Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Late at night all systems go. You have come to see the show."

It's looking like Metallica's Orion Music + More Festival may have found a home in Detroit for the foreseeable future. 

The attendance numbers for last weekend's two-day event look to be holding up to the expected 40,000 and despite a few early hiccups on Saturday with will call ticket lines and slow shuttle service, for the most part the festival went off without a hitch and was a huge success for the band and for the city.

I got a chance to speak to a couple of the bands (Battlecross and Dead Sara) prior to the festival and it was obvious how excited and honored they were to be getting a chance to perform at Orion.

I actually chose to skip trying to get media credentials for the actual festival and bought tickets with my brother so I could get the full experience and it was well worth it.  I would definitely recommend that if you have the chance you should check it out next year.  It is one of the more unique rock festivals with a highly diverse lineup. 

Metal heads may complain that there is not enough "true metal" available but if Metallica created the festival as a way to appeal to everyone they certainly did a great job of that with music ranging from death metal to indie rock to the massively packed EDM stage that seemed to be kicking out the bass the entire weekend.

Plus there was so many other things to do throughout the weekend.

Certainly by Monday morning I was tired, had no voice and couldn't hear a thing but I also couldn't keep the smile off my face as I headed into my day job.

My trip downtown to the Orion Festival kicked off on Saturday around 1:30 pm as we circled around for parking.  Cobo Center was already filled so we ended up at the parking garage near the Hard Rock Cafe and walked back over, which seemed to be the case for a lot of the people who were actually from the Detroit area.

We were lucky to already have our wristbands so didn't have to stand in the massive lines but we were surprised to see that the shuttle lines were already wrapped around Cobo and about four blocks back.

While standing in line we heard a lot of the out-of-towners complaining about the will call situation and about the long wait for the shuttle but in actuality it only took us about 40 minutes to get to the side of Cobo and onto one of the shuttles.

During the shuttle ride, everyone was buzzing about the fact that Metallica was rumored to be playing a set at 4pm on the Frantic stage doing some cover songs where the unknown band dehaan was supposed to be playing. 

Once we got to Belle Isle, the security was pretty quick and we were inside the gates by 2:30 where the Bronx were in the middle of their set on the main Budweiser Orion stage and Detroit's own Battlecross were just taking the stage over at the Frantic stage. 

The hometown crowd didn't disappoint as they packed in to see them hit the stage and in spite of the early hour brought the energy the band was looking for.  The set was highlighted by their fantastic cover of Slayer's "War Ensemble".

We managed to get into the line for Kirk's Crypt, Kirk Hammett's showcase of his collection of all things horror, right on time as the line seemed to always be huge the rest of the weekend.

Being huge horror fans, we had a blast checking out all of the exhibits.

Although Kirk was not present inside, there were a number of well known industry people signing towards the end including Bill Mosely.

We then checked out a bit of The Foals set over on the Fuel stage before hitting the EDM Sanitarium stage for the Dirtyphonics who already had drawn a huge crowd jumping and moving as they spilled out on either side of the huge tent.

At 3 we headed back over to catch Dead Sara's performance on the Frantic stage.  We had just seen them open for Muse a couple of months ago but were really blown away this time by their set as vocalist Emily Armstrong used her huge voice to perfection on hard hitting songs like current single, "Lemon Scent" while prowling the stage and swinging her mic around.  Those in attendance were talking about the performance the rest of the day.

The Dropkick Murphys took to the Orion stage and drew a pretty large crowd but found most of them heading out halfway through in anticipation of the surprise performance by Metallica at the opposite end of the grounds.  We stuck around to hear "The Boys Are Back" and "Prisoner's Song" before heading over to get our own spot at the Frantic stage.

There was a decent crowd assembled but there was still a lot of room to move.  After seeing this up on the stage, it was all but confirmed that there was definitely a surprise coming:

Seeing the skateboarders stop performing at the Vans ramp was also a clue.

Then Ray Burton, father of the late original Metallica bassist, Cliff Burton, was seen sitting side stage and the crowd started to go wild as James Hetfield took to the stage and started to "introduce" dehaan as the rest of Metallica settled in behind them and they launched into the entire Kill 'Em All album; the Metallica debut that is thirty years old this year.

This was actually my first time seeing Metallica and it was well worth the wait to see them so close up and so raw and unplanned.  You could tell just how much fun they were having and it was truly a treat to see them play so many songs that they hadn't played in years.  Not to mention how crazy it was to see the stampede of people rushing over from the other stages making it almost impossible to move at all!

Exhausted after the set, we headed over to get some drinks and to check out the festival's food options, which were surprisingly cheap for festival fare and featured a number of great local options.

We got our food and found a spot on the lawn in front of the main stage and watched some of Rise Against's performance.  I've never been a huge fan but they have a ton of hits and there were a ton of people seen throughout the day wearing their merch and they packed the main stage area.

Deciding to take a break from the music, we hit up some of the shops and Hetfield's car show before taking a walk through the Metallica Museum.

We then headed back over to the Frantic stage for Silversun Pickups' set, which was introduced by Hetfield and featured Sarah Negahdari, the singer and guitarist for The Happy Hollows, who is filling in for Silversun Pickup bassist, Nikki Monninger, while she is on maternity leave.  The set's calm and quieter atmosphere was a nice change of pace.

Across the way that peace was broken by the thumping sounds and lights coming from the Sanitarium tent, where Bassnectar had taken the stage to the delight of those who had been waiting for the set all day long.

The reunion of the Infectious Grooves took place over on the Fuel stage at 7 and featured Metallica bassist, Robert Trujillo, in one of his four performances over the weekend. 

After waiting probably a bit too long to head over to the main stage, we found it a bit difficult to find a good spot to catch The Red Hot Chili Peppers' headlining spot.  We ended up next to the disability viewing area where everyone was moving in and out and we kept getting jostled around but eventually we were able to move up a bit and our view opened up.  I ended up sharing some photography tips with the girl standing next to me who had come in from California to catch their show and we had a blast laughing at the group of guys in front of us from Canada who were having a blast singing the songs at the top of their lungs.  Seeing RHCP for the first time last year in Grand Rapids was easily my concert highlight of 2012 and the chance to see them so soon again was pretty cool and I got to see them perform a few songs they didn't last time out including an awesome performance of "Me & My Friends".

We headed out during the encore of "Give It Away" in hopes of getting onto the shuttles before the big rush but things were a bit unorganized as there was no real instruction on where to go and a number of lines were forming but eventually they got it figured out and we ended up waiting another 40 minutes or so before getting out of there.

Sunday morning we planned to head out earlier but that idea was thrown out pretty quickly and we ended up down at the shuttles around 1:30 again but were surprised to find that there was no wait at all and we were in the gates before 2.

We quickly hit up the merch booth to get our event shirts before heading over to the main stage to catch some of All Shall Perish, whose loud death metal sound could be heard from all of the stages; at times drowning out the other performers.

I was interested in getting a chance to catch some of Cauldron's set over on the Frantic stage since I will be interviewing them this week and since I have a number of friends who are big fans of their throwback sound and I was pretty impressed at their big power metal sound, which was enhanced by the boarding going on next to them at the Vans ramp.

I was not quite ready for Dillinger Escape Plan's performance over on the Fuel stage but they were certainly interesting as they combined a number of genres from metal to jazz to hip hop and everything in between.  The band's guitarist, Ben Weiman, had broken his hand so had to sit the performance out with Trujillo humorously bringing him out a chair to sit on during the set where he spent time flipping through magazines and holding up scorecards rating the rest of the band.

Fans were disappointed when it was announced that Joy Formidable would not be making their main stage appearance but many took the time to grab some food and find a place to rest on the lawn. 

Perhaps to make up for the loss, The Trujillo Trio hit the Frantic stage a bit earlier than expected and included a performance of "Institutionalized" with Suicidal Tendencies' Mike Muir.

At the same time, The Japandroids hit the Fuel stage with a fantastic indie rock performance that drew in those stretched out across the grounds relaxing and seemed to really impress.

We headed over to the car show after seeing a massive crowd gathered and found Hetfield announcing the winners from those who had brought their cars out to the show.

We then hit up the EDM tent again to catch a bit of Datsik's performance before finding a spot at the main stage for The Deftones, who I was heavily anticipating since I had never seen them before.

The Deftones ended up drawing one of the biggest crowds of the weekend and besides Metallica seemed to be the most popular set out of the entire weekend.  They got an introduction from Hammett and Trujillo before cranking up the volume and hitting the crowd hard with a packed set of their biggest hits from opener "Diamond Eyes" to closer "7 Words".   

The surprise hit of Sunday was the party going on at the Fuel stage when gypsy punk act, Gogol Bordello, brought their craziness and outlandishness to the festival.  They had the bad misfortune of playing before Metallica so found their crowd thinning out halfway through but the first half of their performance really drew a lot of people and certainly earned them some new fans.

After having found the perfect spot to the right of the stage for Deftones, we headed right back there to get ready for Metallica and although it packed in a bit, we were able to have a good view throughout and really enjoy the spectacle that is a full on Metallica live show.  For all the rawness and garage feel that was Saturday's performance, Sunday's two hour set was a full on production complete with tons of pyro and carefully orchestrated jam sessions.

There were the Metallica staples from "To Whom The Bell Tolls" to "Sad But True" and "Master of Puppets" but also lesser played songs like "The Day That Never Comes" and "Carpe Diem Baby".
The set highlight was an unexpected performance of "I Disappear" and a fantastic performance of "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)".  Things really kicked into high gear with their performance of "One", which was highlighted by gun blasts, fireworks and lots of flames.  They slowed things down for "Nothing Else Matters" before closing things out with a rocking "Enter Sandman".

The crowd got a treat when the band returned to the stage for an encore of their cover of hometown hero Bob Seger's "Turn the Page", which they hadn't performed in years.  They then pulled out "Creeping Death" before thanking the crowd for coming out and seeming to promise a return to the Detroit area next year telling the crowd they would be back as long as they would come back and bring more friends.

As the band tossed out black balloons to the crowd, they closed their set with another performance of "Seek & Destroy", which they'd played during Saturday's surprise set.  Since we'd seen it already we headed out to get on the shuttles but were once again shocked at how smoothly the line was now running.  Within about 15 minutes we were loaded and headed out.  It was proof that the organizers had heard and reacted quickly to any problems that were evident that first day and proof that if Orion Festival remains in the Detroit area that the city is more than capable of pulling it off.