The Orion Festival: Metallica’s Backyard BBQ

The weather could not have been any better for Metallica‘s first ever Orion Music + More Festival. Two days of music, museums, and life style demos took over Bader Field in Atlantic City, NJ.

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.

Lifestyle Demos

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.

Festival Success

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!