold.
Metallica Day One
Of course, in true Metallica style, we heard “It’s a Long Way to the Top (if you want to rock and roll)” by AC/DC followed by Ennio Morricone’s “Ecstasy of the Gold.” Metallica has been using Morricone’s work featured in the film The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly since its tours in the early ’90s. It’s become synonymous with Metallica. So much so that the thousands of us fans sung along with the now-famous melody just before Metallica took the stage.
They immediately surged into “Hit the Lights” from their 1983 release, Kill ‘Em All. I was happy to find out that Metallica was here to put on a show – and that they did. Playing song after song including “Master of Puppets,” “The Four Horseman,” and “Sad But True” before starting off the last song from Ride the Lightning. That’s right. They started with the instrumental song “The Call of Ktulu” and wrapped up the set with fast and furious “Fight Fire with Fire.”
They didn’t stop after the close of the Ride the Lightning set. No way. They were just getting warmed up. Metallica ripped through songs like “Enter Sandman,” “One,” “Battery,” “Nothing Else Matters,” and “Seek and Destroy.” Saturday-only ticket holders were treated to some of the big songs from the Black album, which we heard in its entirety the following evening.
Metallica Day Two
Admittedly, I’ve seen Metallica play live more than any other band. Their music spans many generations – in fact, they were celebrating over 30 years of music this past weekend. Wow. Impressive. What’s even more impressive is the energy they bring night after night.
Sunday’s set proved just as impressive. In my opinion, and a few others I polled in the crowd, the energy level was even higher than day one. Again, we heard AC/DC followed by the singing of Morricone’s melody. Then just like the night before, Metallica came busting out of the gates with “Hit the Lights” and “Master of Puppets.” This is where things changed. An amped up James Hetfield screamed, “Orion! Are You Ready? Gimme fuel, gimme fire, gimme that which I desire!”
The band raged into one of the best live renditions of “Fuel” from their 1997 release, ReLoad.
The energy continued throughout the entire set, including the playing of the Black album in its entirety. Starting with the last song on the album, “The Struggle Within” and ending with their number 1 hit of all time, “Enter Sandman.”
They finished up their set with an encore featuring, “Blackened,” “One,” and “Seek and Destroy.”
After the show on the first night I thought to myself, maybe I’ve seen Metallica play live enough times to satiate my need for live Metallica. However, after the second night’s live assault, my mind quickly changed. I need to see Metallica again.
Yep. There were a couple of Metallica museums set up on the grounds. They gave fans a close up look at Metallica artwork along with iconic figures such as the “Doris” head from the …And Justice for All tour statue.
As a guitar player growing up with Metallica guitar riffs, I was more than excited to see the collection of famous guitars played by the members of band. Like the double-neck guitar James was playing when he sustained third degree burns from the pyrotechnics during the song “Fade to Black” at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium in August of 1992. You can see where the wood on the back of the neck was charred. Ouch.
Also on hand was Kirk Hammett’s renowned collection of horror movie memorabilia, rare comics, monster toys, posters and props. This was the only area I didn’t get a peak at. Most of the time the line was over an hour to get in and there were too many other areas to explore.
How do you captivate fans for two days in one place at one festival with more than just music? Metallica had the answer with its lifestyle demos set-up across the grounds and at the beach.
Upon entering Bader Field, the car show that featured over 100 hot rods and motorcycles was my first stop. A chance to see James Hetfield’s custom ’37 Lincoln Zephyr named Voodoo Priest? I’m in! Did I mention James was walking around checking out the cars alongside me? I was amazed at how accessible the band members were during the festival. Remember the BBQ analogy?
Speaking of accessible Metallica members, we high-fived both Kirk and Rob as they grabbed surfboards and dove into the water with the Billabong-sponsored surf team. Both Kirk and Rob are big-time surfers and took time out of their day to spend some time on the East Coast catching waves with the help of a pair of jet skis. The waves in Atlantic City are traditionally a bit small, but the aid of a jet ski and a tow rope made for a fun afternoon.
Back from the beach, we headed over to the Vans-sponsored skate ramp and had the honor and privilege to watch skateboarding pioneers like Tony Alva and Steve Caballero tear it up in the warm New Jersey sun. These guys are legends and the respect was felt every time they dropped into the ramp. The younger guys cleared the way and bailed on maneuvers to make room for skateboarding royalty.
To say Metallica hit a home run with the Orion Music + More Festival is an understatement. Their goal of bringing a Europeanesque festival to the U.S. was a blistering success. I just hope I can make it back next year to the Metallica family BBQ. Someone pass me an $8 beer. Please!
For a follow-up to our previous interview with Lou Musa, The Verve Pipe allowed me to come and shoot some photos of their recent gig opening for Cheap Trick at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Thanks to all the guys in Verve Pipe and Van Andel Arena for letting me come and shoot the show and also give you a behind the scenes look at what goes on before the show.
For years, I have heard one word that is synonymous with a good time – Bonnaroo. The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, TN is a yearly festival that features some of the best musical acts in the world. This year I was able to make the journey to Manchester to see what the festival is about. Having returned safely, minus the sunburn, I am now able to share my favorite experiences from four days of music, art, and good times.
The first thing that caught my attention was the “art” of Bonnaroo. Walking to the main entrance, you walk past “the wall”, featuring drawings done by festival attendees. The entrance to the festival grounds features the imposing “arch”, which is a brilliant white color during the day and Technicolor at night. Obscure artistic features such as giant bobble heads and a dragon-topped clock tower also were present.
The music at the festival was varied and featured many different talents. Some of the fun bands were the “unknown’s” that nobody really knew, but were intriguing to watch. Half of the fun was finding new bands to fall in love with.
Some newer acts that caught my attention were:
3. Up and Comers
- Foster the People – Their dance influenced songs got everybody jumping.
- Childish Gambino – His spit-fire lyrics amazed the crowd.
- Fun. – A lively performance with infections tunes.
You may have heard their top hits on the radio, but after seeing them live, these bands have plenty more to offer. Check out tracks from Fun. like “Some Nights” and “Carry On”.
Then, there are the crowd favorites that everybody was dying to see. The headliners did not disappoint the 80,000 people in attendance.
The headliners included:
- Radiohead – A mesmerizing show with new songs and old favorites.
- The Red Hot Chili Peppers – Their fast-paced show filled the crowd with energy.
- Phish – Their four hour long set was the perfect way to end the festival.
There were other big name acts that drew large crowds too.
- The Beach Boys – Their classic surfer tunes got everybody singing.
- Skrillex – The new face of techno music kept everyone up with a late night show.
- Ludacris energized the crowd with a number of hit songs.
- Alice Cooper performed a midnight set, complete with theatrical costumes and props.
These acts did not disappoint and were the highlight of many of the festival goers.
Leaving the festival grounds on the last night, one thought went through my head. “I have to come back here! Is it 2013 yet?” My first Bonnaroo was a memorable experience to say the least. It is hard to put into words the full experience of this festival. There is so much happening at any given time it’s hard to comprehend. All I can do is give one piece of advice. If you are thinking about going to Bonnaroo, go. You will not be disappointed. I, for one, will do everything I can to make it back there next year.
“We’d like to play some rock and roll now.” Those words coming from Geddy Lee’s mouth back in 1974 at the Cleveland Agora sum up why this once 12 year old, now 51, still listens to Rush today. As I mentioned in an earlier blog , I was a fan of Rush when most people had no idea who they were.
During my younger days, if I set my transistor radio at precisely the right angle on my bedroom window, I could tune in WMMS, a radio station from Cleveland. As a result, I heard “Working Man” well before most of my friends. I took pride in my discovery, even if my friends thought Rush was weird.
Air drumming all the time and trying to sing as high as Geddy Lee probably only furthered the weirdness factor. But I really didn’t care. Which is probably why I liked Rush somewhat instinctively. They never really seemed to care what others thought about their music.
Of course I was drawn to Neil Peart . He was a drummer and so was I. Initially, I was drawn to the look of his drum set. This quickly progressed to the type of gear he used, then his style of drumming, and finally how to emulate his sound.
After all of this, I believe that Neil’s greatest influence upon most people is not his playing, but his writing. Contributing song lyrics and writing non-fiction books, Neil Peart has made his art attainable by all.
Below are some of his greatest lyrical moments:
1. “It is the fire that ignites itself but it burns with a restless flame.” Cut to the Chase from Counterparts. A song about motivation and the difference one person can make.
2. “You can be the captain and I will draw the charts.” Closer to the Heart from A Farewell to Kings. All about working together to get life right.
3. “Suddenly you were gone from all the lives you left your mark upon.” Afterimage from Grace Under Pressure. Remembering a friend…
4. “Quick to judge, quick to anger, slow to understand.” Witch Hunt from Moving Pictures. Not tolerating ignorance, prejudice or fear. Something everyone can learn.
5. “I will choose freewill.” Free Will from Permanent Waves. Enough said.
6. “Got to pick up the pace, if you want to stay in the race.” Marathon from Power Windows. As a runner, really good advice but of course the song isn’t really about running. But it might be.
7. “Dressed in flowing hair. Go wild.” I Think I’m Going Bald from Caress of Steel. Done both of those, sometimes at the same time. How simple yet exciting can life be?
8. “Steer the airship right across the stars.” Headlong Flight from Clockwork Angels. I wanted to do that when I was 12 and I still do at 51.
Naturally, one line from a lyric doesn’t make a song. If you dig deep, you’ll find that Neil has a lyric for everyone. What’s your favorite Rush lyric?
Many of the greatest musicians are the greatest teachers. Professional musicians navigate a road wrought with twists, turns, bumps and dead end signs. A common stop on that road for many is teaching other aspiring musicians. I decided to talk with some professional musicians who have used their skills to train the next generation and get their perspective on performing, the road they traveled and how they teach their students.
To kick things off, I’ll be talking to Lou Musa. Lou grew up in Rockford, Il and started playing guitar at the ripe old age of 5. He studied classical guitar for 11 years and while in high school he started teaching and gigging in Chicago. He moved to Grand Rapids, MI in 1997, where he formed the hard rock group The Rockit King.
In 2008 he was asked to join a re-formed Verve Pipe which opened up an opportunity to play for audiences all over the world. If that wasn’t enough, he also records music for movies and commercials, produces albums for other artists and has picked up endorsements for Bugera Amplifiers and D’Addario Strings.
Anthony Nowack: You make your living through music. Millions of young musicians have aspirations of being rock stars but then settle for careers they think are more attainable. Was there a time when you thought you’d have to hang it up?
Lou Musa: Never! Though there’s been many times that I had to take on other jobs in addition to help pay the rent. If you stay realistic to your goals and expectations, you can survive pretty well in the industry.
AN: Seems that you’ve consistently worked your way up in your career. Much like an office worker might start in the mailroom and eventually keep getting promoted because of their skills and their work ethic. They don’t go straight to being the CEO. Is that how you’ve approached your career? Give us a little of your history in music.
LM: Well, I grew up with music constantly being played and performed in the home. There was always a get together for family and friends, where my dad and uncle would play music and entertain everyone. It would end up as a big jam session by the end of the night, and that totally caught my interest as a little kid. My dad eventually taught me some basics on guitar to accompany him at the parties. By the time I was a teenager I was hooked and I had that drive to spend hours upon hours to practice and study of the art form. I was just starting high school when I began making money playing gigs. It eventually grew into better gig’s and opportunities, that has led me to where I’m at now. I never had expectations of huge success, just wanted to make a decent living doing what I love.
AN: After playing music for so long, do you still find the guitar challenging?
LM: Yes! Guitar, like most instruments you can never master. There’s always room for improvement.
AN: What do you do to expand your skills or help keep things interesting as a player?
LM: I try to expose myself to as many forms of music and art that I can. You can find inspiration everywhere if you’re open to it.
AN: Can you give me an example of how an artist in a different genre that has influenced you?
LM: When I studied classical and flamenco guitar as a student. I was really influenced by composers such as, Mozart & Chopin, and guitar masters like, Paco de Lucia & Carlos Montoya. As I got older I really started getting into Jazz greats like Wes Montgomery and Pat Metheny. I’d even get inspired by other instrumentalist (even to this day) like, Andreas Vollenweider, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis, just to name a few.
AN: Yeah, many of the great players picked up tools from other styles. Keith Richards has said he wanted the riff to “Satisfaction” to actually be recorded by a horn section. It’s a very R’n'B stabby kind of riff that way. Is that the kind of thing that a guitar player should take in when, for example, they listen to a jazz player like Miles or Coltrane that they can apply to their playing? Differences in phrasing or rhythm?
LM: For sure! Usually when I’m writing a song or working on an idea, I’ll hammer it out on guitar and/or piano. As the idea progresses, I begin to hear different timbres and elements that help the idea grow into something more complete. It usually ends up with totally different vibe, then what was originally envisioned.
AN: I know I’ve told you before how a photo I took of The Rockit King in that skanky club way back when made me want to be a music photographer. That’s also why I send you a portion of all my earnings. The second part’s not actually true, but did you ever have that kind of moment of clarity about being a musician?
LM: I do recall you telling me that. You know I love to hear that story. Lol…. Anyway, I’ve never really had that kind of moment probably cause I started playing so young. Everytime I see or hear a great performer I do get exited for them and picture myself involved somehow. So I guess that’s my moment.
AN: Sounds like you’re going to have plenty of those moments this year. You’ve got a busy summer coming up between your two bands. What’s on your schedule this year that you’re excited about?
LM: Yeah, it’s going to be a busy summer for shows! Really looking forward to playing the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI with Cheap Trick in June. Also, Lollapallooza should be a blast in August. Got a few cool show’s scheduled with The Rockit King too. Hopefully get some quality time to finish producing the next TRK record for a possible fall release.
AN: Thanks Lou. I think that’ll do it. Unless there’s anything else you’d like to add. Your favorite neo-classical metal guitarist maybe? Yngwie or Randy Rhoads? Also, would Steve Vai be as good without that fan blowing his hair back all the time?
LM: Randy Rhoads, though Yngwie can kick a guitar pick right at you while shredding a riff. Vai, regardless of the fan, the guy is a monster player and a real nice dude. Had the pleasure to hang out with him years ago at a NAMM show and he invited me and a friend out to one of his private party shows in LA. Though, the fan makes him look even cooler when he’s throwin’ down.
For the aspiring guitar players out there we recorded a mini guitar lesson with Lou where he showed us some of the exercises he teaches his students to help build their chops.
By, Ben McTamney